Tag Archives: Virgin Islands

Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: Getting There

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If six months ago someone had told me that I would be traveling to another continent, on a “buddy pass,” by myself I would have called them crazy. As a matter of fact, in retrospect, I am crazy, sort of. When my boyfriend invited me to go to Europe on a three-country tour with him and some friends, I told him that I would think about it. I pondered on it for a while, thinking that I won’t be able to find a sitter for my children and that my best option would be to pass up the offer. That was until I told a couple colleagues. One flat out said to me, “I didn’t know you were on drugs,” when I told her that I didn’t think I could make it. One coworker was especially optimistic. She kept telling me “you deserve it Nanyamka, and you’re going to go.” Every time she saw me she asked about how the planning was coming along. Every time I came up with an excuse, she found a solution. When she asked her regular questions “have you packed yet” and “so what sites do you want to see,” I dare not told her that I wasn’t sure if I was going, unless I wanted a scolding. Truth be told, it was because of this dear colleague that I made up my mind to go.

Eventually my boyfriend explained that he had secured buddy passes for the group, which meant we would travel for a fraction of the price – if we actually got on the plane. Buddy passes work on a stand-by method. If there are empty seats on the flight, pass holders get to fly, in order of priority. This was NOT what I had in mind for international travel. I mean, what would happen if all the flights were all full? But my boyfriend assured me that he would check the flights regularly and arrange my tickets through the airports where it was more likely that I get a seat.

Because of all this and the fact that I had so much going on at home and at work, I wasn’t excited about the trip. Actually, my friends and family were more excited than I was. That was until my boyfriend called from Paris. He went up two days before we did. At that moment I realized that this was a great opportunity and we would have a blast! And on that day, my ticket was purchased – two days before my departure.

The first leg of my flight was St. Thomas to Puerto Rico, but it was a regular ticket, not a buddy pass. In Puerto Rico, the agent told me, “just wait for me to call your name,” which gave me hope that I would get on my PR-ATL leg. In that flight I had the good fortune of sitting with a Virgin Islands couple who were heading back to Illinois where they live. We had an engaging, eye-opening, spiritual conversation. You know the feeling when God put you in a certain place at a certain time for a reason? Yep, I was meant to meet that couple.

The ATL-Paris leg didn’t seem too promising – I was number 12 on the stand by list – but I kept the faith. It just so happened that I met two of the other people in the group at the airport. We were the last three people called to board the flight. Whew, that was close. I had been mentally preparing myself for the eight-hours and 24 minutes flight. I don’t enjoy flying: sitting in a cramped seat for so long, the cold recycled air, being thousands of miles in the air with no control – I can go on and on. I respect airplanes and pilots. No matter how many flights I’ve taken, I still count it a miracle to be in a gravity-defying air-suspended machine. I pray hard every time I get on an airplane – whether it’s a 20 minute flight on the tiny Seaplane in the Virgin Islands or on a jumbo trans-atlantic flight. Because I had only slept for 90 minutes the night before, I hoped to catch up on my rest. Getting ready for international travel within two days was, well tiring.

I did rest a bit, but I had great entertainment. The Delta seat back multi media screens are awesome! I’m not much of a movies person. I prefer to read on flights. So before this eight-hour flight, I had never paid much attention to it. I had watched a movie or two on it, but never explored it further. This thing is amazing. Tabs features up-to-date movies, HBO, tv, music, games, sky kids and my flight. I watched “The Hangover II” and “This is 40.” For me, my flight is the coolest thing. There is a moving map that let’s you know, in real time, how many minutes you have to reach your destination and an map that shows the plane’s actual location. Channel 13, the R&B station was the bomb. Ok forgive me if I am going overboard with this, but all this time, I had no idea how cool it was.

The flight attendants are preparing for our second meal and we are scheduled to land in Paris in about an hour.

Stay tuned for more on my European adventure.

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Are Virgin Islanders Rude?

Do we have a culture of rudeness in the Virgin islands? I ask this in the most serious way. Over the past few weeks I’ve been hearing complaints about our customer service – or rather lack-there-of – from all segments of our community. I’ve been fielding so many complaints recently that I’m wondering if somehow I’ve become a defacto complaint box. Perhaps the rudeness has gotten to a point where people are just venting to the closest listening ear.

