Coral Bay Job Club students (L to R) Rahshek’ka Titre, Loran Jackson, Asha Williams and Dallas Phillips with CBCC’s Patricia Reed.
Coral Bay Job Club students share their newly honed skills with friends and family members at an August 9 graduation ceremony. The students who graduated from the program were Raven Phillips, Dallas Phillips, Courtney Matthias, LaTiah Jackson, LaShawn Jackson, Loran Jackson, Cassandra Mathurin, Asha Williams, Rahshek’ka Titre and Ce-Khoi Scatlife.
With new-found confidence and public speaking skills, 10 students graduated from the Coral Bay Job Club on Thursday afternoon, August 9.
The graduation ceremony was hosted at Almost Heaven Villa, owned by Dr. Clancy, where students helped prepare the venue and the food to share with proud family members and friends.
The month-long Coral Bay Job Club program was funded by a $4,500 grant from V.I. Department of Labor with additional support from the Coral Bay Community Council and the Rotary Club of St. John. Brother and sister team Bonny and Mark Corbeil led the program, which focused on identifying students’ future careers and developing interview and public speaking skills.
The students, who all hailed from Coral Bay and ranged in age from 13 to 17 years old, met Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Guy Benjamin School and even earned $15 per day for their effort.
After taking personality assessments, students identified potential future careers and practiced in-person and telephone interview skills through role playing exercises.
Students also heard from local entrepreneurs and toured nearby Donkey Diner, where they learned the ins and outs of running a successful business. The experience also netted one student a job, explained Bonny Corbeil.
“Sue and Sean of Donkey Diner had our entire group over to the restaurant and did an amazing two-hour front and back of the house orientation to the restaurant business,” said Corbeil. “They also made us all lunch and then interviewed some of our teens. And it looks like one of our students is going to be hired there too.”
Coral Bay Job Club participants showed they were listening to the Donkey Diner presentation when they helped prepare the villa and the food at the graduation celebration, Corbeil explained.
“These young people were so well behaved and respectful of the place,” she said. “There were parents at the party who were so happy we are doing the program. And two of our parents said their teens couldn’t wait to come to class because they loved it so much.”
The graduation celebration will hopefully be just the first of its kind, as Corbeil is determined to bring future hands-on learning experiences to local youth, she explained.
“These young people are really looking for some role models to spend some quality time with and really engage them,” said Corbeil. “They want to figure out who they are as people and want meaningful projects and programs to engage them.”
Job Club participant Raven Phillips, 14, echoed those sentiments in her graduation remarks.
“I’ve always thought that the children are the future of the Virgin Islands, which is why the community of Coral Bay needs more programs geared towards the development of preteens and children,” said Phillips. “I hope that this program will be the start of an evolution in Coral Bay. Perhaps we will get a community center, or even just a place for the kids to hang out at so that we won’t walk the streets with nothing to do but cause trouble.”
Coral Bay Job Club helped Phillips grow as an individual, she explained.
“I feel that the Coral Bay Job Club has changed my life for the better,” she said. “It helped me to grow as a person and taught me to be confident in myself. I learned to have a good attitude about every job I perform whether it’s baby-sitting, dog walking, or even dish washing; every job is a good job.”
“I also learned that during every interview for the rest of your life you must be honest, genuine, and you must always smile,” said Phillips.
The skills she learned in the program will stay with her for the rest of her life, Phillips added.
“I’m sure that I along with the other participants will never forget this experience and everything we learned along the way,” she said.
While Corbeil promised to bring the program back to Coral Bay next summer if funding was available, she hoped the Job Club would spur additional youth engagement in the area, she explained.
“My dream is for the powers that be to recognize the great need for a resource center to do quality programs like this for our young people,” said Corbeil.
The Voyages building in Coral Bay, which has been sitting empty for several years, would be an ideal location for a hands-on youth training facility, Corbeil added.
“My dream is to use that building, which is just sitting there doing nothing,” she said. “I’d love to see a pilot program there for St. John where we could use the building for a year to show what we could do in terms of the hotel and tourism industry.”
“We have no way of training our kids in customer service and if we could show a quality training program here, I think we could be a role model for the rest of the Virgin Islands,” said Corbeil.
The results of the month-long Coral Bay Job Club are proof that these types of experiential programs work, Corbeil added.
“All the government does is talk about what they are going to do for youth,” she said. “This was our way of saying, ‘Give us a group of kids and a small grant and let us show you what we can do.’ The proof is in the pudding.”
“The program has resulted in one job so far and there are more offers coming in,” Corbeil said. “I really hope we can move this type of program forward. It is a really critical need to give our young people the skills they need in order to grow and really succeed in the future.”
The students who graduated from the program were Raven Phillips, Dallas Phillips, Courtney Matthias, LaTiah Jackson, LaShawn Jackson, Loran Jackson, Cassandra Mathurin, Asha Williams, Rahshek’ka Titre and Ce-Khoi Scatlife.