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On Island Profile: Gaynel Harris

July 8, 2007 — Gaynel Harris speaks with a confident can-do demeanor about how, through faith and determination, she strives for perfection in serving both children and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Her passion is serving her community and she has proven that by working as Project Coordinator for the federally funded Ryan White Title III grant at the St. Thomas East End Medical Center, a teacher at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School and now the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) State Coordinator for the Ryan White Title II grant, which serves people living with the HIV/AIDS in the Virgin Islands.
She increased client participation of HIV/AIDS patients by 300 percent. “When I first started there, we had six or seven patients, but in nine months, we grew to 25 patients with HIV/AIDS,” Harris said. To help patients, Harris revived a support group, started an effective transportation service and streamlined case management.
“It was my calling,” said Harris of her faithful return to St. Thomas after spending some years studying on the mainland.
Just three weeks after 9/11, Harris returned having completed her bachelor of science in psychology at the Carroll College in Wisconsin and a master of arts at Howard University with a major in educational psychology. Harris had begun a Ph.D. program in educational psychology at the University of Cincinnati but opted out because she could “no longer see the truth” in a field that she found to be too secular, when her spiritual faith was growing.
While teaching at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School for a short time, she jokingly recalled how her fellow co-workers and students would say “boy, you are really strict,” about her no-nonsense approach to teaching. “The kids knew it was because I cared and loved them and they appreciated me for that,” Harris said.
At present, Harris is the ADAP State Coordinator for the Ryan White Title II grant given to the Department of Health. ADAP provides primary care for low income patients living with the HIV/AIDS virus through a grant issued by the federal government. As the State Coordinator, Harris is tasked with helping patients on all three islands by helping them with Medicare, ordering their necessary medications and other support services to assist patients.
She also serves a vital role as a vocational deacon candidate at her religious second dwelling, The Nazareth by the Sea Episcopal Church. Harris provides all the help she can to keep the congregation of about 40 attendees going. Located at Cabrita Point in the Nazareth Area, it has become a second home for Harris. “In spreading the good news,” she started a newsletter which highlights current events and short stories on the bible.
“It’s a warm church,” Harris said, joking that she sometimes calls her haven the flip-flop church because the establishment invites everyone “to come as they are.”
Harris credits her mother, Annette Harris, who she said was her first teacher and always pushed her to “do everything with excellence.”
“The person in my life most difficult to please is my mother because her standards are so high,” Harris said.
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July 8, 2007 -- Gaynel Harris speaks with a confident can-do demeanor about how, through faith and determination, she strives for perfection in serving both children and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Her passion is serving her community and she has proven that by working as Project Coordinator for the federally funded Ryan White Title III grant at the St. Thomas East End Medical Center, a teacher at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School and now the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) State Coordinator for the Ryan White Title II grant, which serves people living with the HIV/AIDS in the Virgin Islands.
She increased client participation of HIV/AIDS patients by 300 percent. “When I first started there, we had six or seven patients, but in nine months, we grew to 25 patients with HIV/AIDS,” Harris said. To help patients, Harris revived a support group, started an effective transportation service and streamlined case management.
“It was my calling,” said Harris of her faithful return to St. Thomas after spending some years studying on the mainland.
Just three weeks after 9/11, Harris returned having completed her bachelor of science in psychology at the Carroll College in Wisconsin and a master of arts at Howard University with a major in educational psychology. Harris had begun a Ph.D. program in educational psychology at the University of Cincinnati but opted out because she could “no longer see the truth” in a field that she found to be too secular, when her spiritual faith was growing.
While teaching at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School for a short time, she jokingly recalled how her fellow co-workers and students would say “boy, you are really strict,” about her no-nonsense approach to teaching. “The kids knew it was because I cared and loved them and they appreciated me for that,” Harris said.
At present, Harris is the ADAP State Coordinator for the Ryan White Title II grant given to the Department of Health. ADAP provides primary care for low income patients living with the HIV/AIDS virus through a grant issued by the federal government. As the State Coordinator, Harris is tasked with helping patients on all three islands by helping them with Medicare, ordering their necessary medications and other support services to assist patients.
She also serves a vital role as a vocational deacon candidate at her religious second dwelling, The Nazareth by the Sea Episcopal Church. Harris provides all the help she can to keep the congregation of about 40 attendees going. Located at Cabrita Point in the Nazareth Area, it has become a second home for Harris. “In spreading the good news,” she started a newsletter which highlights current events and short stories on the bible.
“It’s a warm church,” Harris said, joking that she sometimes calls her haven the flip-flop church because the establishment invites everyone “to come as they are.”
Harris credits her mother, Annette Harris, who she said was her first teacher and always pushed her to “do everything with excellence.”
“The person in my life most difficult to please is my mother because her standards are so high,” Harris said.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.