Interview with Allyson Trunzer

“Barbuda is an extremely special place. It is home. As more issues happen around the world, I notice its innocence even more. The people, the culture, the environment. It is a community that I am proud to be a part of and want to help expand.”

Allyson Trunzer

When we first saw Allyson Trunzer’s latest dance VIDEO we knew that we wanted to have her share more of her story, her passion for dance, her love of Barbuda and how she came to receive a scholarship to a US college from the Coco Point Fund!

Allyson is a vibrant, determined woman who always had clarity on where she wanted both her dance career and educational horizons to reach. She has successfully trained as a dancer in New York, Toronto and Antiqua/ Barbuda and is currently enrolled in Shenandoah University working on a Bachelor of Arts in Dance program, as well as looking to add the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program to her studies. Allyson is also involved in the [Not Just] Women’s Center at the University focused on sexual health and assault help. She has performed in the Vagina Monologues, the Lucinda Childs’ Concerto and has choreographed a piece for ShenCoLab titled Mobility (movement, small orchestra, film, audience participation) about a friend’s transition to a wheelchair. Allyson is the recipient of the Black Excellence New Student Award, the Global Citizen Project Recipient and the The Gabriella Miller Award for 2019 giving to an outstanding First Year Seminar Student.

We caught up with her while in home from school in Barbuda during COVID-19 to hear her wonderful story that led her to audition for the dance program at Shenandoah University only one month after discussing the offer from some of our very special board members to sponsor her education there. Enjoy the interview!

Tell us about yourself!

I was born in Toronto, Canada, and grew up in Barbuda for part of my childhood. Growing up, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and a dance choreographer. Upon graduating from an arts high school, I completed a dance certification at Ballet Creole’s Professional Training Program, studied in New York, and started dancing with Afro-contemporary/theatre companies in Toronto, and teaching classes in Toronto, and Antigua/ Barbuda. In recent years, I’ve been wanting to expand my horizons, and the opportunity to study at Shenandoah University came at the perfect time.

How did you first encounter the Coco Point Fund? Is there a story about meeting them?

I have known of the Coco Point Fund for many years as some of my family members have attended university abroad, because of their sponsorship. I met a few of the members, James R. Wilkins Jr, Veronica Wilkins, Michael Smith, Werner Minshall, Joan Minshall, Mollie Schmitz and Joseph Schmitz, in February 2019 during their stay in Barbuda. While assisting the group, Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins offered their sponsorship to attend Shenandoah University in the fall. Within a month, I visited them in Winchester, Virginia, completed an audition for the Bachelor of Arts in Dance program, and enrolled for the Fall 2019 semester.

Allyson pictured at Shenandoah University with Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins.

Did you always feel you wanted to go to school abroad and off of Barbuda? How did Shenandoah University come about?

I’ve always wanted to attend school, however it was something I’d put off for a few years. I wanted to have a dance career first, get the professional experience, then return to school and study something new. That was very important to me. When Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins offered for me to go to school, it was the right time, as I was ready for the next transition.

What is your major?

I am currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Dance program, and looking to add the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program to my studies.

What was it like when you first got to school there? How was it to adjust?

I didn’t find a huge problem with adjusting to life at Shenandoah University. I’ve lived in Toronto for a long time, and there were a few similarities. Everyone at the school was very friendly. It was difficult being away from my family, and friends, but I also believe it was a short-term sacrifice for a long term benefit.

You were recently in a video produced by Mark Valino, who has created the Moments of Movement project. What is that project about?

Yes! Mark Valino is a filmmaker from Toronto who features creatives of music and movement, and uses film as a catalyst to tell stories. There are no cuts. The movement is all improvised meaning it is made up on the spot, and Mark is there, by your side. He explained it to be like a dance, between the mover and the camera. Watch the video here

We heard that you were named “outstanding Freshman” in a class of over 500 students at Shenandoah University. Congratulations! What did that honor feel like?

