Operation Inspire Expands Free Virtual Afterschool Program for VI Students

Operation Inspire will expand virtual one-on-one sessions to support students who are struggling with COVID-19 induced distance learning. (Submitted photo)

Cane Bay Cares announced on Tuesday that it would expand its free virtual tutoring for Virgin Islands students through its afterschool program Operation Inspire (OI).

The virtual program will expand to include new workshops and more individual tutoring to support students who are struggling with virtual learning during the pandemic. The updated curriculum will include sign language workshops and presentations on environmental conservation, health and wellness, Crucian culture and other selected topics.

Operation Inspire presently boasts 53 students from various schools and is still accepting new students from any school in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

How to Sign Up

Parents and guardians can register their children and find schedules for the virtual classes on the Cane Bay Cares website.

There are openings for individual sessions and for small group sessions from grades two through 12.

Operation Inspire 2020 Achievements

The development of Operation Inspire’s virtual program in 2021 is an extension of the groundwork laid in 2020.

Major accomplishments in 2020 include the launch of a virtual Summer Reading Club where 29 elementary school students actively participated. The reading program incorporated Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s Summer Reading Challenge and focused on reading fluency and comprehension skills.

Kirk Chewning, co-founder and partner at Cane Bay Partners, described Operation Inspire as an important commitment in facilitating opportunities for young Virgin Islanders to develop skills that are relevant to the workplace.

“Cane Bay as well as many other local employers leverage real-life and project-based learnings in our analytical work for our clients. OI provides entry experiences into the same,” Chewning said. “It is our job to provide meaningful opportunities to assist with the education process and provide opportunities for residents.”

David Johnson, Cane Bay Partners co-founder and partner, said Operation Inspire is an investment in the Virgin Islands community.

“I strongly believe that we all need to make investments into the children of the Virgin Islands who will be the next leaders of our territory and the businesses within it,” Johnson said. “Operation Inspire is an important part of the equation, and we are glad to do our part through this program.”

About Operation Inspire

Operation Inspire is funded through Cane Bay Cares, the charitable giving arm of Cane Bay Partners VI LLLP, in partnership with the St. Croix Foundation. The initial motive behind the program was to supplement shortened schedules in V.I. public schools after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. But even after schedules went back to normal, Operation Inspire continued to support the work of the Department of Education by developing homework assistance and enrichment programs for public school students.

The initiative evolved into a completely virtual program to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Going virtual made it possible for students from private and parochial schools to participate.

Learning Approaches and Strengths

One of the afterschool program’s strengths is the level of guidance students receive through one-on-one instruction and small group sessions, which are capped at 15 students per class.

Operation Inspire is also focused on developing 21st century skills through project-based learning. The approach prioritizes skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, technology literacy, media literacy, innovation, creativity and productivity.

The project-based classes are student-led with the goal of empowering students to be future leaders. For example, 7th and 8th graders are now designing a new school based upon the cultural needs of the Virgin Islands.

“Our students are the ones asking questions, leading discussions, tracking data, reading and researching,” Operation Inspire Coordinator Raydiance Watts-Clarke said.

One parent, Lisa Harris, described the project-based learning style as “amazing.”

“I sat and watched many times my son’s interaction with his teachers at Operation Inspire, and it is amazing how they are able to catch his attention,” Harris said. “My son has never complained to join his tutor sessions.”

The instructors who facilitate the process are teachers and paraeducators from the Arthur A. Richards, Pearl B. Larsen, Ricardo Richards elementary schools and St. Croix Educational Complex High School, along with junior instructors who are University of the Virgin Islands students.

Small group sessions are typically two hours long and are divided by grade level. The first hour is dedicated to homework or enrichment assignments and the second hour is reserved for project-based learning.

Project themes by grade level include the following:

K-1 – Reading and Literacy

2-3 – Agriculture and Personal Development

4-6 – Culture and History

7-8 – Community Development and Planning

9-12 – Applied Math and Science

Classes start at 3 p.m. on selected weekdays.

Becoming a Sponsor

In collaboration with the V.I. Department of Education and the St. Croix Foundation, Cane Bay Cares welcomes additional sponsorship in support of Operation Inspire programs. A donation between $200 and $10,000 could sponsor a student or a whole school for a semester of learning.

Sponsors can donate to the program via the St. Croix Foundation.