Head of School 2018-2019 Year End Report

Michael Bornn, Head of School

Michael Bornn, Head of School

VIMSIA’s focus is to raise the bar of education in the Virgin Islands via individual student learning. As one functions at VIMSIA, one should always ask yourself: “What is the impact on student learning?” Everything else falls into place after that.

 We have repaired most of the hurricane damaged facilities. We are embarking on a major construction effort of five facilities: BEC, La Casa, Art Trailer, Dance Trailer and Weight Room. They will rebuilt over the next several years. The first building will be starting this summer. All these facilities will be constructed to a higher standard than the original facilities.

 Our graduates continue to be accepted in their first choice schools with significant amounts of financial aid to enable attendance. Our graduates are well prepared for college. Several have gone on to excel at graduate programs; others have commenced highly gainful and exciting employment.

 For a school with only ten years of graduating classes, the successes of our graduates are very impressive. The IB program prepares our graduates for college. Our graduates have achieved. They are achieving.  And they make us proud. They prove our school is meeting the challenge of quality education.

 VIMSIA will continue to improve in areas of math performance, acquisition of languages, writing skills, classroom management, self-discipline, intrinsic curiosity, collaboration and developing the love of learning. We attempt to reach every child at our school.

 Art, music, dance and theater offerings will continue on their growth path. Speech will also be added as an elective next year. Swimming, sailing and tennis offerings are being developed for next year as well.          

 VIMSIA seeks to educate a diversified student body and our families is reflective of the world at large. We are indeed proud that our teachers have taught in over 70 countries as well as the Virgin Islands. International travel and interactions are a foundation of our school.

 Expanding the Montessori Method to reach every child in the VI is indeed a goal. Early childhood education is critically important and the Montessori Method has been proven to be a leading pedagogy in early childhood education. On island Montessori training for staff and parents will commence this coming school year. 

 VIMSIA now has an endowment to help ensure we have a financial cushion to help mitigate future disasters and more importantly to fund the pursuit of excellence in perpetuity.  Raising money to grow the fund is a priority. 

 The campus is 100% solar energized. A portion of the campus is operating on an off-grid basis with storage batteries and generator back-up.  We are in the process of installing additional storage capacity to take the whole campus off grid. The cost savings of this sustainable program goes directly to improve student learning.

 To further enhance teacher recruitment and retention, we are embarking on two offerings. First, a fleet of electric cars has been donated to the school. They will be available for lease to teachers desiring an electric car. The cars can be charged at our solar powered electric car charging station free of charge, with an estimated annual fuel savings to each teacher of approximately $2,400.

Secondly, we have acquired a two-unit house on Vessup Lane so we will be able to provide affordable housing for our staff close to school. This housing program is a long-term initiative with the goal of acquiring several houses in the area over many years. The vehicle and housing alternatives are purely optional for staff. Providing transportation and housing for faculty is a step in the direction of improving the quality of life for staff, which in turn improves student learning.

 We are working on a proposal to have the concession stand open daily for students and staff to be able to purchase items from a student-run venture. Such will also incorporate existing student fund raising efforts of selling pizza weekly.

None of our achievements and goals would be possible without the amazing support of our staff, students, parents and donors.

Alumni Update: Nisha Hodge

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Nisha, a 2012 PGIA IB graduate, was on hand for the 2019 commencement ceremony last week and we were honored to have her announce our guest speaker. It was so fabulous to see Nisha back on campus to get an update on what is going on in her life.

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She brought in a photo on her at her 2012 graduation holding her “Oh the Places You’ll Go” book, by Dr. Suess, which has become a traditional gift for our graduates from their teachers and the VIMSIA staff.

Nisha, a Gates Millennium Scholar, has achieved much since her time at the PGIA. She is most certainly on a path to be the change she hopes to see in the world. Rock on, Nisha!

She gave us some of the highlights of her life since graduation:

  • In 2012, when I graduated I received the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship that completely covered my undergraduate and graduate education. 

  • During my freshman year of college, in 2012, I was the student keynote speaker for the IB Conference in New Orleans in which I introduced environmentalist Phillip Cousteau Jr.  

  • I attended New College of Florida and graduated in 2016 with a BA in Biology/Chemistry.  

  • I graduated in 2018, last year, with my Masters of Public Health (MPH) from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. 

  • At the beginning of medical school, I found out I received the National Health Service Corp (NHSC) Scholarship which covers the cost of medical school in exchange for my commitment to providing primary care to underserved populations. 

  • I just finished my first year of medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. 

  • I will be conducting clinical research in health disparities this summer at Stanford University for 8 weeks.

We at VIMSIA could not be more proud of Nisha. Oh, the places she has gone - and is going!

The Class of 2019 Represents the PGIA's 10th Graduating Class!

Sunday, May 26, was an incredible day at Virgin Islands Montessori School & Peter Gruber International Academy. The Class of 2019 represents the PGIA’s 10th graduating class and these thirteen graduates shined during their last event as high school students! This group has a very notable bond and there was an overwhelming sense of ‘readiness’ to start the next chapter of their lives.

