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V.I. Receives $330K Grant to Help Students Attend College

The University of the Virgin Islands, in collaboration with the Virgin Islands Board of Education and the Office of the Governor, has received a $330,000 grant to increase the number of students in the Virgin Islands who enter colleges and universities. UVI received the grant from the U.S. Department of Education College Access Challenge Grant (CACG) Program. The two-year grant allows UVI and its community partners to provide information to students and families about postsecondary education benefits, opportunities, planning and career preparation, and to offer need-based scholarships to students. It also allows UVI to collaborate with the American Counseling Association of the Virgin Islands to  implement professional development  training and to provide support to guidance counselors at middle and secondary schools.  Scholarships  applications and awards  will be administered through the V.I. Board of Education.

"Educational attainment has proven throughout history to be one of the single most transformative factors for the individual and for society in general," said St. Croix Associate Campus Executive Administrator Miriam  Osborne-Elliott, who is the CACG Program project investigator. "The CACG is an excellent opportunity for students attending college for the first time and who meet the application requirements, to gain access to federal funding they don't have to pay back," she added. "Investing in a college education still is an investment that's proven to have multiple dividends over time."

Denise Lake of St. Croix has been hired as the Educational Outreach Coordinator to fulfill the mission of the grant. Lake has worked in various fields, from social services to education. Most recently she was a program administrator in the V.I. Labor Department's Youth Services division. She has also worked at Michigan State University, where she gained experience implementing federal grant-based programs.

"The whole purpose of the grant is to make sure that students have access to college," Lake said. She will work closely with educators to enhance students' and their families' awareness of the benefits of college and methods of accessing and financing higher education. Some of Lake's main duties will be to conduct outreach activities to guidance counselors in middle and public high school on post secondary financing options and provide information to assist students in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The College Access Grant  primarily seeks to  focus on  students who may be at risk of not enrolling in or completing college and are first-time college attendees.

Scholarships of $1,500 will be available for students who demonstrate a need and meet the grant's criteria for application. Scholarships can be used at any accredited college or university. A total of $160,001 will be available for the 2009-2010 academic year. Grant awards will be distributed evenly between the St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix districts.

For more information contact the Educational Outreach Coordinator Denise Lake at 692-4101 or CACG Program Project Investigator Miriam  Osborne Elliott, at 692-4188.