The Virgin Islands National Park and the Elaine I. Sprauve Library have partnered to provide an after-school program for St. John’s youth in an effort to promote awareness about the territory.
The program kicked off on Wednesday afternoon, March 14, at the library, where VINP Ranger Pat Dinisio met with four St. John schoolchildren to talk about the island and the kid’s hopes for the program’s future.
“We’re trying to feel out the kids, and see what age groups we will attract,” said Dinisio.
The VINP ranger became interested in volunteering at the library after seeing a picture of the Friends of the Library President, Vernon Lake — also a VINP employee — with Sharon Robinson in St. John Tradewinds.
“I saw Mr. Lake with Sharon Robinson in the Tradewinds, and I asked him if the library needed volunteers,” said Dinisio. “He sent me to talk to (librarian) Carol (McGuinness).”
Always Have Camera Handy
Dinisio, McGuinness and Ivanna Eudora Kean student Tiffany Morton, who is volunteering at the library as part the V.I.
Department of Education-required community service, came up with the idea to work with children in an after-school program.
Homeschool students 13-year-old Carson Wessinger, 11-year-old Maggie Wessinger and seven-year-old Sam Wessinger, and Gifft Hill School student seven-year-old Ruby Taylor-Cioppa joined Dinisio at the after school program’s first gathering.
The group discussed a turtle the Wessinger children saw while snorkeling at Maho, and Dinisio recommended always having a camera to document wildlife.
“You should always have a camera with you,” said Dinisio. “I got a photo of an eel I saw, and it was the first time that eel was ever recorded on St. John.”
Dinisio taught the children about the VINP and coral reefs, and told them about her adventures hiking the Reef Bay trail after the island received 17 inches of rain, causing the guts to swell and rush with water.
The VINP ranger then shared a story about dolphins beached at Caneel Bay.
“We got a call from Caneel telling us a pod of dolphins had beached themselves,” said Dinisio. “There were five of them — three had gotten cut up on the rocks and had died, and two were alive on the sandy beach, struggling. One of the bleeding dolphins washed out into the water, and just like in the movie “Jaws,” a shark smelled the blood, came in, and chopped the dolphin in half in one bite.”
Open to Suggestions
The children then had the opportunity to point out their home on a map of St. John, draw maps of their neighborhoods, and talk a little bit about themselves thanks to booklets put together by McGuinness, which the kids will bring to every meeting of the after-school program.
The children also received copies of National Park Service publications Kapok Chronicles and Junior Ranger Gazette.
The group discussed possible ideas for future gatherings, including snorkeling at Trunk Bay and hiking the Reef Bay Trail.
“We’re hoping the program will grow, and we are open to plenty of suggestions,” said Dinisio.
The after-school program meets every Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Elaine I. Sprauve Library. For more information, contact McGuinness at 776-6359.