Michael Vante and Amber Lewis, Accelerated Career Development Professionals (ACDP) here at ICMC, are graduates of Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS). They both received the highest academic honor, while in high school, as valedictorians of their respective classes; Michael in 2011 and Amber in 2012. It’s no wonder that after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated our islands in September, that one of Amber’s concerns was for the high school seniors who might have been feeling hopeless about their college futures.
It was around October when Amber realized that college applications were due soon. She thought about the fact that the seniors lacked reliable internet at school and at home, that they were going to school for only four hours a day, and the school had long been short staffed and underfunded from even before the hurricanes. It was not a good situation. “The idea popped into my head one day after thinking about CAHS, my alma mater, and how the students must be feeling after the two hurricanes” Amber said.
When asked why this was so important to Amber, she said, “I wanted to help out and since I have a decent amount of experience in writing and mentoring, I figured that helping the students with their college essays and applications was the perfect way to give back.” Amber is no stranger to leaping into action when she identifies a need. Amber started a mentoring program for girls, named The Sista’ Circle Project, in the Washington, D.C. metro area while attending American University because, in her words, “We always wait for others to do the right thing, but we need to start being the people that we want others to be.”
Amber then reached out to Michael, who majored in English at the University of Miami, and asked if he was interested in partnering with her. He agreed without hesitation. He suggested adding resume building to their list of services to help those seniors who wanted to bypass college and start their career. Michael was eager to be a part of this initiative because he firmly believes that, “It is our responsibility to be the people who create change, when we see the time for change has come.”
Amber and Michael then pitched their idea to Ms. Boyd, Senior Principal at CAHS. She agreed it was a good idea and allowed them to speak to all high school seniors in the CAHS auditorium. Within two weeks of Michael getting involved, the pair jumpstarted what became a writing clinic for CAHS seniors. The students who participated in the clinic met once a week for 5 weeks.
On January 30, 2018, Amber and Michael presented college application and book scholarships to three students who were the most diligent and consistent with their college applications in the clinic. Ms. Boyd was so moved by Amber’s commitment that she asked her to mentor the three young women going forward. The logistics of the mentoring relationship is currently in the process of being solidified. Reflecting on the experience, Amber shared, “I want everyone to know that you can give back even with limited time, energy and funding. The only thing you really need is a willing heart.”