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Gifft Hill School Graduates Awarded Ruby Rutnik Scholarship



Gifft Hill School graduates De-necia Baxter (left) and Liandra Dagou (right) are the 2024 recipients of the Ruby Rutnik Scholarship. Photo by Sophie Rutnik.

Two Gifft Hill School graduates have been awarded the prestigious Ruby Rutnik Scholarship for the 2024-25 academic year. De-necia Baxter and Liandra Dagou, both aspiring nursing students, will each receive $2,500 towards their tuition as they embark on their college journeys at the University of the Virgin Islands.

De-necia Baxter and Liandra Dagou, recognized for their academic achievements and community involvement, were selected for their commitment to pursuing nursing degrees. Their passion for healthcare and dedication to their studies have set them apart as deserving recipients of this scholarship, which honors the memory of Ruby Rutnik, a former standout softball player and beloved member of the St. John community.

The Ruby Rutnik Scholarship Fund, established in memory of Ruby Rutnik who tragically passed away in 1996, has been supporting young women from St. John in their educational pursuits for over two decades. Ruby’s parents created the fund and a related softball tournament to provide financial assistance to students, ensuring that her legacy continues to inspire and support the community she loved. The scholarship has awarded over $199,000 to more than 60 recipients since its inception.

De-necia Baxter and Liandra Dagou’s selection underscores the fund’s mission to empower young women through education. Both students have expressed their gratitude and excitement for the opportunities this scholarship will provide as they start their college careers.

De-necia Baxter has been actively involved in various community service projects and has shown a strong interest in healthcare from a young age. Her dedication to her studies and her compassionate nature make her an ideal candidate for the nursing program at the University of the Virgin Islands. Liandra Dagou, equally passionate about healthcare, has excelled academically and participated in numerous extracurricular activities. Her commitment to helping others and her academic prowess have earned her this well-deserved recognition.

The Ruby Rutnik Scholarship not only provides financial support but also serves as a tribute to Ruby’s enduring spirit and the positive impact she had on those around her. The scholarship fund continues to receive support from the community, with contributions ensuring that more young women can achieve their educational goals.

Contributions to the Ruby Rutnik Scholarship Fund can be made by sending checks payable to Gifft Hill School, noting RRSF on the memo line, to GHS, PO Box 1657, St. John, VI 00831. This support is crucial in maintaining the scholarship and honoring Ruby Rutnik’s legacy for future generations.

As De-necia Baxter and Liandra Dagou prepare to begin their college education, the Gifft Hill School community celebrates their achievements and looks forward to their future successes in the field of nursing.

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Education in USVI: Schools and Universities



In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the education system is designed to provide comprehensive learning opportunities for all residents, from preschool to higher education. The territory emphasizes both public and private education, ensuring that students receive quality instruction that prepares them for future careers and higher education.

Primary and Secondary Education

The public education system in the Virgin Islands operates under the same standards as U.S. public schools. Education is free and compulsory for children from ages 5.5 to 16. The system includes over 40 public schools, comprising elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. Additionally, the territory features vocational schools that offer specialized training in various trades.

Public schools benefit from federal initiatives such as Head Start, nutrition programs, and Upward Bound, which support early childhood education and help prepare high school students for college. The student-teacher ratio in public schools is approximately 14:1, ensuring that students receive adequate attention and support.

In addition to public schools, the USVI hosts numerous private and parochial schools, which provide alternative education options. These institutions cater to a diverse student population, including those seeking religious-based education. The presence of private schools adds to the overall educational diversity within the territory.

Higher Education

The U.S. Virgin Islands is home to the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), the principal institution of higher education in the territory. UVI is a public, co-educational, historically black land-grant university offering associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees across its two campuses in St. Thomas and St. Croix​​.

UVI’s academic offerings are extensive, with over 43 degree programs that include disciplines such as Data Science, Nursing, Business Administration, and Education. The university prides itself on small class sizes, maintaining a student-teacher ratio of 12:1, which allows for personalized attention and a supportive learning environment​​.

One of UVI’s notable initiatives is the Free Tuition Program, which provides tuition-free education to eligible residents of the Virgin Islands. This program is designed to make higher education accessible to more residents, thereby enhancing educational attainment and opportunities for the local population​.

Moreover, UVI actively engages in research, service, and outreach programs, contributing to the social and economic development of the Caribbean region. The university also offers study abroad opportunities and maintains partnerships with institutions worldwide, promoting a global perspective among its students.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the robust education system, the USVI faces challenges, particularly in the wake of natural disasters. Hurricanes Irma and Maria severely impacted the territory’s infrastructure, including schools. Many schools are still recovering, and reconstruction efforts are ongoing, supported by substantial funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Programs such as “From Farm to School” aim to enrich students’ learning experiences and promote healthy eating habits by incorporating locally grown produce into school meals. This initiative reflects the territory’s commitment to holistic education and the well-being of its students​.