Valedictorian Talia Feshbach

Valedictorian Talia Feshbach

Salutatorian Axel Bartsch

Salutatorian Axel Bartsch

Gregory Christian, 2019 Student Selected Commencement Speaker, receives the Masjid Nur International-Mindedness Scholarship

Gregory Christian, 2019 Student Selected Commencement Speaker, receives the Masjid Nur International-Mindedness Scholarship

 Talia Feshbach led the class as Valedictorian and Axel Bartsch was Salutatorian. Gregory Christian was chosen by his peers as the student speaker. He was also awarded the Masjid Nur Organization's International-Mindedness Scholarship at the ceremony. Gregory shared wonderful anecdotes and perspective, having been a part of the VIMSIA school community since Primary. Ms. Alexandra Silva was selected as the teacher speaker and encouraged students to take on each of their classmate’s best and most signature qualities as they venture off into the world. The crowd enjoyed a keynote address from Shane Feldman, founder and CEO of Count Me In, one of the world’s largest millennial movements for volunteerism, community and mentorship.  

 Twelve students are planning to attend university in the fall.  They were accepted to 53 different universities and received over $5 million in scholarships and grants.

Our students will be attending:

  • Allegheny College (PA)

  • Bryn Mawr College (PA)

  • Drexel University (PA)

  • Florida Atlantic University (FL)

  • Georgia State University (GA)

  • Grove City College (PA)

  • High Point University (NC)

  • Howard University (DC)

  • Jacksonville University (FL)

  • Occidental College (CA)

  • Rider University (NJ)

  • University of Miami (FL)

Alumni Silas Wisehart has been Appointed to US Coast Guard Academy Class of 2023!

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St. Thomas resident Silas A. Wisehart has received an appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.   Wisehart will be sworn in as a member of the Class of 2023 on July 1, 2019. 

 The U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, is a top military college granting Bachelor of Science degrees in one of nine engineering or professional majors.  The smallest of the nation’s five military service academies, the Coast Guard Academy’s Corps of Cadets represents the nation’s best and brightest students, ready to serve and lead their country.  Each year, approximately 200 graduates are commissioned as Coast Guard officers to help ensure the safety, security and stewardship of our nation’s waters. 

 Wisehart, who was born and raised on St. Thomas, is a 2018 graduate of the V.I. Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy.  During his senior year of high school, he received admission to the Coast Guard Academy Scholars Program, which provides a year of preparation for the rigorous academic, athletic and military program at the Coast Guard Academy.  Having successfully completed the Service Academy Program at Marion Military Institute in Alabama, Wisehart received a full appointment to the Coast Guard Academy. 

 Wisehart is the son of Ryan and Lisa Wisehart of St. Thomas.

Alumni Luncheon Panel

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VIMSIA's College Counseling Department hosted our annual Alumni Lunch today! Eleven alumni including: Christina Brett '17, CJ Fahie '16, Niquay Leonard '17, Kobe Potter '18, Silas Wisehart '18, Nalani Figueroa '18, Vanshika Lulla '18, Ali Bartsch '17, Leah Trotman '17, T'Leah Serieux '17, and Vernelle Callwood '18 returned to campus to speak to our Diploma Program students. They shared advice and insight about life after high school and their adventures in college. Students engaged in discussion about the college experience and how the IB Program prepared them for academic success. Many thanks to our alumni for the support of our students!

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VOLTS Alumni at World Cup Qualifiers

3 Alumnae Volts representing USVI at World Cup Qualifiers

3 Alumnae Volts representing USVI at World Cup Qualifiers

Virgin Islands Montessori School & Peter Gruber International Academy alumni Ariel Stolz ‘13, Isis Collier ’15, and Alison Bartsch ’17 are currently in Trinidad representing their country at the CONCACAF Caribbean Qualifiers for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.  All three started soccer with Senor Araujo and played for our Varsity Volts with Coach Elger.  After a tough but expected loss to world-class Trinidad in the first game, the USVI team bounced back to beat Grenada 3-0 in the second, then lost their third match 0-3 to Dominica.   Our young and developing team is proud to be demonstrating success at the international level. Their final match is Sunday vs St. Kitts & Nevis.  #GoVolts  #GoUSVI

New Tradition: Alumni Induction Ceremony

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With new times, come new traditions. On Wednesday, May 16 Virgin Islands Montessori School & Peter Gruber International Academy (VIMSIA) seniors were welcomed into the Alumni Association through an induction ceremony. Each senior was welcomed into the association by a current alumni of VIMSIA. This ceremony was created to formally represent the transition from the status of undergraduate member to alumni status within VIMSIA. It was a surprise to all when our guest alumni were also inducted into our newly established Alumni Association. All members received an alumni pin, certificate of recognition and a VOLT bracelet. A special thanks goes out to our guest alumni: Tess Monsanto, Vernon Araujo, Alayna Belshe, Melissa Bump, Shane Brunt, Ched Sharpless and Tommy Brunt. Congratulations to all!

