Jan. 19, 2006 — National talk radio personality Tom Joyner is working in conjunction with the University of the Virgin Islands to raise at least $150,000 for student scholarships.
Host of the Tom Joyner Morning Show and founder of the Tom Joyner Foundation, Joyner has selected UVI as the foundation's school of the month for May and will soon launch a campaign to highlight the university's accomplishments. Joyner will further solicit donations for the school from his program's listeners.
UVI was also selected in 2002 to be part of Joyner's School of the Month campaign — a fund-raiser which helps generate money for historically black colleges and universities across the country.
At a pep rally held Thursday at the school to celebrate the occasion, LaVerne Ragster, UVI's president, said the university will also be working locally to raise money.
"We'll be doing various fun activities throughout the next few months to promote this, and we'll also be asking for donations from the community," she explained after the event. "The Tom Joyner Foundation will then match whatever we raise, and we'll be able to use the money for scholarships and other things for the school."
Joseph Boschulte, vice president of institutional advancement at the school, said he hopes UVI will be able to raise more than $200,000 — the same amount the school raised when it was school of the month in 2002.
However, in a taped message played during the rally via television, Joyner himself set the fund-raising goal at $150,000.
"And I look forward to coming to the territory in May to present UVI with a big check," he added. Joyner also joked that UVI was his favorite historically black college since it is located near the beach.
After Joyner's message was played, Boschulte said that $150,000 was definitely attainable. "We've already made some headway," Boschulte said to the more than 100 students attending the rally. "So far we've raised $50,000 from two private local donors."
Ragster encouraged the students to sign up for the Joyner scholarships. "I don't believe there are a lot of students here that don't need financial assistance," she said. "And we want to be able to provide as many opportunities as possible for our students to get that assistance."
Ragster further stated that UVI prides itself on taking students to higher levels of success. "These scholarships are one of the ways that students can gain that success," she said.
Ivan Connor Wiltshire, master of ceremonies at the rally, provided more encouragement. "Everybody needs some money, and this is a resource that anyone can tap into," he said. "Especially those students who don't qualify for financial aid."
Joyner's student scholarships are also one of the few which apply to international students, Alexia Mintos, a former scholarship recipient, said.
"Since I am from Nevis, it costs more for me to go here than someone who's from the V.I.," Mintos, 22, explained after the rally. "And with the scholarship, I was able to get $7,500 a year for my tuition – plus, it enabled me to do a student exchange program at the University of Massachusetts."
Ragster said tuition per year for international students is $9,000, while locals pay $3,000 per year.
Ragster added that there is no set figure for how many students will be selected for the scholarships. "Whatever we raise is how much we'll give away," she said.
Thursday's rally ended with some student activities – including sumo wrestling, where students got the chance to step into a padded sumo suit and wrestle each other in a makeshift ring set up at UVI's dining pavilion.
"It really is a lot of fun," Josh Monty, a 20-year-old student from Pennsylvania, said after winning one match.
A similar rally also took place Thursday at the Cafetorium at UVI's St. Croix campus.
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