A friend who lives in the states recently told me that I don’t have a “VI mentality.” A VI mentality? What is that, I asked him. “You are not rude and closed minded,” was his reply. Hold up. Wait a minute. So the definition of a VI mentality is being rude and close minded? As a Virgin Islander I was offended an expressed that to him. His reply that was I should be glad that I don’t have a VI mentality. He had missed my point altogether. If the the label of “VI mentality” means being rude, unreasonable and close minded, all of us in the VI should be concerned. The irony of that particular situation was that this friend is one of the proudest Virgin Islanders I know. He always proclaims to “carry the Virgin Islands on my back.” And although I explained that he was unfair to negatively characterize a “VI mentality,” I couldn’t get him to back down. I pointed to all the wonderful people who exuded good customer service, positivity, etc. He replied that they were all exceptions to the rule. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps I didn’t want to accept what I know is true.

Another friend of mine who relocated from the states to St. Thomas for a position at a private company was so happy when he was able to start a small business on the side. Small business are the backbone of the economy, right? He was even happier when he got a small contract from a local public utility. After completing the work for the utility, he got the run-around regarding his payment. After months of being told that someone was working on processing his payment, he decided to visit the office. What he soon learned was that in fact, no one was “working on it.” But it wasn’t that he had gotten the run-around for months that made him vent to me. It was what the employee said to him the minute he walked into her office: “Meen feeling good today you know. Wha you wan?” He was speechless. He couldn’t believe that a public employee would greet anyone in such a manner. Having lived here for a few years he has learned to turn the other cheek and navigate situations to get what he needs. But he was still in disbelief when he shared the story with me.

His story reminded me of another friend – a Virgin Islander living in the states – who had come home for vacation. Needing to send a money transfer he went to one of our department stores. The lady serving him was so rude that he simply refused to deal with her and asked for a supervisor. What made him vent to me was the attitude of the supervisor. “She was even more rude than her employee,” he exclaimed to me.

I can go on an on with the scenarios. Each of us can probably write a book about the poor customer service in the Virgin Islands. The sad thing is that things seem to be getting worse.

Recently on a flight out of the Virgin Islands I had the pleasure of sitting next to newlyweds from South Dakota who had spent their honeymoon on St. Thomas. When I asked them about their stay they raved about the island’s beauty and all the fun they had. But…they also mentioned the poor customer service and lack of courtesy during their stay, especially by employees at the hotel where they stayed. I apologized. I had to. I assured them that the situation they described was one we were actively working to correct. No guest, honeymooners at that, should leave our territory with negative memories of our people.

Unfortunately many people in the Virgin Island think that because they say “good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “good night,” that they are not rude; that those greetings are a free pass to, well, be rude.

As I type this, I am on a plane back from a business trip where over a few days I had the honor of unofficially being a VI ambassador. Because, the fact is, most people I met wanted to know more about where I’m from. I spent a lot of time inviting people to the territory. And I am concerned. I’m concerned about the name we are making for ourselves by the way we treat our guests. But I’m even more concerned about the way we treat each other. Has rudeness become part of our culture? But more importantly what are we doing about it?

Yesterday I Had a Shower in the Street

I live on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands where public transportation is unreliable, taxi service is expensive and the most dependent form of mass transportation is unregulated. Still, I felt it was time to teach my 12-year-old how to navigate the island without depending solely on me and my trusty 10-year-old Toyota. When I gave her instructions for catching the “safari” – the open air, unregulated form of mass transportation most popular on the island – she told me she was scared. “Yeah right,” I thought to myself. She had caught the safari dozens of times with her grandmother. But as her mom, it’s my duty to remove her fears, right? So it was her first day of summer vacation when I decided to take her to work with me. I would park my car downtown and we would take the safari to work. Rain was forecasted for the day, but it was only overcast when I was lucky enough to find a parking space. So I took my chances. My first pointer to her: when depending on the safaris take an umbrella – you never know when it may rain.

The ride to work was great, as I continued to give her pointers. She confided that riding the safari with me was embarrassing. Why, I inquired. “If you ride the safari by yourself that means that you’re independent. If you ride the safari with your mom it probably means that she doesn’t have a good job, so she can’t afford a car.” I was surprised at the junior high logic. When I asked her “where does that leave us?” she couldn’t answer. “You should never make assumptions,” I told her, “cause we can never really know.”