I am extremely honored to have been one of two recipients of The Gabriella Miller First-Year Student Award 2019.

The Gabriella Miller Award is awarded to a First Year Seminar student who is recognized for their love of learning, and contribution to classes. The award was named after a young girl who passed away due to cancer, but wished to attend university before her passing. She came to Shenandoah University, attended classes, and received an honorary degree for her accomplishment. Since then, her mother has funded this award in honor of her daughter.

I continue to be moved, motivated, and inspired by Gabriella Miller’s story.

How are you coping with this crisis in Barbuda?

School has been keeping me very busy. Barbuda is naturally quiet, however it has brought about a different energy. I’m just happy to be with my family at this time.

What does Barbuda mean to you?

Barbuda is an extremely special place. It is home. As more issues happen around the world, I notice its innocence even more. The people, the culture, the environment. It is a community that I am proud to be a part of and want to help expand.

Where do you see yourself fulfilling your career after school?

I will definitely be moving back to Barbuda in the future!

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December 2019 Update

Dear Coco Point Fund (CPF) Friends,

As we near the end of 2019, the CPF would like to update you on our successes this past year, our strategic vision and goals for 2020 and the future, and ask for your continued support. While our efforts have been successful, there is still much more to do!

Summary of 2019 Efforts

We accomplished a lot in 2019. We rebuilt several teachers’ homes, supplied paint for 40+ homes, rebuilt the three bus stops on the island, and participated along with the Barbuda Ocean Club (BOC), the Jumby Bay Fund (JBF) and the Mill Reef Fund(MRF) in both installing a 100,000 gallon water storage tank and refurbishing the existing desalination plant on the island. We are hopeful that, for the first time in over 2 years, the people will have fresh, quality running water 24/7 before!

We also paid to have electricity connected for most of the last 25% of people on the island who could not afford it. We estimate that more than 95% of the people now have electricity in their homes!

After having rebuilt the Nursery School and the Daycare Center in 2018, we partnered with Meteor Education in Florida to send two teacher trainers to the Nursery School for four days. We also sent new furniture, teaching materials, iPads, and much more so that we could start the process of 21st century “differentiated” learning in this school. The trainers also did an evaluation of the Holy Trinity middle school as we think about improving educational outcomes there as well! This initiative was a huge success!

We could not have accomplished all of this without our representatives on Barbuda, Bentham Lewis and Anne-Marie Gore!

SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Through our Scholarship Fund, we continue to support qualified students in attending universities in Antigua, the U.S., and around the world! With $38,000 in grants, we currently support 11 young men and women from Barbuda in furthering their post-secondary education. As more families return to Barbuda, we expect the demand for these scholarships to continue, if not grow!

2020 and Beyond

EXPANSION OF EDUCATIONAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN

As a board, we are still looking at many new projects. Our first focus will be to continue and expand our educational improvement plan. We are working to develop a five year plus plan (rolls out in stages) for grades 1-7. The cost of this initiative will be at least $1 million in total over the next five years. It will involve training 3x per year in each grade, new modem classroom design, furniture, technology and curriculum. We hope to get support from our other partners (JBF, MRF, BOC, and others). We believe that this initiative would bring lasting social and economic change for decades to come.

HURRICANE PROOF HOMES

Our other big initiative is to participate with JPF, MRF and others in building 20-30 new, two-bedroom, hurricane proof homes in a new “subdivision” that will be built on higher ground near the high school. This initiative will cost around $2-3 million (approximately $100,000 per home). We hope to participate in the building of three to five homes. JBF has committed to building fifteen to twenty homes.

