Humans of HM – Mr. Lionel Garrison

Simon Yang, Staff Writer

Some may be surprised to learn that Director of the Upper Division Tutoring Office Lionel Garrison Jr. started his teaching career on Saint Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Garrison moved to Saint Croix immediately after graduating from college, following his father, who also worked on the island, he said. During his stay, Garrison taught at St. Dunstan’s High School, a parochial school. The school was very small, so Garrison taught multiple subjects, including math, physics, chemistry, and even archery, he said.

Initially, only U.S. citizens could utilize public services, such as schools and hospitals, on the island, he said. The situation was awful, with hundreds of kids having nowhere to go all day.

“Several times, kids would break into my parents’ house to steal food,” Garrison said. “They would take food out of the fridge, cook it, eat it on the spot, and leave. It was a pathetic situation, but we couldn’t blame the children.”

Garrison also witnessed the horrifying effects of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, he said. Although he was not on the island at the time of the hurricane, his family suffered from the disaster, and what he saw when he returned was indescribable.

“One of my sisters put her two young children in the bathtub, and she lay on top of her kids while her house was completely blown away,” Garrison said. “It took nearly a week for me to get a call that my family was still alive.”

None of the schools on the island were able to re-open for a year after the hurricane, Garrison said.

Regardless of the natural disasters, Garrison cherished the strong sense of community in Saint Croix. “If my car broke down in the middle of the road, someone would always stop by to come ask me if I needed help,” he said.

Garrison still returns to St. Croix with his family during his vacations, and his sister continues to live and teach on the island, he said.