Sen. Javan James and other officials are seeking answers as to why millennials are leaving the territory.
Their concern is justified. Losing educated young people is disastrous for any community, and this problem has been ongoing for a long time.
While the official assessment of this problem is being coordinated, obvious answers are as clear as day.
Our millennials are going stateside to be able to make a living and enjoy a reasonable quality of life. Plain and simple.
This quality of life includes a decent starting salary in their field of study, good benefits and health care. They have hopes of being able to afford a house someday, and want good educational opportunities for their children. And despite family, good weather and the love of the Virgin Islands, these quality of life needs are difficult to attain here.
Officials know that in many fields in the Virgin Islands, a starting salary is so low a person cannot live on it. With government jobs requiring pension contributions, high housing and food costs, transportation and personal expenses, there is usually nothing left over.
Good-paying private jobs that offer opportunities are also hard to find. Add in the fact that you can’t just swim off the islands for recreation, and airfare is sky high, and you have a complicated situation made worse.
Looking to the future, these millennials also see education in crisis, and private school tuition costing as much as college. Limited health care options are just the icing on the cake in this dilemma of whether to stay or go.
It’s hard to make a start in the Virgin Islands. And while it must pain young people to give up their home where they were raised, the reality of life is forcing them away.
Every community needs its young. If we could offer them a way, they would stay.
— Maria Ferreras is a longtime St. Thomas resident and community volunteer. She can be reached at email@example.com.