I counted the walk up the hill to my office a good early morning activity. By lunchtime it was pouring and VI Alert messages to my phone confirmed that we were under flood watch. My plan of walking to and from the cafeteria had to be reworked. Umbrella in hand, we caught the campus shuttle to the cafeteria. An hour later, it was still pouring – hard. We had missed the shuttle back to the office. Luckily we were able to catch a ride with a colleague in a company vehicle. There were only two seats in the vehicle, so my 5’7” daughter had to sit on my lap.

The rain continued.

By 4:50 p.m. I got concerned. I started to feel that I had made a mistake in choosing this day for our safari ride. It was raining harder and harder. And it was flooding. We walked from my office down to the bus stop sharing our sole umbrella. I was thankful though – it was a covered bus stop. Well all of a sudden gusty winds began blowing the rain directly under the bus stop. I screamed out as the cold water wet me from waist down. And with everyone one else, I jumped on the benches. By this time, it made no sense wondering if I had made a right or wrong decision – I accepted that this was going to be a learning experience different than I had planned. Standing together on the bench with my daughter, cold wind and rain blowing up against us, I began laughing. Burst out laughing! She was pissed. We were drenched. She found nothing funny to laugh at. One by one everyone under the bus stop had gotten rides. That left the two of us. Then she began: “Mommy my shoes are soaked. Now I know what my friends were talking about….” “Mommy this safari is taking too long…” “Mommy do you realize that this was the worst day for us to catch the safari…” The most impactful: “Mommy, I can’t wait to get into our Toyota, without the rims…” I assume that she added “without the rims” because she had desperately missed the vehicle that, at this time may not look the best, but served a good purpose.

On the safari ride back to town I realized that my daughter had learned more than I ever expected. “It feels so good to sit in a moving vehicle,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone could not learn to drive, like my grandmother. I must get a car,” she continued. “Mommy imagine that some people have to do this every day…”

When we made it into the car she shouted out: “Yes! Yes! Yes! I missed my car!” The look of relief on her face was priceless. She took off her shoes and showed me her feet. They were wrinkled as though she had been swimming. I must admit, this whole thing was likewise an experience for me. It reminded me that I have so much to be grateful for.

As the rain continues to pour outside, I’m now safely at home, wondering how the homeless are making out. I wish that there was no homelessness and that safe, reliable transportation was available for everyone. I can’t change everything in the world. But right now I’m grateful for everything I have been blessed with. I can guarantee you that my daughter is too. She learned a much greater lesson than I even imagined.

Advice to High School Graduates: Degrees Before Babies

It’s that time of the year when hundreds of Virgin Islands students will walk across the stage in a brief but significant moment that every parent has been anticipating from the day their child was born – high school graduation. Receiving a diploma signals several transitions in the life of a child – for one it’s usually a sign that you’ve become an adult. Most children graduate around the age of 18, which is the legal age of adulthood in the United States. Having earned a high school diploma means that you should be equipped with enough knowledge to make a living on your own. So for all of you celebrating a high school graduation this year, I send out heartfelt congratulations. You worked hard and have accomplished a major milestone. Celebrate! You deserve it!

But when the celebrations are over, know that high school graduation is just one of many milestones you should aim to reach. I challenge you to earn a degree. Note, I said earn a degree, not just go on to college. Because too many Virgin Islands children go on to college, but never finish. Too many Virgin Islands children start college then get caught up in everything else around them and think that starting college is enough. Don’t get me wrong, you must start, if you plan to finish. But you must finish in order to earn that degree – whether it is through college, technical school, or the military.

Yes, more than likely you will have to pay for college. Yes, going to college does not guarantee you a job after you graduate. I know of all the things you’re being told that may detract you from the idea of starting and finishing college. But I also know that college graduates earn more money than high school graduates. And because they earn more, they can usually provide a better lifestyle for themselves and their families.

With that being said, I ask you to delay having children for at least four years. Here are the reasons why. No matter what the world tells you – at the age of 18 or 19 – you’re still babies. There are so many things that you do not know, so many things that you have yet to experience. And having a baby now will change your life forever.

Ok, let me break it down. Four years ago most of you were getting ready for high school. You had just graduated from junior high and were excited about crossing that threshold into the life of a highschooler. For a few minutes, think of your eight-grade self. Think of everything you knew when you had just graduated from eight grade. Now think of everything you know now. Big difference eh? You see the difference that four years make! It’s the same difference that the next four years will make. Over the next four years while you are journeying through self-discovery and learning independence you will become a different person. You should become a better person. Don’t you want to give your children the best of you? A you who is more mature? A you who will know so much more four years from now than what you know now? A you who is financially, emotionally and mentally better able to meet your children’s needs? And what is the best way to fill the days of the next four years? With more schooling of course!

