Project Promise is a non-profit organization for at-risk youth that has quickly gained traction in the St. Croix community, due in large part to the passion and tenacity of it’s founder and president, Resa O’Reilly. Through years of work in the Health and Human Services field, Resa witnessed the many challenges facing island youth and recognized that the existing programs were not as effective as they could be at providing lasting change. As a result, Project Promise was created to provide a much needed long-term, holistic approach to help at-risk youth to thrive and succeed, regardless of their circumstances.
“Project Promise is dedicated to bringing about positive change in our world. Our vision is to give at-risk youth the tools and support they need to live healthier lives. Our objectives are to enhance their decision-making and conflict resolution skills, enable them to discover their vocational interests, and ultimately integrate them into society and our economy. Our goal is to inspire a future of excellence and success for youth throughout the Virgin Islands community and the world.”
When you meet Resa O’Reilly, her smile and passion for Project Promise (and life in general for that matter) are infectious. I got goosebumps listening to her share just a few stories highlighting the positive changes she is already seeing in some of the at-risk youth through Project Promise. From talking to her you can tell that Resa’s pride and joy is Project Promise’s Caterpiller Project. A long-term program designed to make a significant difference in the lives of 12 at-risk students, the Caterpillar Project is meant to be a support system, with close ties to adults who take a personal interest in these students’ growth and development. The initial Caterpillar Project pilot group of 12 fifth-grade students was chosen from Lew Muckle Elementary School after a series of screenings and assessment tests. Since this is holistic program, candidates were not only tested academically, but also had clinical assessments done of their personality, social factors, parental involvement, and much more.
For the lucky 12 students chosen, the Caterpillar Project includes nine major components in its holistic approach to creating positive changes in their lives: mentoring, community service, tutoring, career exploration, personal wellness, creative expression, cultural awareness, family support services, and life coaching. The best part about this program is that it is a partnership between the students, the school, the parents and the community. Not only are the participants held accountable for themselves, but their parents or guardians are also accountable. Parents/guardians must attend a regular monthly meetings to learn about what their kids are learning for the month and how the things they are learning can be reinforced at home. Both the parents and the students are given regular surveys to fill out in order to provide valuable feedback on the program, how they feel it is going, and where improvements can be made.
The Caterpillar Program takes place daily after school, as well offering life coaching outside of school, and some field trips and cultural experiences on weekends. Everyday, the students stay after school to attend the program which consists of a mindfulness activity, the lesson or core focus for the designated day of the week (ranging from community service and guest speakers to tutoring and creative activities), and the daily “take away and charge”(the call to action where each student talks about what they learned that day and how they will apply that new knowledge to their life). Each month, is give a theme around which the lessons, career mentors, and coaching are planned. Past monthly themes have included: self and mental health, physical health, social development, and educational health.
The community component of the Caterpillar Project is also very important. So how can you get involved? Project Promise is looking for career mentors who are willing to come in and give a 45 to 90 minute presentation about your vocation and answer any student questions. They are also seeking student sponsors to help supply their Caterpillar students with the necessary materials, supplies, clothing, shoes, and other items needed by the students for school and for their participation in the Caterpillar Program. To find out more about various volunteer opportunities, please contact Project Promise at (340) 244-3242. You can also make monetary donations through the Project Promise website, and all donations are tax deductible.
As Nelson Mandela wisely said: “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.” Project Promise is dedicated to improving the lives at at-risk youth on St. Croix today, which will lead to the same youth becoming the leaders of a positive force for change in our community tomorrow. Thank you to the staff, the volunteers, the financial supporters, and (especially) Resa O’Reilly for bringing Project Promise to life. Let’s work together to support these Caterpillars as they transform into butterflies!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor