July 7, 2004 – Giving at-risk youngsters a "positive push" to put them back on the right track is how Eva Richardson describes the Public Works Department's horticulture and landscaping training program, which is about to resume after six years.
Richardson, the grants manager for the department, called the federally funded program "very successful" the one year that it was run in the Virgin Islands. She said on Wednesday that the Human Services Department did a follow-up study of the youths who participated in 1998 and found that 85 percent of them were working successfully in a trade related to the training they received.
However, Richardson said, the man who managed the program died in 1998, and since then the government has been unable to contract with anyone to take it over.
Now, Public Works, in conjunction with Human Services, is going to try to run the program in-house. Officials are looking to hire two field supervisors and a horticulture/landscape instructor on a temporary basis for the 36-week program slated to begin Aug. 2.
According to a release, the program is designed to serve at-risk youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 23. It will enroll 14 participants and will be conducted in two 18-week periods, with training six hours a day, five days a week. The program will be conducted primarily from the Public Works central offices in Sub Base on St. Thomas.
The training will cover basic horticulture and landscaping, in a classroom setting as well as in a practical work environment. The orientation will include life skills management, computer literacy and work maturity skills. Participants will be taught how to conduct business with the V.I. government and will participate in workshops on social skills and anger management. There also will be presentations by guest lecturers and motivational speakers, as well as counseling services.
Human Services will screen candidates for the program. Richardson said admission will be based on a youngster's social needs and not on family income. She said participants will benefit from inclusion in a program, interaction with other youngsters and training — adding that this is what many troubled youths need, instead of more punishment.
Part of the training will be actual landscaping and beautification of roadsides along federal highways. Tools and other equipment will be provided to each trainee who successfully completes the program.
In 1998 the program was run on St. Croix and St. Thomas. This year it will be offered only on St. Thomas. Richardson said she would like to see it become an annual offering in both districts.
Individuals interested in the program must apply with the Human Services Department's Division of Youth Promotion and Delinquency Prevention.
Anyone interested in applying for the field supervisor or instructor positions should call Richardson at 776-4844, ext. 221 or 219. A letter of interest and a resume are required.
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