Volunteers Salvage Blacktip Island Continuing Education Program

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The Blacktip Island Theosophy Hall, where most of the island’s adult continuing education classes are being conducted after a local businessman withdrew his financial support for the program. (photo courtesy of Peachy Bottoms)

Community groups teamed up with Tiperon University-Blacktip Wednesday to save the Blacktip Island’s adult continuing education program after a local financier withdrew his backing.

“Damn straight I pulled the plug on that nonsense,” said Rich Skerritt, owner of Eagle Ray Cove resort. “Waste of time and money, people learning basket weaving and water-color painting. The idea was to offer courses that’d let folks to better their lives, get better jobs, be more productive.

“But no one wanted to learn about computer reservation systems or housekeeping or carpentry or landscaping,” Skerritt said. “They were all hot for the hippy-dippy, me-me-me crap. Well, there’s no profit in personal enrichment. No return on investment, for them or for me.”

The decision didn’t surprise program organizers.

“Rich bankrolled the con-ed program to churn out worker bees for his resort,” continuing education coordinator Peachy Bottoms said. “He got hacked off when he realized people were taking courses aimed at personal development. It was just a matter of time.

“We talked to the TU-B administration and the Rotary Club about underwriting the courses,” Bottoms said. “Our instructors agreed to teach pro gratis, and for classrooms we use the Theosophy Hall behind Harry Master’s Bait Shoppe and Newsstand.”

Many island residents applauded the 11th-hour deal.

“The adult classes are a boost for the island,” longtime resident Edwin Chub said. “It keeps people engaged and learning. My wife’s taking a scrapbooking course. And I myself am learning Turkish. That’s been a lifelong dream of mine.”

Other residents took a broader view.

“Blacktip’s a tiny island. There’s nothing to do,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Most people get off work and head to the bars. These con ed classes lift us above that.

“They tell the world there’s more to Blacktip than diving,” Diesel said. “It says we’re an island of thought and intellectual growth. The Athens of the Caribbean. The Greek Athens, not the one in Georgia.”

The classes have also led several residents to unexpected personal discoveries.

“I don’t say it often, but Rich was wrong on this one,” Public Works chief Stoney MacAdam said. “The fly-tying class was full up, so I ended up in an ice sculpture course. Turns out, it’s fun and practical.

“It’s hot as blazes this summer, so I got to carve in the freezer. That means the sculptures’re pretty small,” MacAdam said. “But it’s about the experience, not the product. And I got these racks of little ice-cube hummingbirds I can plop in folk’s rum when they come over. Way I see it, I got me a retirement job.”

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