Vincy group elects first female prez

The Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania, Inc. (SVGOP) has finally elected its first female president.

Arlette Dopwell-James, the younger sister of popular local broadcaster Ferrand “Randy D” Dopwell, was recently elected to head the very vibrant group, replacing James Cordice, who declined re-election after six years at the helm.

Dopwell-James, who served as Cordice’s vice president, officially took up the top position on Feb. 13 at an elaborate swearing-in ceremony.

She becomes the organization’s fourth president, following the footsteps of Cordice, Kenrick Mitchell and Lorenzo DeCaul.

On her way up, Dopwell-James, who joined the group in 1998, held several positions, besides vice president, including Tea Party Committee chairperson and corresponding secretary.

She told Caribbean Life that her plans for the group are to “basically continue to do the things the past presidents have been doing, lauding them, especially Cordice, for their stewardship.

“He [Cordice] has done an excellent job as president of SVGOP,” she said, adding that “much was accomplished over the past year.”

Dopwell-James said she will continue working on plans to “obtain a building that the SVGOP can call home,” and establish, among other things, a “more supportive network” with nationals at home and in Pennsylvania.

“This will increase membership and enable SVGOP to serve more effectively,” she said.

In addition, Dopwell-James, who was very instrumental in the establishment of SVGOP’s youth mentoring program, said she will continue working closely with the youth.

The former Brownie and Girls Guide said her proudest moment was watching the SVGOP youth perform on SVG Day at the Caribbean Festival in Philadelphia; at the Penn’s landing arena on Aug. 23, 2009; and at the official hoisting of the Vincy flag, on Nov. 19 last year, on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

A fervent education advocate, the former Girls High School and Bishop’s College, Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ student said she would push the group’s Education Committee to develop a “networking system” between high school and college students in Pennsylvania and SVGOP.

She said this would enable the group to “keep in touch with the students and find out how they are doing, encourage the students to assist us with the youths, as well as to become members of SVGOP, bringing fresh ideas and faces to the group.”

“I would also like for us to set up a scholarship fund in which we can further assist students here in the community, as well as at home in their educational endeavors,” said Dopwell-James, disclosing that SVGOP showcases local high school and college students at its Annual Tea Party and Graduate Recognition ceremony.

She said she would also develop greater contacts and consolidate relationships with Vincentian nationals and organizations in the Diaspora, including the Brooklyn, New York-based umbrella group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A. Inc. (COSAGO).

Dopwell-James said she is “feverishly anticipating the arrival” of Vincentian secondary school athletes, in a few months, who will participate, for the very first time, in the popular Penn Relays in Pennsylvania. The Thomas Saunders Secondary School in Kingstown has already expressed keen interest in participating in the games.

Dopwell-James first migrated in 1980 to Winnipeg, Canada, in joining one of her brothers. She subsequently joined her sisters in Philadelphia, where she currently resides.

She holds an Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education with honors, and worked as an assistant teacher and lead teacher at an early childhood learning facility in Philadelphia.

“I have total confidence that Ms. Dopwell-James will lead the Vincentian community in the Delaware valley in the same direction that I have,” said Cordice, now SVOP’s public relations officer.

“She will succeed where I failed, because I will work with her,” he added. “She will be a better president than I was, because I will support her 100 percent.

“In the past two years, my diligence as a president was exemplified by the total support of Ms. Dopwell-James,” Cordice continued. “There’s so much stress in managing the SVGOP, but I became better and stronger because her shoulders were always there to help me carry the load.”

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