Academy focuses on empathy with Choose Peace project

POSTED: 03/9/12 11:45 AM

CUL DE SAC – St. Maarten Academy’s academic campus continues its Choose Peace project with the showing of the movie The Help, which depicts extraordinary women of the 1960s in the American south who broke society’s prejudiced rules through courageous acts. The Academy is using the film to embody courage, represented by the letter C in Peace.

The school’s student care department, headed by Tallulah Baly, has organized a series of activities to exemplify each letter in the Peace acronym. The movie comes on the heels of presentations by various personalities and field trips to institutions around the island.

Representatives of all five first forms visited the Mental Health Foundation and Sr. Basilia Centre, as well as St. Maarten Veterinary Clinic and the St. Maarten Home, on February 29 and March 2, respectively. The visits were symbolic of the letter E, which stood for empathy. Friday afternoon also brought positivity from workshops by radio personality Elektra of Elektralyte Foundation, and Versatile, recording artist and past student of the Academy.

Elektra addressed the young girls on how important a positive attitude is to their lives. Likewise, Versatile brought real-life experiences to the young men and pointed out the power of the right attitude in life.

“If we respond to life’s challenges with peace and a positive attitude, we can determine how we experience the world,” other student counselor Lisa Peynado stated.

The students were all elated about their field trips. When they visited St. Maarten Home on Friday, coordinator Chadia Martis briefed them about the clientele and the care offered at the home. She also gave a tour of the facilities. Each student sat and talked with clients, both the able-bodied and others who were more dependent. They met former politicians, teachers, and other people from all walks of life, and commended the nurses and staff for the care they give daily to our senior citizens.

That same day, another group visited St. Maarten Veterinary Clinic, where they toured the Cay Hill facility and learned of the different cases that Dr. Swanston and his team handle. The youngsters were able to pet some of the animals and observe the treatment as they were administered.  Back in their respective classes, the students were able to share what they had learned. The main message they expressed was that everyone has to care for animals as they are living creatures with emotional needs as well.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, another group of first formers visited Sr. Basilia Center and Mental Health Foundation. Sr. Basilia Centre activities coordinator Mireya Torrenga showed the students around. The young scholars toured the daycare facilities, and met and interacted with five different groups of clients. They were able to explain to their classmates what it means to be disabled and how we should treat all humans with empathy.

Student Lisha Maduro told her class: “I learned that we must treat everyone the same because it is not their fault if they have a disability. Some of us were born with it or because of an accident. So we should all be kind to one another.”

At Mental Health Foundation, the students got a presentation on the different disorders of clients and the care that they receive. At this new facility, mentally ill patients are able to receive psychiatric treatment, while remaining close to family and friends. The students also received empathy candles made by clients. The presenter, Danette McRae Gumbs, emphasized that “true empathy can only occur when we successfully shed all preconceived ideas and judgments about others and when we’re comfortable with others’ deep feelings.”

Embracing their lessons in empathy, several students have expressed interest in offering community service at these different institutions. The White and Yellow Cross Foundation and the veterinary clinic are welcoming of young people who wish to serve and care for others who are in need of our empathy.

Prior to these visits, the letter P for “principle” was embraced by reigning Miss St. Maarten Trumane Trotman and radio DJ Lenworth Wilson, both of whom visited the school and spoke to first formers about what it means to have principles.

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