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Not for Profit: 'Graffiti Street'

Oct. 5, 2008 — They came from assorted local high schools and wore varying uniforms, or no uniforms at all. They were different ages and grades. But they had one thing in common: Resounding, clear-as-a-bell, confidence. One after the other, they stood up from their desks, eyed their peers and described themselves in two quick facts, then explained why they elected to be part of this special group.
"I'm a very optimistic person; I love to see the silver lining behind the clouds," declared Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) senior Delriise Gifft, who said she was there because she wanted to "… voice her opinions."
Wearing a bright green, red and white T-shirt, Sherea Delsol stood up and proclaimed, "I'm very colorful, and I'm president of the senior class … I want to continue to express my views, being articulate and eloquent — that's why I'm here again."
For Delsol, also a senior at CAHS, this is her second time around as a cast member of the teen talk show "Graffiti Street." Most of the other 25 students who gathered at Thursday's orientation at CAHS were embarking on their first "Graffiti Street" season. But the show itself is a fixture.
It kicked off its 17th season Sunday, 13 of which have included students from the St. Croix school district. The two islands trade off weeks producing and hosting the show, for a total of 24 broadcasts aired on WTJX at 7:30 p.m. each Sunday.
Many of the students on "Graffiti Street" are considered academically gifted, according to the show's director and president, Myron Corbett. But it's as much about character that earned them the distinction of being hand picked from a group of hopefuls by "Graffiti Street" alums and the show's local producer, Shayla Solomon, and coordinators Ananta Pancham and Kim Blackett.
"Graffiti Street" was founded nearly two decades ago by former Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus, who groomed Corbett to take over the leadership role. The show's goals including instilling leadership qualities in young people by handing them the reigns and letting them produce and host their own talk show about subjects of their own choosing. They must spend significant time researching their agreed-upon topics before each show, and they must work together as a team, all the while honing their communication and organization skills. In addition, they're required to give back to their community by performing community service.
"For the most part, you have the best kids in the territory, definitely," Corbett said, adding that some 500 kids have participated over the years. They come from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, he said.
"Black, white, Hispanic, French — everybody," Corbett said. "Definitely a mixture. We're very proud."
They all seem driven by the opportunity to speak their minds.
"I joined 'Graffiti Street' because I think adults listen to the television more than they listen to us," Julian Smith said. "And I think it might look good on my college resume," he added, drawing a chuckle from his peers, many of whom confessed the same.
"One time a policeman came, and we were taking about the state of youth," Delsol said, recalling a show last season. "And I asked him straight out, 'What are you doing?' because my friend got shot in school. "
The question, she said, "seemed aggressive at the time." She continued, "But that's what everyone wanted to know, 'What are you doing?"
While many students come to "Graffiti Street" eager to have their say, others, like alum Ananta Pancham, go there to find their voice.
"I was really shy," Pancham said, recalling her days in high school. "I didn't talk at all, and I had trouble participating. But when I got to interact with other kids my own age who cared about things I did, I talked all the time."
It was "Graffiti Street" that ignited a passion for current events and the media in Pancham, who now serves as assistant managing editor of the V.I. Source.
This season's stars have an assortment of career goals. Like Pancham, Delsol is looking to the media.
"I want to be Oprah," she said with a laugh. "Her impact, being a humanitarian, and being able to give back, and her TV show is awesome. I want to be like Oprah and make this world a better place."
Malachi Thomas has a three-pronged career in mind: physician/scientist, entrepreneur and musician.
"I realize that I shouldn't try to do everything at one time," said the CAHS junior. "Entrepreneur kicks in mid-age, music is early age — I don't want to be traveling the world with kids at home. Doctor is mid age, too."
In the meantime, Thomas and his peers will spend a great deal of time fund raising to help plug any holes not covered in the $45,000 that Corbett said the Legislature doles out to the rising stars for their weekly productions.
At the end of each season, the students are given a chance to "broaden their horizons," according to Corbett, and are treated to an international trip, this year to Italy.
"I've been to the United States," said CAHS senior Rebecca Best, a future attorney. "But I've never been to other continents. I'm hoping to raise money like crazy."
