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Local Lady Media is a blog covering topics from photography, public relations, lifestyle and entertainment created by Photographer and Media Specialist Markida Scotland located in the United States Virgin Islands.

College Graduation: the challenging downside


ST. CROIX — Even though I knew it was coming, I wasn’t prepared for how it would feel.

I cried every day during the final semester of my undergraduate year. Between current expectations and the nearing future I realized that I wasn’t ready to graduate.

I wasn’t the only one.

Senior year is romanticized. Seniors are expected to have their lives planned out. This was what they have been preparing for the moment they left high school and entered institutions of higher learning.

These students are expected to be bold and brave, bearing smiles and excitement for the coming of May when it will all be over. Few realize that, while exciting, senior year is overwhelmingly stressful. After several years, their lives are summed up in a month.

May doesn’t mean the same thing anymore for graduating seniors. It is a month of changes.

Dr. Aletha Baumann, associate professor of psychology at the University of the Virgin Islands, recounted a situation where a student broke down in front of her.

via Life After Empty Nest
via Life After Empty Nest

“She wasn’t sad about going off on her own or finding a job,” Baumann said. “She cried because she just didn’t want to leave UVI. This was her home.”

Graduation is a big transition that often causes students to feel depressed or anxious.

Will they find a secure job right out of college?

What do they do with their degree?

Will they find a job within that degree?

After finding a job they must now budget, decide living arrangements, make new friends and say goodbye to old ones. It is a period of leaving the familiar and meeting the unfamiliar.

In a 2014 article by US Health News, Vicki Hays, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Michigan, said graduation depression is more common than many think.

“I think it’s much harder actually leaving college than it is coming to college,” she said. “Leaving is something completely new. For most people, they have not been without the structure of organized education ever in their lives.”

For some students, the problem wasn’t leaving college. The problem was the process in order to leave there.

Lorie Jeffers graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology last May.  According to her, there were personal points of depression for herself and her fellow classmates.

“I know there was not one person in my class who did not express their frustration with their final semester in one way or another,” Jeffers said.  “I remember tears from some, hopelessness from others.”

Jeffers also said that the stress levels among herself and her peers were unstable.

“In between our moments of despair and depression were lots of moments of triumphs and victories. However sometimes it felt like for every victory there was a setback,” she said.

A 2001 article in The Guardian stated that while one in four students suffer depression during their university years, there aren’t any official statistics for the post-graduation nor pre-graduation period.

In the article, Mike Burton, of the Sussex University Counseling service, said that this group “slips through the system.” These students become indivisible from any other adult going through transitions and even counselors are unaware of the problem.

Patricia Towal, director of counseling and career services at the University of the Virgin Islands, said that while students do come in for counseling, she wished there were more.

“A lot of students don’t understand what counseling can really do for them,” Towal said. ” I wish more students would seek out what they already paid for and it’s one of the few times you’ll get free counseling in your life.”

Baumann also agreed that students in their final semester need that extra counseling to cope with their difficulties.

“This is the time people should be talking to counselors about life especially if you’ve never been stressed like this before,” Baumann said.

Many students, however, admit that they do not seek counseling in their final year and that is mostly because they handle the feelings of stress and anxiety on their own.

Deidre Dubois, senior psychology major at the university, said that rather than see a counselor, she took a day off.

“I was feeling very overwhelmed,” Dubois said. ” I did not go to class and I did not attend my internship for a week either. I was told to relax before I broke down.”

Dubois also said that between school, her daughter, and other personal struggles, she felt  like jumping off of a cliff.

Another psychology senior, Shanah Bannis, also didn’t see a counselor to handle her stress.

“I just got over it. I’m not at the point where I have breakdowns anymore,” Bannis said. “I used to freak out over not failing and I just went numb to it.”

However, despite the call for counseling, Aletha Baumann felt that many of the students were not at clinical levels of depression and anxiety, which is why there are very few studies on the topic.

According to Baumann, many students often use the word “depressed” as a way to express unfamiliar stress and sadness.

“The senior year of any program is really intense. You’ve got your internship, practicum, senior project, and all other classes you didn’t want to take,” Baumann said. ” Those extreme pressures can cause you to feel depressed, not clinically depressed, just very sad and overwhelmed.”