If you don’t know where to start or how to navigate through the college application process reach out to a college of choice – they have employees who are paid to do just that. If you’re still unsure, reach out to someone you know personally who has already gone through the process. It may seem perplexing, but you can do it.

Do not let the lack of money prevent you from furthering your education. Grants, scholarships and loans are available. While I hope that you can get grants and scholarships, not everyone will. Taking a loan is a viable option. Look at it as an investment in your future. People take loans for cars and homes every day. (Some even take loans for flat screen TVs and Carnival costumes.) A college loan may be your best investment ever – and it can never be repossessed. Oh, and another thing about scholarships: You must keep your grades up in order to keep receiving them! So while the nightclubs will be running a different promotion for every night of the week to lure you in, know that the club owners and DJs probably have already reached their goals. Remember your purpose to not to party, it’s to get a degree. After you’ve started college, a number of on-campus jobs should also be available.

The first two years of college are probably the most challenging. By the second year, after the freshman-fun-year has come to an end, it’s easy to become impatient. Everything may seem to get too hard and will be taking too long. If you get that feeling, I urge you go map out your entire college years. Make a personal paradigm that lists each and every course that you must take to get your degree. Use it as a road map. When you feel like giving up, refer back to it to keep you on track. Create a vision board. Never give up and never forget your goal – a degree.

People who think that college is just an academic journey are so wrong. The fundamental part of college is the academics. When you earn a degree, it means you have learned what is needed to apply yourself in your particular career choice. But in college you’ll also learn so much more: people skills, time management, leadership, perseverance, work ethic, money management… the list goes on. As a more mature person, you’ll most likely attract a more mature partner. The household income of two degreed individuals is significantly higher than that of two high school graduates.

Poverty usually occurs in cycles. And in the Virgin Islands we have one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the nation. Statistics show that the lower your level of education, the more likely you are to be in poverty. The more you struggle to get by, the more your children struggle.

Now I’m not saying that if you may have already had a baby while in high school that your future is doomed. Not at all. One of my best friends had my first godson a few days before our high school graduation. And she is doing quite well. But it took tons of hard work and dedication for her to accomplish what she has done. It also took a great deal of encouragement and support from her family. So if you already have a child or children, try to delay having any more until after you get your degree. Build a strong support system of people who believe in you and are willing to help you along the way.

But if you don’t have any children please don’t start now – this goes for both males and females.

On the topic of baby-making, please choose wisely the people with whom you become intimate. And above all else, protect yourselves all the time, every time.

I know that you are excited about graduating. And you should be. But if you think that high school graduation is anything, wait until you feel what it’s like getting your first college degree! When it’s all said and done, your 23-year-old self will thank you, and so will your future children.

Living the Sweet Life…

Ah… the joys of sitting on a low step, feet spread far apart, leaning forward slight, ravenously peeling the skin off of a mango, then sinking my teeth into its juicy flesh – the yellow nectar of this wonderful fruit spilling around the sides of my mouth and running down my hands, sometimes to my elbow. It’s mango season! Time to eat my belly full of one my favorite fruits. Mangoes for breakfast. Mangoes for snack after lunch. Mangoes for appetizer before dinner. Can anyone ever get enough of mangoes? Growing up we had several mango trees in our yard on St. Thomas. The Julie mango tree was right at my door step. I could never get enough of that one. And as plentiful as that tree was, we always watched the fruit waiting for just the right time to pick them. We hardly allowed the fruit of this particular tree to fall to the ground – they were too precious. Every year during mango season, family from near and far would come for their pick off the tree.  Strangers, even, would come to our yard to get their pick when we weren’t there.

