May 10, 2004 – Since the early 1990s, students in Puerto Rico and the St. Thomas/St. John District have been exchanging cultural visits.
V.I students have visited Nicolás Sevilla Guemarez High School of Toa Alta, Puerto Rico and, according to a press release from school officials, "They have been treated as royalty."
Virgin Islands student have visited schools and the offices of dignitaries, participated in tours at discounted prices, received discounts for lodging, been provided with free bus transportation and free lunches in Puerto Rico. In addition, V.I. visitors have received countless tokens of appreciation and, according to the release, lots of warm hospitality. This year, during the week of May 3 to May 10, students and chaperones from Toa Alta visited, and it was the Virgin Islands turn to reciprocate.
Sixteen students, ages 15 to 18, their teacher, Jesús Martínez, and a parent Aurea Nieves visited public schools in the St. Thomas/St. John School District, as well as tourist attractions. Local businesses contributed gifts and discounted fares to ensure the visitors felt welcomed.
On the first day, the group visited Coral World. The following day, studends visited the Kirwan Elementary School and the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School. Angela Belfon, chief protocol officer at Government House, welcomed them. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, due to his schedule, was unable to welcome them, as he has done in the past. The group did visit the lieutenant governors offices.
The school tour continued on May 5 with visits to the Lockhart Elementary and Charlotte Amalie High Schools. That day, the group also visited Paradise Point. Group members expressed appreciation to Murray Pridham, CEO of the Paradise Point, for making this possible. On May 6, the Toa Alta group visited the Sibilly Elementary and the BCB Middle Schools. Later that day, the group toured Mountain Top and had refreshments, compliments of Robert Schlenker. On Friday, it made its way to St. John. There, it visited the Julius Sprauve School and toured the island.
At each school the students from Puerto Rico performed typical Puerto Rican dances, recited poetry, and sang songs. At most schools, V. I. students reciprocated with performances of their own in which they demonstrated knowledge of the Spanish language and culture.
Virgin Islands students, at the secondary level, had a "Make A Friend Session" and took the opportunity to practice their Spanish with group members – Carmen Acevedo, Heidy Acevedo, Adeliz Alicea, Lourdes Arias, Joel Córdova, Michelly Hernández, Karleen Hernández, Jenifer Montalvo, Silvia Oquendo, Jelissa Ortiz, Paola Pinelli, Anaís Rivera, Luis Rodríguez, Judith Santana, and Diana Vélez. The group returns to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, May 11.
Myrna V. van Beverhoudt and Migdalia Cruz Arthurton, the foreign languages and bilingual education coordinators, who served as organizers and hostesses for the group, acknowledged the following for their contributions:
1. Angela Belfon, chief protocol officer, Government House, for providing a tour of Government House.
2. Julien Harley, St. John administrator and the Department of Parks and Recreation, St. John, for assisting with the transportation and tour of the island.
3. Joryin M. Turnbull, manager Department of Tourism, for providing welcome bags.
4. Graeme Davis, general manager of the Westin Resort for providing a tour of the hotel and refreshments.
5. Jessica Edwards, coordinator of Coral World, for providing discounted passes and Diane Walwyn for her hospitality.
6. Jackie Graham and Linda McClean, managers of Perfume Palace for providing gifts.
7. Prakash Khemani, owner of Sona, for providing gifts for the chaperones.
8. Martin Missen, president of Caribbean Rum Balls, Havensight Mall for providing gifts for the chaperones.
9. Sebastiano Paiewonsky, vice president AH Riise for providing AH Riise canvas bags for all visitors.
10. Murray Pridham, CEO Paradise Point, for providing complimentary rides on the cable cars to our visiting friends.
11. Robert Schlenker and Dona Hunte, Mountain Top, for providing complimentary soft drinks.
12. Carlitos Grant and Roy Faulkner for assisting with the transportation.
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