UVI, National Park partner to foster education on St. Croix

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ST. CROIX - Officials from the territory's institution of higher learning and National Park Service signed an agreement Tuesday that they expect to foster the growth of cultural exchange and education in the territory.

David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, and NPS Superintendent Joel Tutien signed a Memorandum of Understanding demonstrating future cooperation between the park service on St. Croix and the university.

The document has established and formalized cooperation for fundraising and resource-sharing for programs associated with cultural and natural science education on St. Croix and throughout the Virgin Islands.

The signing ceremony took place at the newly renovated park service offices in Christiansted. The document now establishes a variety of new training opportunities through the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center within UVI's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, including a volunteer for credit program for UVI students, and it complements existing collaborative projects.

The volunteer program will allow students to receive hands-on training in cultural heritage and resource management.

Tutien said the signing of the MOU is significant because the park service now can work more collaboratively with UVI.

"This MOU will allow students to get credit and formalizes our relationship with the oldest institution in the territory," he said.

The university has engaged with the park service over the years in many different cooperative agreements, several of which currently are ongoing, so putting the MOU in place is a formal stage in a very beneficial and forward-thinking act that has consummated the relationship between the two and as they move the community forward and promote the mission of both parties, Tutien said.

Chenzira Davis Kahina, director of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center, said they anticipate that students will become involved in programming associated with the National Park Service Centennial in 2016 and the centennial of the transfer of the island from Danish rule, which is in 2017.

She said both institutions were established more than 50 years ago to enhance the potential for Virgin Islanders to learn and help promote their rich cultural heritage and the territory's unique natural resources. Through the Memorandum of Understanding, they can further their goals of promoting and sharing culture and offer sustainable experiences for enrichment throughout the territory, Kahina said.

"With the MOU, doors can now be opened to have homegrown people doing our research and publications and be the anthropologists and archaeologists and support the park service and its work from home rather than abroad," she said.

The opportunities are expected to continue to expand to also include St. Thomas students, officials said.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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