OTHER PROJECTS UNDER CONSIDERATION

  • Building and outfitting a clinic in downtown for “non-life threatening” healthcare – medicine, insulin, general healthcare, etc. (estimated at $75,000-$100,000).
  • Rebuilding a small morgue. The island had a morgue prior to the hurricane that could handle three bodies. Unfortunately, it has not yet been rebuilt. (estimated at $80,000-$100,000 for two containers)
  • An open air market with about 20 “stands” where people can sell their goods to both local residents and tourists. (estimated at $150,000-$200,000).
  • Rebuilding a building and supporting a new initiative for after school programs for the children on the island.(estimated at $50,000-$75,000).
  • Continuing to help those in need with supplies (and labor) to rebuild their homes. (whatever you can give!)
  • Other projects that have yet to be determined.

Life on Barbuda,
Improved, But More to Do!

While life is certainly better than it was two years ago, it is nowhere near back to normal. Work is moving at a feverish pace at the Barbuda Ocean Club. Infrastructure is being built, lots are being sold, and home construction will begin soon. It will be spectacular when finished (just not like the Coco Point Lodge we all knew and loved!)

As for employment, work is available for the most part for all on the island that want to work.

Unfortunately, the relationship between the Antiguan Government and the people of Barbuda and their governing Council is not good.  Currently government workers are paid for only a week’s worth of work for each month they work – they are delayed in receiving 27 weeks worth of pay.   It is believed that there is very little money to pay for anything not only on Barbuda, but Antiqua as well.   

THERE IS MUCH MORE TO BE DONE – WE STILL NEED YOUR SUPPORT!

How to Donate

Please consider a donation to the Coco Point Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to the Island and the people of Barbuda.

If you know of any other individuals or charitable foundations that might be interested in helping our mission, please let us know!

There are many ways that you can contribute to our much-needed projects. See below.

MAILING CHECKS
If you would like to mail a check to The CPF, please send checks to:
Coco Point Fund
c/o Joan Minshall
12 Oxford Street
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

WIRE FUNDS
If you would like to wire funds to The CPF, please cocopointfund@gmail.com for the wire instructions.

TRANSFERRING APPRECIATED STOCK
If you would like to transfer highly appreciated stock to The CPF, please contact cocopointfund@gmail.com for the wire instructions.

DONATE WITH PAYPAL
Donate with Paypal by using this link.  

Please remember that we NEVER co-mingle any of our funds with the Antiguan Government or the Barbuda Council. We are diligent shepherds of your very generous contributions. 

Thank you in advance for considering a donation this year end.  We wish you all the happiest and healthiest Holiday Season! Please visit our new and improved website at www.cocopointfund.org.

Sincerely,

The Coco Point Fund Board of Directors

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Congrats to Crystal on Graduating from Caribbean Nazarene College!

The Board was thrilled to receive the follow letter from Crystal Hopkins this week. Crystal received a scholarship from the William Cody Scholarship Fund.

The scholarship fund was created to help assist worthy Barbudan students with partial scholarships to colleges and universities around the world.  It was set up in order to provide educational opportunities for young residents of Barbuda wishing to pursue education beyond the level of education offered on Antigua and Barbuda and who intend to return to Barbuda following completion of their studies to give something back to their community.

Crystal has received her diploma from Caribbean Nazarene College with a degree in Early Childhood Education. We are so proud of you Crystal and excited to hear you will be contributing to the next generation! 

Letter from Crystal

William Cody Kelly Memorial Scholarship,

It is with a spirit of gladness that I express my gratitude towards the Board Members of the William Cody Kelly Memorial Scholarship Fund. I attended the Caribbean Nazarene College for 4 years to attain a Bachelor’s degree in General Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Care and Education and a minor in Psychology and Counseling. This journey did not only focus on academics because I was also given the opportunity to mature as a young adult. I also benefited by being exposed to different cultures, meeting persons from all over the Caribbean and also forming long lasting bonds of friendship. I graduated with a 3.6 GPA and cum laude honors. With sincere thanks, I am confident that I will make a solid contribution to the education department of Antigua and Barbuda. Thank you once again for assisting me in achieving one of my goals.

Yours respectfully,
Crystal Hopkins

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