Aug. 29, 2005 — While St. Thomas French Heritage Week celebrations may have finished, activities continuing in St. Barths over the past week gave three young Virgin Islanders of French descent — Alain Brin, Bryson Bryan and Shanelle Brin — another chance to experience their culture firsthand and learn a little bit more about where they came from.
Bryan and Alain Brin were selected as essay winners in this years French Heritage Youth Ambassadorship program, while Shanelle Brin (no immediate relation to Alain) was present in her capacity as this years Miss Carenage.
Together, the group represented the U.S. Virgin Islands on behalf of Sen. Lorraine L. Berry and interacted with St. Barths mayor and other officials at the islands annual Fete and other events.
"Sen. Berry started this program to encourage students of French descent in the territory to participate in an essay contest describing what their French heritage means to them," Catherine Bryan, Berrys assistant researcher and trip chaperone said. "She [Berry] had also gotten invited to the Fete from St. Barths Mayor Bruno Magras since she couldnt make it, we thought it would be nice to send the contest winners to represent her, and experience the French culture over there."
Bryan added that since all of the students had traced their roots back to St. Barths within their essays, the trip was also a good opportunity for them to learn about their families. "They took this aspect of the trip very seriously. All of them asked their parents to take them to homes of old relatives or to visit relatives that were still living there we took so many trips with the kids to see some of these homes."
Shanelle Brin was even on the island prior to the rest of the group, visiting her grandfather before any of the events began. "Most of our ancestors came directly from St. Barths," Albert Brin, Shanelle Brins father, said. "Since my father still lives here, we make a trip to see him every year. This year we obviously had a special occasion, so we stayed a little longer."
Shanelle, 16, attends All Saints Cathedral School on St. Thomas. "It was very exciting for us to watch her at the event," Albert Brin said. "She presented some awards and gave a speech in French for everyone attending the event, and they responded to her better because of that. Thats why I always insisted that she take French in schoolso she can communicate when she goes to St. Barths."
Brin added that his daughter wants to be a doctor, and the scholarship will be put towards tuition at a college on the West Coast.
Alain Brin and Bryson Bryan were also part of the program, giving gifts from local artists and the V.I. Tourism Department to Magras and other St. Barths officials. "Mayor Magras met us at the airport, and we did a lot of activities with him while we were there," Alain Brin, 14, said. "We took a tour of the island, he took us out to lunch, and we went to the Fete on Friday evening where he gave us medals from St. Barths for our achievements."
Catherine Bryan added that the group also attended a memorial mass for the families of those killed in a plane crash in Venezuela last Tuesday. "All of the passengers onboard the plane were from Martinique, so France declared that day a day of mourning some of the festivities were even cancelled because of the incident," Bryan said. "But all in all, the kids seemed to have a lot of fun."
"It was really great," Alain Brin said. "I got to meet new people and visit a new place. I also got to speak some French and see how our culture is being kept alive in the Caribbean."
Other essay winners were Kellie Greaux and Jamie Steffens, both of whom were unable to attend the event. The four essay winners each received a $1,000 scholarship to go toward their "formal education," a press release sent by Berrys office said.
All four winning essays are available online.
To read Alain Brin's click here.
To read Bryson Bryan's click here.
To read Kellie Greaux's click here.
To read Jamie Steffens' click here.
According to the release, the trip was also sponsored in part by grants from Driehaus Capital Management, Investment Security Service, and Kenzie Financial Management.
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