Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative

Accolades for VYLI

The Municipality of Vieques is pleased to be a partner with the Vieques Young Leadership Initiative, which is preparing our young people to be leaders and build meaningful, long-lasting relationships with people from all walks of life on our island. We are grateful to the Stone Soup Leadership Institute for investing significant time and resources to our community and having the courage and determination to pursue this timely project against all odds. During the last three years, this Initiative has demonstrated tremendous impact on our young people as well as on the future of Vieques. Together we can create a more sustainable Island economy. It’s up to each one of us to pitch in – our time, talents and resources – to make this INITIATIVE a great success. I encourage everyone to get involved for the good of our young people and the Island’s future.

Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano Lopez

As a parent fortunate enough to have a child active in the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative, I’d like to thank you for allowing me to accompany the children on their recent trip to Tortola for the 3rd Caribbean Artisan Festival. Your efforts with the children and all of your support were undoubtedly reflected in the enthusiasm I witnessed during this trip. I watched my own daughter become someone I never knew, open and informative to strangers and trying to make them believe and understand the importance of this cause as much as she does. The children were fascinated about seeing other cultures, languages and the artwork of different civilizations. They let the visitors to the VYLI booth know of their dreams and their purpose from visiting the island. They were even fortunate enough to have one of the children sing at their opening ceremony. They were all so excited and proud to see that their dreams are tangible goals. We look forward to working closely and supporting the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative in its future endeavors. Keep up the great work!

Denise Abreu, Manager, Inn on the Blue Horizon

As a long time producer for public radio in the United States, I know that, at its best, radio can literally create community. And I have never seen a people as in need of connection as the residents of Vieques, Puerto Rico. After 60 years of displacement by the U.S. Navy, the Viequense are now left to pick up the pieces and rebuild a community. That’s why I suggested to Marianne Larned of VYLI that a public radio station would serve as an excellent centerpiece for such an effort. The island residents, having had their futures decided for them by the needs of Navy, now must speak to each other and determine their own future. They have to manage their natural resources, inspire and educate their children, and create employment. They have to make difficult decisions about how to move forward collectively, and how to integrate new members of their community with older ones. What better resource than their own, community-owned public radio station? Not only would it help to connect them to each other, but it would bring them the wisdom of the outside world. I urge you to give all possible consideration to supporting this important project.

Doug Berman, Executive Producer, NPR’s Car Talk and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

Two years ago, I moved to Vieques with a dream: to create the technology hub for Vieques and the Caribbean. Now people can live in Vieques and stay connected with the world – from reading the New York Times to shopping on-line – while having a pretty nice life. Now it’s time for our next goal: to connect the Island’s young people to the world of technology. I’m impressed with the dedication of the young people involved with the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. I invite each one of you to join with me in investing in our Island’s young people.

Ernesto Peña Jr., Island Hop Computers

I want to take this opportunity to extend my sincerest gratitude to you for all your hard work and dedication to such a worthy cause. The Stone Soup Leadership Institute is an example to all of us around the country, this Institute serves and provides over 2 dozen countries around the world with the tools and aid needed to eradicate disease and end pointless and deadly conflict. It is programs like the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, which have opened the paths of conversation amongst the countries of the world. We here in the United States see the importance of such institutes to continuously unlock doors, extend their hands and unify the world. As the sole representative in Congress for the People of Puerto Rico, I wish to express my profound gratitude towards the Institute for their work all over the world but particularly in our beloved Vieques. I look forward to hearing day after day of your continued accomplishments.

Luis Fortuño, Puerto Rican Member of Congress

Congratulations to the staff and supporters of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute as you celebrate your 10th anniversary. Over the last decade, the Stone Soup Leadership Institute has developed a strong and successful program which has assisted many young people build the foundation from which they will become productive members of their communities. The Institute, and in particular your latest project, the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative, has helped our young develop and utilize the cultural, social and vocational tools they need to be responsible and successful citizens by providing a range of services from education, training and initiatives. That commitment is what has made this organization such an invaluable resource for its communities and families. The Stone Soup Leadership Institute has been successful for many reasons, particularly because of the remarkable support it has found within its communities. Your good work has made all the difference in the lives of the many young people who have benefited from this program. Our communities are better places because of individuals and organizations like the Stone Soup Leadership Institute.