On the other hand at my grandparents home in St. Croix there were so many mangoes that I didn’t know what to do. The sheer size of their property allowed them to grow more trees, and their trees seemed to grow much taller and wider than those at our home on St. Thomas, producing so much of the treasured fruit. A tree that produced a purple mango with thick skin was near the entrance of their yard. That tree produced an enormous amount of mangoes! No matter how many people came by for their share, the supply never seemed to dwindle.  But those purple mangoes were not my favorite. I liked the small round ones at the tree further up. I also liked the ones from the tree all the way on to the back of the property. But even having so many mangoes at my disposal, I still looked forward to the days when we would drive to other parts of the island picking different types of mangoes that didn’t grown on my grandparents’ property. Not only did we get to eat our heart’s desire of any type of mango we wanted, there were so many that I could be picky. Yep, I only ate the ripe-but-firm ones, the ones that had little or no bruises on the skin. Anything else wasn’t good enough. But I would eat a mango until there was no yellow left. My Grandma Madge would say to me in her heavy Antiguan accent, “yuh gyal, nuh badder eat deh sudden dung to the seed bare so… me hab one pail ah mango here fuh yuh.”

But if you really want to know what mango heaven looks like, you must go to Dominica during the summer. I remember the countryside of LaPlaine, where my mother was born, being loaded with tropical fruits – every tropical fruit you could think of. We would wake up to a bucket of varieties of mangoes freshly picked mostly by our cousin Handel. And the coconuts, another of my favorite fruits, were also picked and lined up waiting for us to choose which ones we wanted to consume first. Handel treated us like royalty! (Sadly we lost Handel on a New Years day many years ago – a casualty of a drunken driver. The family has never gotten justice for his death.)

As a child I never remember anyone having to pay for mangoes. Maybe that was because children don’t have to pay for anything anyway. For the most part mangoes were shared freely. They were in such abundance! What else would people do with all those mangoes? Has anyone noticed that mangoes are not as abundant as they used to be? Not only mangoes. I’m observing a decline in other local fruits. I’m can’t name a single place on St. Thomas where someone can find a cherry (gooseberry) tree.  A couple of years ago when I was pregnant and couldn’t wait for my usual supply of mangoes, I decided to buy some mangoes from a fruit stand. I asked the lady where the mangoes were from. I looked at her in disbelief when she told me Puerto Rico. What! It was bad enough that I had to actually BUY mangoes, and the mangoes were not even locally grown! It’s not that I have anything against fruits from Puerto Rico. It just seemed strange to me that before, mangoes were so plentiful that someone could make a good hustle from selling the mangoes that they collected for free out of their or someone else’s yard. Now we had to import them.

 For me, because mangoes are seasonal I try to eat as many as I can when locally grown ones are available. Luckily for me, my daughter’s grandmother also shares a love for mangoes and supplies us with bags full at a time. But still, this delectable fruit doesn’t seem to be as plentiful as it once was. So if you happen to catch me eating one, or see me admiring your tree, or see me stop my car to pick up a freshly fallen fruit – bear with me. It’s mango season!

There’s Hope: the Digna Wheatley Impact

There’s hope.

Tired of their needs being ignored, in 1988 the students at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School (IEKHS) led a march to Government House and the VI Legislature demanding better conditions at the school. The students were fed up with one particular condition– there was no gymnasium. Back then students ate meals and took physical education classes in the same room. This one large room functioned as a cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium – the cafegymtorium as it was called. Seventeen-year-old Digna Wheatley, the newly elected Student Council president, was approached by two students asking the council to organize a student protest. “Ms. Digna Wheatley saw we had a problem and did something about it,” said former IEKHS faculty member Dagmar Greenaway. Digna lead the student body in what was called “the most well-organized and respectful marches for educational equality” in the Virgin Islands. Less than a year later $600,000 was appropriated to build the schools’ first gymnasium. On Feb. 18, 2012, in an emotional and motivational ceremony, the gymnasium at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School (IEKHS) was named in honor of Digna Marie Wheatley.

“I can still see her standing up in front of us with her feet planted firmly in the ground and her hand in the air saying ‘we are going to march,’” recalled her classmate Lisa Williams. “She declared we were going to march. The response she always got was ‘yes,’” Lisa said. “We always wanted to join her. It was necessary. We felt like we were being ignored by the leadership of this community.”

There’s hope.

When Digna was approached by the two students to lead a march Digna thought, “why me, why now,” she said.  Digna had decided to run for Student Council president just two days before the election, at the urging of a teacher. Now she was being asked to do something that had not been done before. Before agreeing to that significant request, Digna prayed and God responded with a ‘yes.’ Digna made it clear to the students that they had to represent the school and themselves with the utmost dignity. In the following weeks Digna organized the march, secured the necessary permits and rallied the student body, all unbeknown to the school’s administration and faculty. When the leaders at the school found out, they decided to join the effort. “She had not only the vision to see what needed to be done,” said former Kean High faculty member James Kerr, “but to motivate others to do the same.” He noted how ironic it is that elected officials say that they work in the interest of the children, but it this case it was a child who had to take lead to advocate for a gymnasium for her schoolmates and other students to come. “It’s ironic. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful,” Kerr said.

