Program Overview
The Superior Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra continues to provide an atmosphere of a “Home Away from Home.”  This Program continues to be unique in that it is the only such program sponsored by a judicial system (locally, nationally or internationally) and is prominently recognized for its many accomplishments.  

In the summer of 1981, the Honorable Verne A. Hodge, then Presiding Judge of the Territorial Court of the US Virgin Islands set out to change the course of the youth that were appearing in front of his judicial bench. Using the adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he began an experimental steel drum program in the District of St. Thomas/St. John, with the goal of preventing school dropout and juvenile delinquency among our youth. The program's focus was to recruit students between the ages of 10 and 18 from public, private, and parochial schools and help guide them to successfully complete their high school education. The program that initially started as a summer project became so successful that it was then made into a year-round program, under the name of the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra and, in June 2006 under the leadership and guidance of then Presiding Judge the Honorable Maria M. Cabret, a similar program was established in the District of St. Croix. 

With every program that is started, there are rules and regulations that govern its operation to make it successful. Rising Stars members are required to comply with the Rising Stars Rules and Regulations, the Rising Stars Code of Conduct, and the Rising Stars Motto that places a high priority on educational achievements. Those students who need academic assistance must attend the weekly Rising Stars Tutorial and Enrichment Program that is, tutorial sessions that are held in classrooms at the band's headquarters or "The Panyard" as it is affectionately known.

The program also offers assistance in preparation for SAT and other placement tests for college and university enrollment and College Matriculation Workshops, including assistance with applications, financial aid forms and guidance in obtaining scholarships. The success of this program over the last thirty plus years has produced a 90% graduation rate among its members. Members who graduate from high school are replaced every two years through the Orchestra's Summer Recruitment Program, where members must learn about the history of the Orchestra, the history and development of the steel pan instrument, and are given an introductory course in music theory, while learning basic pan playing techniques.

Serving as Goodwill Ambassadors of the Virgin Islands, the band has performed in places as far away as Taiwan and Japan, as well as at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California; the Lincoln Center, Javits Center, and Crown Plaza Hotel in New York City; the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.; and the Skyline Stage in Chicago, Illinois.

The Rising Stars have also performed all over the Caribbean at venues such as the Queen's Park Savannah in Trinidad; on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands; in Christiansted and Frederiksted on St. Croix; and, for President Bill Clinton   during his visit to St. Thomas in January 1998. They have even made appearances in movies such as Weekend at Bernie's II; on such TV programs as, Good Morning America and had a brief appearance on the Today Show in November 2001.

The Rising Stars Program has received numerous accolades for its success - including being rated in the top 10% nationally in the "Innovations in State and Local Government" competition sponsored by Harvard University and the Ford Foundation; being named the Grand Prize winner in the national Arts & Entertainment Television competition, "Breaking Barriers"; and being listed in the U.S. Senate's "Catalog of Hope" as one of the best prevention programs in the United States and its Territories.

The amazing success of the group is due in part to one man’s vision and is a tribute to the determination and drive of St.   Thomas' young people.  The Rising Stars program was started in 1981 by Honorable Judge Emeritus, Verne A. Hodge, who had become concerned with the increasing number of criminal offenses committed by young drop-outs. He developed the Rising Stars as a crime-prevention program whose aim is to keep kids from dropping out of school and to guide them toward obtaining a high school diploma and plans for their future. Its success grew quickly, and it eventually developed into a year-round program, receiving worldwide attention and praise.

Following  more than twenty-five years of success in the St. Thomas/St. John District, in 2006, the Rising Stars program was initiated under the Superior Court in the district of  St. Croix .  During the Summer of 2007, the St. Croix Orchestra recruited more than 100 students to participate in its Summer Recruitment Program. These members went on to represent the Rising Stars in many and varied activities, while serving as the Superior Court’s Ambassadors of Pan on the island of St. Croix. It is also significant to mention that, during their participation in the festival parades on St. Croix, the Rising Stars has secured First Place in the Steel Pan Category - Adult’s Parade from 2007 through 2017.  Additionally, the Rising Stars were awarded 1st place in Community Band category at the 2014 Panorama Caribbean Music Festival in Virginia Beach, VA.  

The requirements for the participants, who range in age from 10 to 18, are very strict. Members must be students who, with the consent of their parents or guardians, agree to comply with the Rising Stars' Oath: "I promise to obey the rules of the Rising Stars; to stay in school and fully educate myself; and to conduct myself in a decent manner at all times."  They follow a stringent code of behavior, including completing homework before practice, maintaining passing grades, abstaining from drugs, alcohol or tobacco, obeying household rules of parents and guardians, and following instructions of the band leaders and staff members.   Anyone who violates these rules is subject to probation, suspension or expulsion from the group, although every effort is made to avoid these measures - including providing tutorial services to students who need help.  The result has been a graduation rate of over 90% of the participants in this program, with a large number going on to continue their education with assistance from the organization's scholarship program.