By Stephanie Felix (Guest Blog Contributor)
Published: May 19, 2010 in The Virgin Islands Daily News

It has been a year exactly since I graduated from college and eight months since I returned to the Virgin Islands. In my time home, I have come to a rather unsettling and unfortunate conclusion: Very rarely is the young adult voice heard in the political discourse.
When I left for college in fall of 2005, I wasn’t very interested in politics; it was hardly priority curriculum material in public schools locally. This changed drastically during my time at the University of Miami. I became actively involved in the presidential campaign and various activist organizations. I have seen first-hand the difference a dedicated young person can make. So this letter is me, making sure my voice is heard. 
Local news reports clearly illustrate the tumultuous and sometimes gruesome state of affairs in our local communities. We are at a record high for violent crimes. The local economy has been suffering, and our local schools are in dire need of improvement. Obviously, something is wrong. 
My generation is young, yes, but old enough to become instrumental and valuable members of the community. I urge my peers to get involved. In the upcoming election, go out and vote! Support candidates based on their backgrounds, qualifications, past experience, involvement and most importantly, ideology. Let them know what is important to you, work on e-mail campaigns, and ask questions. Your opinion is just as important and just as vital!
Likewise, I urge political and government officials to lead by example. How can we expect our young people to do the right thing without role models to show them the path? In addition, please seek the insight of young people in the decision-making process. We must consider future generations when making drastic economic or administrative decisions. After all, isn’t it my generation that will experience the long-term effects of these decisions? Good or bad?
Finally, leaders much take a more progressive approach to problem solving. Prevention is better than a cure, studies have shown that incorporating the use of research, SWOT analysis and proactive vs. reactive measures can really make a change and are far more effective.
Consider creating a community think tank of local leaders to identify the problem and generate long-term solutions. We must address and rectify the root causes of these issues to make a significant difference. It is better that we invest our time, money and energy into preventative ideology: investing in quality education vs. youth rehabilitation efforts, creating more jobs vs. unemployment benefits, mental health clinics and free counseling, parenting classes, early-childhood education, safe-sex education, free after-school programs, even leadership and management classes for officials, etc.
Once again, I encourage everyone to get involved. We all have the potential to create a better future for our Virgin Islands. 

— Stephanie Felix, class of 2010 at Teachers College, Columbia University, is from St. Croix