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Oct. 5, 2008 -- They came from assorted local high schools and wore varying uniforms, or no uniforms at all. They were different ages and grades. But they had one thing in common: Resounding, clear-as-a-bell, confidence. One after the other, they stood up from their desks, eyed their peers and described themselves in two quick facts, then explained why they elected to be part of this special group.
"I'm a very optimistic person; I love to see the silver lining behind the clouds," declared Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) senior Delriise Gifft, who said she was there because she wanted to "... voice her opinions."
Wearing a bright green, red and white T-shirt, Sherea Delsol stood up and proclaimed, "I'm very colorful, and I'm president of the senior class ... I want to continue to express my views, being articulate and eloquent -- that's why I'm here again."
For Delsol, also a senior at CAHS, this is her second time around as a cast member of the teen talk show "Graffiti Street." Most of the other 25 students who gathered at Thursday's orientation at CAHS were embarking on their first "Graffiti Street" season. But the show itself is a fixture.
It kicked off its 17th season Sunday, 13 of which have included students from the St. Croix school district. The two islands trade off weeks producing and hosting the show, for a total of 24 broadcasts aired on WTJX at 7:30 p.m. each Sunday.
Many of the students on "Graffiti Street" are considered academically gifted, according to the show's director and president, Myron Corbett. But it's as much about character that earned them the distinction of being hand picked from a group of hopefuls by "Graffiti Street" alums and the show's local producer, Shayla Solomon, and coordinators Ananta Pancham and Kim Blackett.
"Graffiti Street" was founded nearly two decades ago by former Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus, who groomed Corbett to take over the leadership role. The show's goals including instilling leadership qualities in young people by handing them the reigns and letting them produce and host their own talk show about subjects of their own choosing. They must spend significant time researching their agreed-upon topics before each show, and they must work together as a team, all the while honing their communication and organization skills. In addition, they're required to give back to their community by performing community service.
"For the most part, you have the best kids in the territory, definitely," Corbett said, adding that some 500 kids have participated over the years. They come from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, he said.
"Black, white, Hispanic, French -- everybody," Corbett said. "Definitely a mixture. We're very proud."
They all seem driven by the opportunity to speak their minds.
"I joined 'Graffiti Street' because I think adults listen to the television more than they listen to us," Julian Smith said. "And I think it might look good on my college resume," he added, drawing a chuckle from his peers, many of whom confessed the same.
"One time a policeman came, and we were taking about the state of youth," Delsol said, recalling a show last season. "And I asked him straight out, 'What are you doing?' because my friend got shot in school. "
The question, she said, "seemed aggressive at the time." She continued, "But that's what everyone wanted to know, 'What are you doing?"
While many students come to "Graffiti Street" eager to have their say, others, like alum Ananta Pancham, go there to find their voice.
"I was really shy," Pancham said, recalling her days in high school. "I didn't talk at all, and I had trouble participating. But when I got to interact with other kids my own age who cared about things I did, I talked all the time."
It was "Graffiti Street" that ignited a passion for current events and the media in Pancham, who now serves as assistant managing editor of the V.I. Source.
This season's stars have an assortment of career goals. Like Pancham, Delsol is looking to the media.
"I want to be Oprah," she said with a laugh. "Her impact, being a humanitarian, and being able to give back, and her TV show is awesome. I want to be like Oprah and make this world a better place."
Malachi Thomas has a three-pronged career in mind: physician/scientist, entrepreneur and musician.
"I realize that I shouldn't try to do everything at one time," said the CAHS junior. "Entrepreneur kicks in mid-age, music is early age -- I don't want to be traveling the world with kids at home. Doctor is mid age, too."
In the meantime, Thomas and his peers will spend a great deal of time fund raising to help plug any holes not covered in the $45,000 that Corbett said the Legislature doles out to the rising stars for their weekly productions.
At the end of each season, the students are given a chance to "broaden their horizons," according to Corbett, and are treated to an international trip, this year to Italy.
"I've been to the United States," said CAHS senior Rebecca Best, a future attorney. "But I've never been to other continents. I'm hoping to raise money like crazy."
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.