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Jamaican teens to change island climates to Vashon next February

Four Jamaican high school students — from left to right, Tovia Harvey, T.J. Stewart, Tanika Stewart and Patrick Cunningham — hope to visit Vashon Island next winter. - Courtesy photo
Four Jamaican high school students — from left to right, Tovia Harvey, T.J. Stewart, Tanika Stewart and Patrick Cunningham — hope to visit Vashon Island next winter.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Four Jamaican students, who hosted Vashon High School (VHS) students in Jamaica this February will have the chance to explore Vashon Island next February.

This winter, four VHS students traveled to Jamaica with counselor Shirley Ferris, winner of the 2006 Doors of Opportunity Award.

The four Island students were paired with four Jamaican high schoolers who served as hosts during their visit. Now, the Jamaican host students are preparing for a visit of their own to Vashon next winter.

The Jamaican students live below poverty level in the district of Three Hills. They have no electricity, running water, indoor toilets or bathing facilities.

“They do have big smiles, willing hearts, eager hands and a desire to learn everything presented to them,” said Tressa Azpiri, a part-time Islander and coordinator of Project Jamaica who has a farm in the rural area of Jamaica where the team of Islanders traveled this February. “They are bright, well- behaved, happy, open and willing to share. The idea of them being able to journey to Vashon winter of 2009 is a big dream.”

The four students began working to save money while preparing for the Vashon students to arrive.

“Jamaican students do not have many opportunities to earn money and often sacrifice their lunch money to achieve a goal like a passport,” she said. “Imagine four Jamaican students coming to Washington, flying in an airplane and riding in an elevator for the first time — seeing skyscrapers, roads without potholes, snow.”

She said she’ll present the Jamaican high-schoolers with balanced perspectives on American life — they’ll visit a zoo, mountains, the Imax theater and typical American homes. They will volunteer in a teen homeless shelter, a soup kitchen and a Catholic service home in Seattle.

“Exposure to the challenges that many Americans face will provide a balanced look at American life that Jamaican television does not share,” she said.

Azpiri is seeking donations to bring the Island students from their Island home to ours.

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