Towal agreed that many of the students appeared to show signs of stress rather than clinical depression or anxiety.

“For most graduates they don’t get that closure because even though their educational world has closed their professional world is beginning,” Towal said.”It’s actually ‘eustress,’ which is good stress, like starting a new job, or moving to a new place. It’s stressful because it’s new and there are a lot of decisions to make.”

“I think it’s that not knowing, that ‘what’s the best choice for me?’, ‘how can I optimize my money, time and effort to get the best degree I can?’ that causes stress because it’s open ended,” Towal said. “It is overwhelming because you have to live by your decision and the consequences.”

Where do you go from here?  Via Sexisoprano
Where do you go from here? Via Sexisoprano

However, while the students at the University of the Virgin Islands are overwhelmed, Baumann believes that they are the type of students that overcome easily.

“Students, particularly here, are very resilient,” Baumann said. “So, even when they say ‘This is it I’m not doing it,’ oftentimes what they need is just reassurance that they are on the right track and they can do it.”

With the help of great advisers and peers, the struggles of coursework and the nearing future become minuscule troubles.

If it weren’t for the constant reassurance and kind words from my professors I might have given into the pressures of my senior semester and crumbled.

Thanks to them I, and many of my peers, will not only be graduating in May, we will be evolving and becoming ready for the world after graduation.

Published in the Virgin Islands Daily News on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

850 Future Leaders Attend 2015 Man Up Conference

Zoe Walker |

ST.CROIX- The young men of the local high schools came out by the busloads, to participate in the fifth annual Man- Up Male Empowerment Conference, Wednesday, Feb. 11 on the Albert A. Sheen Campus grounds.

850 students were in attendance at the 2015 Man Up conference at UVI St. Croix Campus

The conference, hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands, the V.I. Education Department and V.I Human Services Department, is an initiative that was started by the university’s president, Dr. David Hall, as a way of helping young males to realize their full potential and attract them to the university.

Christopher Gardner, the author of the best-selling book, ‘Pursuit of Happiness’, was the keynote speaker of the conference. His rags-to-riches story has been an inspiration since the inception of his book, which was later adapted into a movie starring famous actors , Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith.

Gardner gave the young men an opportunity to ask him questions, which included, “Where did you go to college?”

“I never went to college a day in my life. I went to work,” Gardner said.

Throughout his speech, Gardner paid special tribute to his mother, Bettye Jean, citing her as his main motivation and the person who pushed him toward success. He also showed the young men in the audience a picture of her in his PowerPoint display.

Gardner’s son, Christopher Gardner Jr., was also in attendance.

After Gardner’s speech, the 850 students who were seated under the big white tent on the campus grounds were treated to a performance by local-turned-international duo, Planet VI aka Rock City.

Thomian natives and brothers, Theron and Timothy Thomas, who have written and produced songs for artists such as Nicki Minaji, Chris Brown, Akon, Rihanna and other top celebrities, brought the conference to an end with a performance of their hit songs.

Rock City (Planet VI) at 2015 Man Up Conference
Rock City (Planet VI) at 2015 Man Up Conference



Young Men Striving for Success

Antoinette Anderson|

ST.THOMAS-The Brothers with a Cause Association looks forward to a new semester with new members. The Brothers with a Cause Association hosted their induction ceremony, “Striving for Success,” at the UVI Administration and Conference Center on Sept. 6.

The ceremony included several speakers like Stevie Henry, President Dr. David Hall and Attorney Carl Richardson.

The goal of Brothers with a Cause is to increase the recruitment, retention and graduation rates of young men within the University of the Virgin Islands through strategic intervention at kindergarten to post-secondary education levels.

These young men strive to improve academic achievement through brotherhood, leadership, community service and character development.

“We are looking forward to implementing various programs for the year and welcoming our new brothers into the organization. BWC is essential to UVI. We plan on achieving our goals, promoting our vision and conquering our mission,” stated Lorenzo Scotland, treasurer of Brothers with a Cause.

Brothers with a Cause will be taking part in the annual “Man Up” Conference as well as other events on and off campus. They also will be attending the high schools in St. Thomas to speak with the students about their futures and the importance of pursuing higher education.

The new members are looking forward to being a part of upcoming projects.

