Oct. 5, 2004 Hassel Island's image as part of the V.I. tourism product may soon improve with help from 12 students completing a Tour Guide Training course for the island.
The University of the Virgin Islands is offering the course, which began Sept. 18, on Saturdays.
The Hassel Island Preservation Trust Inc. (THIPT) and UVI's Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning Center (UVICELL) jointly sponsor the course.
Rik Van Rensselaer, president and chief executive officer of THIPT, said Tuesday the course the first of its kind for the university will educate and train the participants to be tour guides and to be able to interpret the historic and cultural resources on Hassel Island.
Wanda Mills, who serves as chair of the THIPT board, is the chief presenter of the tour guide classes. Mills focuses on the historical aspects of Hassle Island. Van Rensselaer said they have also brought in experts to expose the students to effective tour guide practices.
"We're pleased and honored to do the first classes in the system," Van Rensselaer said. He added that UVICELL plans to provide similar courses in the future.
Besides learning the history of Hassel Island and how to be effective tour guides, students will also learn the skills of historic restoration and preservation, Van Rensselaer said.
"This is a wonderful start to an educational and training process which will ultimately effect and give opportunity to so many of the people of the Virgin Islands to be a vital part of our hospitality industry, in all of its many facets," Van Rensselaer said in an editorial printed in August.
Van Rensselaer said they are looking for a few more individuals to participate in the course to bring the number of students up to 18.
At the conclusion of the course in November, those participating will be given the opportunity to be tour guides when Edward "Harmon" Killebrew, owner of Island Treasures, will give the first guided tours of Hassel Island.
Van Rensselaer and several other individuals including Mills formed THIPT, which is seeking nonprofit organization status, in August.
Currently, 15 individuals are members of the organization. Van Rensselaer said they are currently recruiting members for the group, which seeks to preserve the history of Hassel Island.
"Our intent in the Hassel Island Trust is to engage a lot of young people in the process," Van Rensselaer said.
None of the residents of Hassel Island are members of THIPT at this time, but Van Rensselaer said they are "reaching out" to them.
Van Rensselaer said THIPT is currently working on developing partnerships with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the V.I. Port Authority. The group is also seeking to build a relationship with the V.I. National Park Service.
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