Students in the Early Literacy Reading Program at the Guy Benjamin School Community Center enjoy some quiet time reading.
Nearly a year after the Guy Benjamin School Community Center (GBSCC) opened to serve the Coral Bay community in St. John, programs offered at the formerly shuttered Virgin Islands Department of Education elementary school building continue to grow and thrive.
One of the more prominent and favored programs offered at GBSCC is the Early Literacy Reading Program. The program runs Tuesdays through Thursdays for ages 5-18, and aims to improve students’ literacy skills. Community member Elizabeth Hoffing started the Early Literacy Reading Program and has since recruited a team of volunteers, as the number of participants continue to grow. The program runs year-round, and is available to students after school, during the school year and in the summer months. This year, Hoffing has incorporated the 9th Annual Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge into her curriculum to encourage students to actively participate in the Challenge.
The GBSCC also houses the St. John School of the Arts (SJSA), which continues to offer after-school activities during the school year, to include tumbling, acrobatics, Tae Kwon Do, voice, piano and steel pan lessons. A “chair yoga” class for senior citizens is also held on Mondays, free of charge. The Coral Bay Community Council and other groups also facilitate meetings and workshops in the Center’s community meeting room, and St. John Administrator Camille Paris plans to open an office in the GBSCC to better serve the Coral Bay community.
In November of 2015, the Department of Education entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Partnerships in Hope, a private, non-profit organization focused on improving the lives of children and families on St. John. The two organizations have worked closely to refurbish and repair the buildings that make up the former Guy Benjamin Elementary School to ensure the programs using the center represent the true needs of the community.
The Guy Benjamin School was reopened as a multi-purpose community center on September 1, 2016.