“We are distinguished young men with a purpose and I plan to leave my mark on UVI. I am glad that I now have dependable people to look up to for guidance and inspiration on a daily. I don’t want to be another black male statistic and Brothers with a Cause will help lead me in the right direction,” said Xavier Jeffers, a new member of Brothers with a Cause.

Jeffers was accompanied by his two roommates who came to show their support. The ceremony’s audience included staff, students and a few guests.

Guest Speaker Attorney Carl Richardson gave a fascinating and motivating speech on his own life story. He spoke about his own trials and tribulations during his college experience and explained how he remained inspired. Richardson provided uplifting words of encouragement and reassured the young men of the Brothers with a Cause Association, that they can achieve anything with perseverance.

“I have a lot of respect for these guys who dedicate themselves to making a difference in the Virgin Islands community. Our generation is often judged by senseless violence against one another, lack of motivation to educate ourselves and reprehensible behavior. Although I came to the ceremony to support a friend, I gained insight as to what Brothers with a Cause is all about,” said Malik Morrison, ceremony guest.

At the end of the induction ceremony, the members of Brothers with a Cause Association pledged to adhere to a code of conduct, universally accepted principles of human kindness, building unity among males at UVI and giving best efforts to helping the association fulfill its mission. The Brothers with a Cause Association welcomes its new members and looks forward to expanding their organization.

A Healthy Me, Is Drug Free!

Khadijah Lee|

ST.THOMAS-The University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas Campus took part in the international drug and alcohol abuse campaign, Red Ribbon Week, on Oct. 21-25.

According to the DrugRDumb website, Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country.  The ultimate goal of the campaign is to promote a drug free America. Colleges have joined the cause as they celebrated this notorious battle against drug.

Colleges are one of the most common places where drugs, such as alcohol and other substances can be found. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found statistical evidence that shows about four out of five college students consume alcohol.

To extinguish this alarming statistic, especially in UVI, the St. Thomas campus participated in a week of events that promoted a drug-free life. Activities such as poster presentations, Red Ribbon decorative competitions between dormitories, promissory drug free signings, and Open Mic night were implemented to get the students involved.

Counselors like Ms. Dahlia Stridiron greeted students in the hallway of the Classroom Administration Building encouraging students to pledge to a drug free “week.”

“It is impossible to get students to completely stop drinking for the rest of their college lives but I was more than willing to make the pledge,” Clement Browne, a biology major, said.

Lesa Royer, a resident assistant of the Middle Dormitory, said “I have collected an estimate of 100 students who pledged to be drug free. As fun little prizes, cups and double sided eraser pencils were given out.”

The dorms also participated in decorating their dorms showing Red Ribbon Week spirit. Dorm decorations included poster murals by West Hall Dormitory and red painted rocks, which formed the shape of a ribbon by the Middle Dormitory. In first place was the East Dormitory, which was adorned with red ribbon posters, streamers and balloons.

“East Dorm definitely brought the competition and creativity. Their dorm was awesome,” Royer exclaimed.

Inside the Pageantry Life with Miss Virgin Islands 2013

Inside the Pageantry Life with Miss Virgin Islands

Rokeyah Connor |

ST. CROIX- Competing in pageants since the tender age of 10, Ashley Massiah, Miss Virgin Islands 2013, is seen as a force to be reckoned with.

A member of St. Croix majorettes, a coach for the St. Croix Educational Complex majorettes, former dancer for Cruzan Dance, and a member of the Freedensthal Moravian Steel Orchestra, this young lady appears to be very well rounded.

Due to her very strong passion for helping the territory with its violence problem, Massiah’s slogan when running for Miss.Virgin Islands was “Breaking the silence of violence, addressing the violence in our community.”

The 22-year-old University of the Virgin Islands student sat down to discuss her latest pageant. Massiah competed against four other girls for the title of Miss America Virgin Islands 2013 and won. She then went on to compete for the title of Miss America 2013-2014. Although her talents consisted of baton twirling and point dancing live on stage in front of millions of viewers, she did not place in the national competition. However, she was delighted to share her wonderful experience.

Q: Tell me about your experience going to Miss America.

A: My experience for Miss America right now is that it was so much to take in I am still trying to remember everything, But it was a wonderful experience. I got to meet 52 beautiful young ladies; I was the 53rd.