Education in the U.S. Virgin Islands is characterized by a blend of public and private institutions that offer a wide range of learning opportunities from early childhood through higher education. The system’s alignment with U.S. standards ensures high-quality education, while local initiatives and federal support help address unique challenges. With ongoing efforts to improve infrastructure and expand access to higher education, the USVI continues to invest in the future of its students.

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Virgin Islands Students Shine in Academic Excellence Across U.S. Colleges and Universities



The Virgin Islands Daily News proudly recognizes the academic achievements of Virgin Islands students who have been named to the Dean’s List for the Spring 2024 semester at their respective colleges and universities. This honor is awarded to students who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and academic prowess, maintaining high grade point averages amidst their rigorous coursework.

Warner University

Warner University announced its Spring 2024 Dean’s List, celebrating the exceptional academic achievements of 225 students from both graduate and undergraduate programs. This recognition reflects their outstanding performance and commitment to academic excellence throughout the semester​ (Warner University)​.

Fisk University

At Fisk University, several Virgin Islands students were acknowledged for their academic success. The Dean’s List at Fisk University requires students to achieve a grade point average of 3.50 or higher. This semester, students like Ann Ebhounu and Jessica Grimes have showcased their hard work and dedication, earning a spot on this prestigious list​ (Fisk University)​.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

N.C. A&T State University also highlighted its students’ achievements, with several from the Virgin Islands making it to the Dean’s List. The university prides itself on inspiring students to exceed expectations and achieve remarkable success in their academic endeavors​ (NCAT)​.

Augusta University

Augusta University recognized its top-performing students for the Spring 2024 semester. The institution, known for its world-class academic and social community, commended its Virgin Islands students for their outstanding academic records, which have positioned them for future opportunities and success​ (Augusta University)​.

Sauk Valley Community College

Sauk Valley Community College included Virgin Islands students in its Dean’s List, acknowledging their impressive academic achievements. The college encourages a balance between coursework and extracurricular activities, supporting students in reaching their full academic potential​ (Sauk Valley Community College)​.

These recognitions across various institutions highlight the significant presence and impact of Virgin Islands students in higher education. Their achievements not only bring pride to their families and communities but also set a high standard for future generations. The dedication and hard work of these students exemplify the values of perseverance and academic excellence.

The Virgin Islands Daily News extends heartfelt congratulations to all the students who have earned a place on the Dean’s List for the Spring 2024 semester. Their success serves as an inspiration to all aspiring scholars from the Virgin Islands.

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Department of Education Seeks Approval for FEMA-Funded Rebuild of St. Croix Central High School at Upcoming CZM Meeting



The V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) has announced a pivotal St. Croix Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams. Key topics include the proposed rebuilding of St. Croix Central High School using FEMA funds.

DPNR Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol stated that the agenda would highlight several vital infrastructure projects aimed at bolstering the island’s resilience and community amenities. The primary focus will be on the V.I. Department of Education’s proposal, under Federal Consistency Determination No. CZM0028-23, seeking approval to utilize FEMA funds for the demolition and reconstruction of St. Croix Central High School. This significant project, located at Track 3 Upper Bethlehem in Christiansted, represents a major initiative to modernize the island’s educational infrastructure.

The committee will also deliberate on enhancements to Highway 75. Under Federal Consistency Determination No. CZM0017-23, the V.I. Department of Public Works intends to improve roadway geometry, install underground electrical distributions, and make several other safety and accessibility improvements along the north shore road west of Christiansted.

Another major item on the agenda is the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s (WAPA) proposal, under Federal Consistency Determination No. CZM0005-24, to use FEMA funds for burying utility lines along Queen Mary Highway to VITEMA Road. This project aims to enhance the electrical power resilience for the VITEMA Headquarters and nearby residents.

Public testimony will be welcomed during the hearings on the highway and utility projects, but no testimonies will be heard during the decision meeting on the high school project.

Interested parties can participate or view the proceedings with the following meeting details:

  • Meeting ID: 290 917 297 230
  • Passcode: aoPusj

Relevant documents and additional information are available on the DPNR website under the Federal Consistency and permitting sections. This meeting highlights the Virgin Islands government’s ongoing efforts to address critical infrastructure needs by effectively leveraging federal funds to ensure the territory’s resilience and development.

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