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NOAA Environmental Literacy Program Awards UVI $500,000 in Funds to Advance USVI Community Resilience to Hurricanes

Photo of Professors Gregory Guannel and Kristin Grimes

The University of the Virgin Islands has received $500,000 in funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Literacy Program (ELP) for its U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Storm Strong Program. The five-year project will create the Territory’s first sustained, community-based, hurricane hazard preparedness program. Through new and strengthened partnerships and the development of a long-term community‐based program, middle- and high school youth and their families across the territory, will engage in on-the-ground projects that increase individual, family, and community preparedness for hurricanes. The program is free and will begin in 2019 on the island of St. Thomas, then expand to St. John and St. Croix.

“Hurricanes Irma and Maria were devastating storms that fundamentally changed our community. But, they also gave us a tremendous opportunity to think about how we can be more prepared for future storms,” said Project Lead, Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes, assistant professor in the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies. “The USVI Storm Strong Program is exciting because it leverages partnerships with the long-term recovery groups and it will empower our community to reduce vulnerabilities to hurricane hazards and increase our readiness for future events.” In addition, this program will help “give a voice to children in the Territory, by having them think about how to best equip themselves to prepare and cope with the impacts of natural disasters, and implement their ideas with their families,” said Project Co-Lead, Dr. Greg Guannel, director of the Caribbean Green Technology Center.

The USVI Storm Strong Program was one of nine new projects funded by NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program (ELP) this year from over 237 applicants. Together, the nine projects - reaching from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands - will receive a total of $3 million to empower communities to protect themselves from local environmental threats. These nine new projects join a cohort of 13 previously ELP-funded resilience education projects that support the education of K-12 students and the public so they are knowledgeable of the ways in which their community can become more resilient to extreme weather events and or other environmental hazards, and become actively involved in achieving that resilience.

"We're pleased to support these nine new projects and expand our network of partners supporting community resilience through education,” said Louisa Koch, NOAA director of Education. “Not only will they expand the geographic impact of our work but just as importantly they will bring new perspectives and expertise to use informal and formal education as tools to help people and their communities become more resilient to climate and severe weather hazards.”

For more information about the USVI Storm Strong Program, please contact (340) 693-1059 or email pr@uvi.edu.