The Senate Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, and Aging gave accolades to a prestigious native Virgin Islander and to one of the territory’s most successful youth programs.
The first order of business at its Monday morning hearing was passing a resolution honoring Deanna Elyse Rogers for her contributions to the territory, including her being the first post auditor of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. The post auditor is an official attached to the Finance Committee who monitors the financial transactions of every department of the government.
Honoring Rogers was an emotional experience for one senator, Steven Payne. Rogers is his mother. Also testifying was his brother, former Sen. Clarence Payne. Clarence was moved to tears when his mother told the committee that it was because of Clarence that she was able to go back to college and get off the minimum wage job on which she was raising four children. She said Clarence took responsibility for everything at “our home” while she was at classes at the University of Virgin Islands.
Immediately after graduation in 1987 from the University of the Virgin Islands, she went to the Department of Public Works as assistant director of business administration. During her five-year tenure at Public Works, she held the positions of director of business administration, deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner.
Sen. Athneil Thomas, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said Rogers was successful because, “She was always prepared when the opportunity came.”
One opportunity she was prepared for was a phone call from Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, then chairwoman of the Committee of Finance. Hansen said she made the appointment of Rogers to post auditor “at a time when women were overlooked.”
Hansen said about Rogers, “She is so smart, still so humble. She is a model for other women.”
Sen. Myron D Jackson, another co-sponsor of the resolution, said Rogers has “given much of her life to raising her children and mentoring others.”
Rogers became active in the UVI Alumni Association in 1993 and soon became its treasurer. She also served a three-year term as chairman of the Afternoon on the Green Committee, helping to organize the annual, full-day event held at the Harmon Moore Golf Course.
Testifiers and senators also noted Rogers’ commitment to her church. She was parish administrator at the Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church from May 1993 through June of 2013, and was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the church under the supervision of the Church Council. She served on the Church Council from 1981 to 1990 and was a Sunday School teacher during the years 1980 to 1985.
“The recognition of my mother at this time in history could not have been timelier,” Clarence Payne said. “It is a time where women all around the world are forcefully taking their rightful places in history.”
The resolution honoring Rogers will be forwarded to the Rules Committee with a favorable recommendation along with a resolution honoring the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra for its musical contributions and dedication to youth.
The youth orchestra started out as an experimental program in 1981 by Judge Verne A. Hodge as a method to help youth stay out of trouble and in school.
Sen. Janelle Sarauw, a former member of the steel pan program, introduced the legislation. She said the program was like no other and its “impact is like no other.”
“This program has played an instrumental role in the lives of more than 2,500 Virgin Islands youths territory-wide,” testified Glendia Caines, V.I. court services administrator. She said about 160 youth were presently in the program. (It began in 1981 with 25 youngsters.)
Band members are in the range of 10 to 18 years old.
It is a year-round program. It has a summer training program that lasts at least six weeks.
Members take the following oath: “I promise to obey the rules of the Rising Stars, to stay in school and fully educate myself, to conduct myself in a decent manner at all times, and obey all laws of the U. S. Virgin Islands and the United States of America.”
The Rising Stars Steel Orchestra is listed in the U.S. Senate’s “Catalog of Hope” as one of the best prevention programs in the United States.
“This program is second to none,” said Sen. Dwayne DeGraff.
Attending the hearing were Sens. Alicia Barnes, DeGraff, Donna Frett-Gregory, Stedmann Hodge, Jr., Myron Jackson, Sarauw, Oakland Benta, Payne, and Athneil Thomas.