I got to spend time with them in Disney World Orlando, Florida, we had fun and roamed the park. This year’s Miss America was “Welcome back to Atlantic City.” It didn’t feel like you were there for a pageant, the people where very welcoming and the staff for Miss America is amazing.

Miss Virgin Islands 2013 at the Miss America Pageant - Photo Credit: Ashley Massiah FB Page
Miss Virgin Islands 2013 at the Miss America Pageant – Photo Credit: Ashley Massiah FB Page

Q: Any girls in particular that you keep in contact with?

A: Umm I love Miss DC and I love Miss Hawaii. Miss DC’s name is Bindhu Pamarthi and Miss Hawaii is Crystal Lee. We actually had two Crystal Lee’s Miss Hawaii and Miss California, they are both amazing, and they were both my room-mates.

Q: What is the one thing you don’t like to do during pageants?

A: Interviews. I hate Interviews because you never know what they are going to ask you. So sometimes it’s like you don’t want to be asked a question you cannot answer. Then again I have to remember that there is no wrong answer to the questions because it is my opinion. But when running for shows like Miss America it is best to remain neutral on the questions asked so you don’t offend anyone.

Massiah was asked about the KFC comment that she had been ostracised about. Massiah went into a very long explanation but in short she said that she wished people understood that the show is telecast and sometimes what is heard on our television sets may not be what she said.

She wanted to make sure people knew that the question asked was “what will you eat when you go back to your hotel room?” She said that one of the only things in the area was KFC and that was why she said she would be eating KFC when she when to back to her room.

Q: Do you see yourself running for any pageants again in the near future?

A: Currently I am taking a break but I often say that and jump right back into it. I would love to run for Miss USA, I don’t see something wrong in that, but hopefully.

Q: Okay time to get personal! Is Miss Virgin Islands dating anybody?

A: Yes she is!

Q: If you had a daughter would you want her to be in pageants?

A: I would never force her but I would support her if she wanted to compete. On the other hand if she wanted to do sports I would back her in that as well.

Other questions asked were about the pressures of being in a pageant and if she felt that pageants portrayed a negative body image in women.”Once again it depends on the type of pageant that I am running for,” Massiah said. “Miss America is about intellect and not so much the physical appearance. Although I was the thickest one in the pageant that always reminded me that I am beautiful. They say what matters is your inner beauty.”

Musical Talent at UVI

Musical Talent at UVI


ST.CROIX- An unfamiliar face walked into the theater on a Wednesday afternoon. He walked to the back to the only piano, a Baldwin, sat down and played an original song, “Origami,” while students listened in amazement.

The University of the Virgin Islands has musically talented students who might be compared to famous pianists such as Ray Charles, Ludwig van Beethoven and Sun Ra, but they go unnoticed. Students at UVI say there isn’t a strong music program and going off island seems to be the better option.

Jamal Francis playing the Piano
Freshman, Jamal Francis , playing his original piece “Origami”

Jahmal Francis emerges from the circle of students whose musical talent stands out.

Francis is an 18-year-old freshman at UVI. His personality and calm charisma is sculpted by music. He started playing the piano at the age of 12 and at 15 he made a special effort to master his talents. Francis sings and has mastered both the tenor saxophone and the piano, with piano being his favorite. His high school music teacher taught him the basics of playing the piano, however, he learned the rest on his own. He enjoys incorporating his R&B style into every key he plays on the piano.

“I first play with my heart, then my hands in a sense. The music takes me away,’” he said.

This multitalented student majors in business management but his true passion is music. Francis Francis says he might transfer to a different school. He really wants to major in entrepreneurship with a concentration of music, however, majoring in music is not UVI’s strong point. According to UVI’s website, the only degree program that UVI offers in relation to music is a bachelor’s degree in music education. Francis is torn between leaving home and going away to study his true passion.

When Francis is not playing a mellow tune, he is writing poetry. In his free time he plays his emotions into his piano and projects his lyrical thoughts on paper through song writing.

Francis is a perfectionist when it comes to his music. Along with recording his music, his keen hearing for piano notes allows him to tune his music to perfection.

Francis is an original. His smooth style, soulful keys and other musical elements included in his music are 100 percent him. He listens to a variety of music because he believes every artist is unique and it inspires him to be different. Listening to a variety of musical genres allows Francis to channel his musical abilities through his voice and instruments to share with other people who enjoy music.