Rosa I. DeLauro, Member of Congress, Connecticut

The Office of Special Commissioner for Vieques and Culebra decidedly join other government agencies, the Municipality of Vieques, local NGO’s and individuals in fully supporting the Stone Soup Leadership Institute for the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. After more than 60 years of intense military intervention and expropriation of 2/3 of the land by the U.S. Navy, much remains to be done in Vieques. In the past three years, we have started in that long uphill path. But to be successful the young people of Vieques must be not only part, but the most important part of the process. In this sense The Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative is a most welcomed and needed effort. As we join in supporting this worthy endeavor we certainly hope that many other officials as well as non-governmental institutions will also engage in fully endorsing it.

Dr. Juan R. Fernandez, Commissioner

As a City Councillor representing the residents of Boston, and as an elected official of Puerto Rican heritage, I am honored to join with other public officials, government agencies, the Municipality of Vieques, local NGO’s and other interested individuals in support the Stone Soup Leadership Institute with the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. Particularly since the cessation of bombing one year ago this month, the people of Vieques have made great strides but this beautiful island community remains at a crossroads. With true community-based planning, Vieques could become a showcase for sustainable development. Without needed expertise and financial support focused on positive change, the people and the future of the island are at risk. It is my understanding that the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s program encourages all Viequenses to join in a constructive dialogue about the Island’s future. By engaging people from across the country and around the world to create long-lasting relationships with Vieques, the global community could help build a sustainable Island. For these reasons, VYLI is a most welcomed and needed effort. I was glad to host an introductory reception at Boston City Hall on May 17 and am honored to join this growing coalition of U.S. and international leaders, community agencies and political officials in offering my strong support for this important initiative to build new generations of young leaders on Vieques. I have also personally contributed to this timely Initiative and encourage others to join me.

Felix Arroyo, Boston City Councillor-at-Large, Boston, MA

Hemos examinado su proyecto Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. Las propuestas que persigue su iniciiativa comtemplan actividaes relacionadas al mejoramiento y fortalecimiento comunitario, el desarrollo economico y la susentabilidad ambiental. Ademas, Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative, provee mecanismos para atender importantes necesidades existente en Vieques. En efecto, dichas necesidades fueron identificadas en los ciclos de participacion ciudadana, realizados en la Isla Nena por Estudios Tecnicos, Inc. Por todo lo anterior, reconocemos que su proyecto es una Buena herramienta para encausar la iniciatives establecideas en el Plan maestro para el desarrollo sustentable de Vieques. Le deseamos exito en su gestion y quedamos a su disposicion.

Jose J. Villamil, Presidente, Estudios Tecnicos, Inc.

We have examined your project Vieques youth Leadership Initiative. Crealy, your initiative involves activities to improve and strengthen communities and to promote environmentally sustainable economic development. In addition, the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative provides mechanisms to address important needs that were identified in community meetings organized by Estudios Tecnicos, Inc. during the elaboration of the Master Plan for the Sustainable Development of Vieques. Indeed, your initiative is a useful tool to help in the implementation of the strategies and specific actions proposed in the Master Plan. We wish you success in your project and hope that we may be of assistance.

Jose J. Villamil, Presidente, Estudios Tecnicos, Inc.

