- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota Timberwolves GM Milt Newton and his wife, Shalaun, hosted six children from the U.S. Virgin Islands this past week as part of the next phase of their Emerald Gems Foundation dedicated to giving back to children from Milt Newton’s homeland.

They selected six high school juniors from St. Thomas and St. Croix to spend the week in the Twin Cities touring local businesses and the University of Minnesota to open their eyes to the possibilities and career paths available outside of their hometowns.

“Our main goal is to give the student-athletes exposure,” Shalaun Newton said. “This is a time where they really need to be aware of things and to expand their horizons and take them out of their comfort zones.”

The Newtons started Emerald Gems last summer as a way for Milt Newton to youngsters from where he grew up. Newton was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and was raised by his mother there before leaving for the United States when he was 13.

Emerald Gems launched last summer with its first annual basketball camp and the Newtons then went to work on developing a plan to bring some children to Minnesota. They selected the winners based on a combination of grade-point average, letters of recommendation from their schools, community service and an essay.

Sun Country Airlines provided the flights, local screen printing company Spectrum provided warm coats for the visit and the children stayed at the Loews hotel right across the street from Target Center.

While in town, the kids visited Sun Country to learn about jobs with the airline, toured the University of Minnesota and spent a day with the Timberwolves learning about the business side of the company as well as the basketball side.

“It’s just neat seeing them have so much fun together,” Shalaun Newton said. “They’ve jelled really well. I feel like we’re a family. Just seeing their faces and the experiences they’ve been able to take in and hopefully absorb as much as they can to help them with their future goals.”

The Newtons hope to make the trip an annual event.

“It’s been a wonderful experience, not only because we’re doing something to give back to his home, but this is an opportunity for us to work together on a business level,” Shalaun Newton said. “It’s been great. With all the support we’ve received, we’ve been able to do things very quickly.”

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