There’s hope.

Digna led more than 1,200 IEKHS students to the Legislature and Government House in a march that has been sealed in Virgin Islands history. They were joined by IEKHS administration and faculty, and members of the community. While elected officials tried to placate the teenager, she held fast to her goal. Passionately and respectfully Digna told the Virgin Islands of the conditions at Kean High and demanded better. And for the first time they listened. “We demanded respect as students from an educational system that was unjust,” Digna said. “It was that vision that burned in us, a fire that couldn’t be extinguished,” she said. “I’m very grateful that God decided to use me many years ago.”

There’s hope.

The IEKHS’ gymnasium was built in the early 1990s. In 2004 the VI Legislature passed a bill to name the gym in Digna’s honor. As a Virgin Islander I am so proud of what Digna Wheatley represents for all of us. As an alumna of Kean High I am even more proud.

“It is so fitting that we are doing this in the morning,” IEKHS principal Dr. Sharon McCollum said at the renaming ceremony. “Morning signals a new beginning. Digna represented a new beginning. Today we celebrate you and how far we have come,” she said. “Digna you have been a blessing to Ivanna Eudora Kean High School. It is with a great sense of pride and honor that we will name this building after you.”

 There is hope.

Today Digna, a nurse and public health administrator, works at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The students at IEKHS have a gym.  After many years of requests, construction of the school’s first track has begun. “Everything we’ve ever wanted, every accomplishment we’ve ever made, we’ve had to fight for,” said Tulip Fleming, former IEKHS faculty member and one of Digna’s teachers.

As long as there are other Digna Wheatleys in community who have the courage and vision to organize, strategize and lead – there’s hope!

Make 2012 Great, You Have the Power

Happy New Year! It’s 2012! For some people 2012 came around too quickly. For others, it couldn’t come soon enough. Whatever your take, 2011 is history – 365 days of memories. In the Virgin Islands we had an emotional year – a record number of murders, ranking us the 8th most murderous place in the world per capita; unreliable water and power service, salary reductions and threats of mass layoffs for government service employees. But we survived. Couples got married, babies were born, students graduated from schools, the list goes on. If you are within the sound of my voice, it means two things at the very least – you are alive and you can hear. We have so much to be thankful for.

2012 holds infinite possibilities. It’s a blank slate. You have the power to create your own destiny and shape history by the choices you’ll make. What choices will you make in 2012 to better yourself, your family, your community and your world? It all starts with you. You have the power to excel above and beyond your wildest expectations. But you must believe. And you must act. The journey of a million miles begins with one step. Now– the start of 2012–is the perfect time to take that first step.  The choice is yours.

Today I challenge you to write down you goals, dreams, and desires. Write them in a journal, on index cards, or on a poster board and include a plan for accomplishing them. Visit those goals often, so that you don’t lose track. Success doesn’t happen by chance. Success isn’t based on luck. Success is based on a great deal of preparation, hard work and persistence. You can do it. You have the power to succeed. The choice is yours.

It doesn’t matter what hand you were dealt in life. Remember the young African American girl born in Jim Crow Mississippi who was raised in a single-parent home and abused by a family member. Those were the beginnings of Oprah Winfrey – who is today, one of the wealthiest, most celebrated and most influential people in the world. Life is not about where you start, it’s about where you finish. You have the power to finish strong. The choice is yours.

So maybe you’ve had some setbacks in 2011. Don’t let those things keep you from realizing your full potential in 2012. Remember last year’s NBA finals. The Miami Heat was considered the super team with arguably three of the best players in the league. But the Dallas Mavericks were not intimidated by their opponents. They played hard, with all their heart, and left the Heat hanging their heads. Likewise, don’t be fearful of you opponents – known or unknown. You have the power to win. The choice is yours.

Perhaps you had an excellent 2011. You accomplished all of your goals, found your purpose, became a better person and contributed to the community. Why stop now? Even if you had the best year ever, 2012 gives you the opportunity to make your best even better. The choice is yours.

Let us welcome the hopes, opportunities and possibilities of 2012 with open arms. We have the power to make it great!