Your efforts to develop the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative to bring the world’s youth to collaborate in the rebirth of the Island of Vieques are praiseworthy. The Alliance for New Humanity was an early supporter of Vieques courageous struggle. Last May, this island community became an inspiring symbol of peace for people around the world. The Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s marvelous initiative of recruiting youth from around the world to help the different communities on the Island is worthy of the greatest praise from all of us who are endeavoring to take actions for a better world in which compassion and the celbration of life substitute greed and violence. We are pleased you have received endorsements from the Governor’s Office of Special Communities, Mayor of Vieques and so many others. We look forward to honoring the Vieques youth and emerging leaders at the 2nd annual conference in December 2004. We hope the seeds that you are platning in Vieques will blossom into a huge garden! You can rest assured that you will receive all cooperation and solidarity from the Alliance for New Humanity and all its members.

German A. Gonzalez, Alliance for New Humanity, Coordinator Puerto Rico

The Office of Special Communities of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is proud to be a partner with the Stone Soup Leadership Institute for the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. We believe the Initiative will give our young Viequeneses and their leaders the tools they need to actively participate in the crucial community decision-making process that is happening this year on this Island. May 1, 2003 led to a new phase in the life of the Viequenses. The entire future development of the Island is being discussed by everyone in the community. Our “Red de Jovenes” Program offer young people a diversity of activities that promote the development of self-esteem and skills to improve the quality of life in their communities. This is a collaborative effort between different public and private agencies. Those of us working with our program, believe it is vital to expose our youth to educational experiences that promote their active participation in the critical decision-making process so they can affect the development of our community. We want this to be a long-lasting initiative that will build bridges between our young people and adults and transform our Island into a healthy and sustainable community – for our children and grandchildren. Over the coming years, we expect to establish strong bonds with the Institute so that together we ensure the commitment of change for the Special Communities of Vieques and others around Puerto Rico, and the entire world. I would appreciate your personal support for this project.

Linda I. Colon Reyes, PHD., Comunidades Especiales Puerto Rico

The 4H Youth & Club Program is proud to be the local NGO partner with the Stone Soup Leadership Institute for the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. We believe this initiative will give our young Viequeneses the tools they need to actively participate in the crucial community decision-making that is happening THIS year on our Island. Too often, I hear from our young people that adults don’t think they understand what is happening to our island. Yet, they were born at a time when everyone one of us was involved in fighting for our freedom. Now more than ever our young people want to be part of creating our collective future. The Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s program responds to our need to build and strengthen our young leaders in the Vieques community. VYLI also gives us the opportunity to build alliances within our community. We want this to be a long-lasting initiative that will build bridges between our young people and transform our island into a healthy and sustainable community – for our children and our grandchildren. I would appreciate your personal support for this project.

Judith Conde, Home Economist, 4H Youth Program

As a Spanish teacher from Syracuse, N.Y. I was inspired by the young people ages 13-17 who gave us a week of their summer vacation to make a dream come true. What was their dream? They chose altruistic goals. They struggled through the process – they wanted to change Vieques for the better. The look in their eyes just melts your heart. The excitement was infectious. They are the future of Vieques. And it looks fabulous! Marianne Larned and her team from the Stone Soup Leadership Institute have done an impeccable job of quickly creating an atmosphere of comfortable interaction. Respect and self confidence grew rapidly. Everyone was encouraged to participate and share their ideas. Powerful things occurred. Shy students learned that they were good speakers. Young people were anxious to question and discuss things. People shared, laughed, advised, encouraged and everyone kept saying, “I know someone who can help you get that done!” The dreams varied – from a Youth Center to help keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. A youth radio show and another a youth newspaper. “Given the chance to dream about whatever they wanted to do, these Viequenses chose generous, thoughtful goals. They are young, but keenly aware of the problems in Vieques, and they want to help. This attitude is putting them directly on the path to leadership. There were many examples of leadership at the Institute – guidance and support. Nothing was handed over or forced upon the students. Rather, they were doing the work themselves, thinking planning, revising, making lists of what to do next. Marianne and her faculty were able to step back and be the background encouragement and advise so that the students could be the ones accomplishing things. The students responded with overwhelming enthusiasm. The more they were challenged, the more they persevered and helped each other to succeed. It as a sigh to behold! The attitude of “working together, we can make things happen” is contagious. Many people live their entire lives without experiencing it. The Stone Soup Leadership Institute is convincing us that everyone can be a leader. One of the greatest acts of leadership is helping others. And watch their dreams come true. What a beautiful thing!

