Ten students become marine professionals with help of community

For her entire life- Kejanna Young has been afraid of water. 

So, signing up for a program completely about the water was a bit a surprise- even to her.  

“My sister actually showed me the advertisement for this program and I thought I would give it a shot and get rid of my fear of water,” she said.   

The program is six weeks of marine training. Everything from scuba diving, to sailing, to maintenance, to management. It’s called the Marine Apprenticeship Program and Friday night the students graduated in a special sunset sail. 

The entire program was brought together with the help of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Yacht Association or “VIPCA.” 

Oriel Blake, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association said “we’ve worked for quite a long time with the Department of Education. A lot of the students are just graduating from high school when we first meet them. We go into the schools and say this is an opportunity for training in the marine industry and we also discuss about the careers in the marine industry.”   

Anyone will tell you that it is Blake that is the force behind the Marine Apprenticeship Program. She believes in the students and pushes them to be their best in hopes of having them become ship captains on the water, or on the technical side on land.  

“I called the Captain school the day before the final day to get into this and he gave me Oriel’s number I called her next day I went in for the interview and I got it!” one of the students Alanna Guzman said.

Guzman said she didn’t know anything about boats before this. Now she knows it all and hopes to get a job at a marina.  

Members of the Marine Rebuild Fund- which supports the program- say this training is changing the face of the marine industry in the Virgin Islands. 

“What we’re looking at is changing the way people are interacting with their tour guides here. A lot of people come here to go out on the water because why not it’s incredible and we really want that interaction to include some people who are from we want them to say this is my island, this is where we grew up, this is my home, this is my history,” Brigette Berry one of the founders of the Marine Rebuild Fund said.

Another founder of the Marine Rebuild Fund, Kitty Edwards said, ” we know how amazing this program is, we know how amazing Oriel is, and how amazing these kids are doing, and to see the future for that and to really bolster the local marine economy is really exciting.”

The program is not just for students graduating, it’s for anyone who wants a fresh start. Jonica Aubain works as a server and got through this program working and being a full-time mom to her adorable daughter Jasmine.  

“She’s two and a half, it wasn’t too bad. She goes to school in the day but getting up and dropping her in the mornings was a lot. But this is her first time on a boat since the program and she can’t get enough of it.”  

Jasmine is a possible future captain in the works! 

It wasn’t just moms as the graduates, there were moms as the cheerleaders. Shahema Thomas told us she couldn’t be prouder of her step son, Jahshawn

“He tried very hard, he enjoyed the program, and I thank you guys very much for installing something kids can have as they come out to enjoy the community other than being on the streets. I am so proud of him. I thank you guys what you’ve done for the youths of the Virgin Islands.”  

And remember Kejanna? She graduated too. She conquered her fear of water once and for all. 

“I think it happened when I drove a power boat and I do pretty well with it and so I went ok I can get used to it, and from there on I was confident enough.”  

The Marine Apprenticeship Program changing the charter industry and these 10 graduates futures.  

For more information on the program go to https://www.vipca.org/youth-training/