Alumna Spotlight On Leah Trotman

PGIA alumna and former MLK, Jr. Award recipient, Leah Trotman, is continuing to make a difference in her collegiate life. She is currently a freshman at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA where she was the only freshman to serve on the President's Committee for Puerto Rico and USVI Hurricane Relief. It was Leah that contacted the President and Dean of Campus Life after these events to see how Agnes Scott could mobilize their efforts to help. She also is a member of several campus clubs and organizations and already holds leadership roles as a freshman. Recently, she was accepted and given a full scholarship to attend the 2018 Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service as a participant in the Leadership Scholars Program. 

"Leah Trotman continues to make us proud!" - Elizabeth Elger

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Leah Trotman

“Unlike other college students around me, I don’t shy away from large workloads in college. Rather, because of the level of work given at VIMSIA, I jump feet first into the work and take it one step at a time. VIMSIA has also taught me how to be an internationally ready student. I am writing to you from a hotel in La Antigua, Guatemala on a class trip. These are things that are now normal to me because of my trips to Colombia and China. Thanks End Session! I am forever grateful for my education at VIMSIA. I wouldn’t change it for the world.” 

Home for the Holidays - PGIA Alumni Luncheon

From left to right: Kendal Benjamin '17 Duquesne University, Ali Bartsch '17 Stanford University, Kayla Rivers '17 Seton Hall University, CJ Fahie '16 Indiana Tech University, Kiyalyn Bump Dalhousie University '16, Aneesh Chandiramani '17 Clark University and Leah Trotman '17 Agnes Scott College   Not pictured: Abraham Hamed '16 Valencia College, Christina Brett '17 University of Tampa and Eyad Hamed '17 Valencia College

From left to right: Kendal Benjamin '17 Duquesne University, Ali Bartsch '17 Stanford University, Kayla Rivers '17 Seton Hall University, CJ Fahie '16 Indiana Tech University, Kiyalyn Bump Dalhousie University '16, Aneesh Chandiramani '17 Clark University and Leah Trotman '17 Agnes Scott College

Not pictured: Abraham Hamed '16 Valencia College, Christina Brett '17 University of Tampa and Eyad Hamed '17 Valencia College

The PGIA College Counseling office hosted the fourth annual Alumni Luncheon on Wednesday, December 20th.  Our alumni were full of energy and excitement as they returned to campus to share experiences, insights and goals with our current juniors and seniors.  Many of our returning alums have only completed their first semesters of college but are well of their way to blazing some amazing trails.  

Some notable pieces of advice from our former Volts: 

"Be an advocate for yourself and what you believe in."

"All of your hard work (in the DP program) is totally worth it."

"Follow your passion."

"Keep an open mind."

"Go to class!"  :)

Thank you Alumni!  We wish you the best!  

Alumni Update: Ali Bartsch, Aneesh Chandiramani, Leah Trotman

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We love, love, love when our students come back to visit.  Today we had a visit from PGIA Class of 2017 graduates:  Ali, Aneesh and Leah.  What a treat!

They have all just finished their first semester at college.  Ali is in engineering at Stanford, Aneesh is focusing on sciences, with a specific interest in biology at Clark University and Leah is deciding whether to major in International Studies or Public Health (possibly both) at Agnes Scott College.

I tried to interview them with a few simple questions - What do you like best about college life - Were there any huge surprises - Did you feel prepared -  but honestly they were going a mile a minute with each other and me about their experiences and how amazing things are.  I was totally blown away by them and couldn't stop smiling.  So, I'm definitely giving the cliff notes version of their conversations and am sure I will not be able to convey their enthusiasm - so please assume all of the following is written in caps with tons of emojis and exclamation points.

"What do you like best?"  All three hit on the same theme.  The people they are engaging with.  Whether their peers, professors or guest lecturers they all say they are meeting very interesting, diverse and accomplished people.  Ali met the woman that discovered carbon dioxide contributes to global warming and has a chance to interact with the COO of SpaceX "soon come". She spoke of these ladies with such reverence and awe - I am just waiting for the day that some young woman feels the same way about her chance to meet the prominent Alison Bartsch.  Leah is involved with Campus government and continues her strong interest in service with a plethora of activities - I must admit I lost count.  In the wee hours of the Hurricane Irma's pounding of our island, this bold freshman wrote to the president of her college (and quite possibly the Danish government) to initiate a movement for relief efforts.  Aneesh (in a quieter very Aneesh-ish way) is also really excited about the people his is meeting - "They all have such great stories about how they came to be at this point in their lives".   

"Do you feel that you were well prepared?"  This was easy.  They all said "yes".  And they recognize that many of their peers are not nearly so well-prepared.  Writing and citations were a big topic.   Leah and Aneesh felt like the class experts and were a little bored with the basic reviews they had to sit through.  Apparently everyone at Stanford falls in the "very well prepared" category.  They all felt that the study habits they developed in high school are serving them well at this level.  Leah was able to credit out of three Spanish semesters and an Anthro semester based on her PGIA IB Transcript.  

So nice to see them.  I'm still beaming.  Our students are "glowing" up (Aneesh's term - I like it).