Margo Cheney, Syracuse New York and Vieques resident

Muchas familias y sus hijos se estan beneficidando de dicho program, y nemos con agrado el interes que muestron y la gran ayuda que le brisidan a las suenos. La persona que direige dicho programa Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative es la senora, Marianne Larned persona muy dispuesta y cooperactora con nuestra juventud, bridndandale en el programa conocimientas entre otros artisticos, atesonales ect. Ademias de distaccions sonas. Ella esta interesada, con la ayuda de sus patio cinadores en la adquiesicion del edificio de la antiqua Escuela Barbosa en el barrio Puerto Real, con el interes de hacer de ese lugar uno accisble con todos la comodidades para el desarrola en la educacion y conocimientas para con nuestra juventaud, tanto yo como mucahs otras madres y abuelas, apoyamos sin duda alguna dicho programa, y le si usted con ea gondad que lo caracteriza, puede ayudor en ese proposito y lograr que el sueno de nuestros ninos se haga realidad.

Hilda Luz Rivera, grandmother to VYLI youth Valerie and Ivan

As we look forward to a new beginning in a more peaceful atmosphere, we welcome all efforts towards a bright full future for Vieques and above all for our young people. In the Catholic Church we are very pleased to hear about the Stone Soup Leadership Institute and the Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative. The leaders of tomorrow are the youth of today and if we teach our youth how to be leaders then Vieques will be the winner of its most important resource, the human resource. We also welcome the efforts of governmental and non-governmental institutions, overlooking our differences and working together, to reach our goal, which is to develop the leaders of tomorrow for our island of Vieques. We do endorse these efforts to help our young community in Vieques and hope that we can help and support this project in any way possible.

Fr. Nelson Lopez Aponte, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

Far from public view and media spotlight, the people of Vieques had been seriously neglected for decades — receiving little to no help, especially for its youth. In order to realize their dream of building a new Vieques, the Institute understood they urgently needed support from public and private sectors of the international community. Invited by Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano Lopez and with support of Healthy Boston pioneer and Institute Board member, Judith Kurland, we conducted a community planning process with a diverse cross-section of the community. The Vieques Youth Leadership Initiative was born – whose mission is to train young and emerging leaders to build a new Vieques. We asked ourselves a question: Imagine what could happen if we worked together with the young people of Vieques to build a new Vieques – a sustainable global village – that would provide for them and for future generations. For the last three years we’ve lived with this question and embarked on a fascinating adventure — investing our collective time, talent and resources to this island community. Mr. Olmos’ Spanish-speaking friends responded first: Institute Board members Nane Alejandrez, Barrios Unidos and Cesar Chavez, 27-year-old grandson of the great Latino leader. During our annual Summer Institutes, they worked side-by-side with the young people to share how they overcame obstacles to make their dreams come true. Others from Pan Y Vino Para El Camino followed. They helped bring our educational curriculum to life and created the Institute’s first bilingual “global learning community.” International Advisory Council member Steve Mariotti and his National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship sent representatives and sponsored VYLI staff for trainings in New York City. Timberland sent 25-year-old Panamanian-American Jose Vega, then fifteen employees from Puerto Rico to create culturally sensitive-community service projects. Board member Marsha Reeves Jews helped secure a Microsoft grant to begin connecting Vieques youth to the world. Judith Kurland orchestrated our event at Boston City Hall with Councilman Felix Arroyo. JetBlue helped make all these journeys possible. The multiplier effect of VYLI’s model is to train young people to be leaders who then work with other young people. We’ve begun reversing the “brain drain” by hiring VYLI graduates who attend college off-Island to return home to help their communities. We’re inspiring a whole new generation of heroes who are working together to help rebuild their beautiful island.

Walter Cronkite, Honorary Chair, Stone Soup Leadership Institute