There are only a few people who aware of Francis’ talent because there are limited showcasing outlets for musical talent at UVI. Promoting himself as an artist can be difficult because he does not have the proper materials to record his music. However, Francis still finds alternatives to promote his music through social networks like Facebook.

The famous pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven said, “the barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ‘Thus far and no further.’”

Francis and a group of other young artists are on their way to making an album. The album will contain a collage of young local artists showcasing their different styles and abilities.

Music is something special to Francis. It brings out a humble, artistic aura that touches others when he plays. Even though showcasing outlets and required materials to record his music are few, Francis pushes through and finds alternatives to stay local through the album and remain at UVI.

The University of the Virgin Islands has musically talented students who anxiously wait to find an outlet to showcase their abilities.

“If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don`t hoard it. Don`t dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke.” said Aaron Kildow.

It’s Volleyball Season at UVI

It’s Volleyball Season at UVI

Denae Fleming|

ST.CROIX – Students at the University of the Virgin Islands took part in the co-ed intramurals volleyball game Monday night behind the campus cafeteria just south of the campus dorms.

Student Teams Taking part in the Intramural Volleyball League
Student Teams Taking part in the Intramural Volleyball League

The university’s intramurals volleyball league played for the second time Monday night around 9 p.m. on the basketball court with teams “Stop Playing” against “We Would Hit It.”

The volleyball season officially kicked off last week on Thursday night and usually starts each year in September.

“Coach Bruce Ray has been doing most of the intramurals as far as putting the sport together and organizing the schedule here at the university and this year we started early,” Roderick Moorehead Jr. one of the coaches for the volleyball teams, said.

While enjoying the game with the rest of the audience Moorehead also said, “One of the main purposes for this weekly activity is to inspire campus life. It’s always great when you have students who have the interest to play.”

The league plays every Monday and Thursday at 9 p.m. with a second game following immediately after.

“If you want to take part in the sport you have to be somewhat serious. You can come and just play for fun but there should be a level serious interest in joining the teams,” Makeem Perinon said.

Student Teams Taking part in the Intramural Volleyball League

Perinon is a part of the Virgin Islands Juniors National Volleyball team and is also a sophomore studying criminal justice. He heard about the student activity at the University and became immediately interested. He decided to take part and started his own team called Go Hard for the intramural league.

The game is free to the public. It gives students on campus an opportunity to leave the dorms and enjoy a moment of interaction with other students on and off court.

Where are all the Men?

Where are all the Men?


ST. CROIX –Finding a male student at the University of the Virgin Islands is equivalent to finding an Eskimo in the Caribbean. At the university, 31 percent of freshmen are male and 29 percent of all undergraduate students are male. The typical undergraduate student at UVI is a mature local woman attending full time.

creg brown, part of the 28 percent of 2013 UVI male graduates
Creg Brown, one of the 29 percent of 2013 UVI male graduates

But why is this happening? Are young women simply more ambitious and harder-working? Are men becoming increasingly disengaged from academia?

Female high-school students are more likely to aspire to attend college than their male counterparts and the young women enrolled in college, persist and graduate at higher rates as well, according to a report released on Aug. 28, 2012 by the National Center for Education Statistics.

When young women graduate from high school they tend to go straight into college with a plan set on a four-year degree.

Men decide to go college at a lower rate. For example, while almost three-quarters of female students who enrolled in college did so immediately after high school, just over two-thirds of male students did. Slightly less than half of young men first enrolled in a college or university.

In high school women paid more attention to the college searches than men. They would consult college websites, publications or search guides for information on college entrance requirements. Only 60 percent of male seniors reached out to college representatives for information.

Once in college, a higher percentage of women  stay enrolled and graduate, according to the statistics taken by BYU in 2004. Roughly 60 percent of all first-time, full-time bachelor-degree-seeking students who started college in 2004 had earned an degree six years later from the same institution. A greater proportion of women finished than men.

When asked about her take on the ratio of female students to male students, third-year student Nicole Foster said, “It’s not that there are more males than females on the islands it’s just that more women decided to come school than men.”

The purpose of higher education is to be more qualified for higher paying jobs.

Women don’t typically go for jobs in construction or security, which don’t necessarily require a degree. So women try to get the edge with a degree.