From vision to reality: SDA inaugurates new gym

POSTED: 02/11/14 10:00 AM

St. Maarten – Nine years after its initial conception, the complete Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) School expansion project was made a reality. Sunday  afternoon saw the official dedication of  the school’s spanking new gymnasium and two additional classrooms in Cole Bay. The project, in itself was the center of much controversy, but yesterday the school’s management was showered with praises for its vision, dedication and perseverance.

Construction on the facility officially wrapped up in December after a  combined 3.4 million guilders of funding from government and Usona.
The personality after whom the new facility was named, school board director Alvin Connor said he could not thank the government enough for their unwavering support towards the success of the project.
“We can’t thank you enough. Every government supported us and the project was made a reality although we had a few delays.”
Education director of the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) of Seventh Day Adventist, Gerene Joseph described the new facility as the best elementary institution within the NCC that will complement the quality of education offered.
“This school building is just about the best school building in the NCC. Both in terms of its aesthetics and its functionality. This is the only school in the NCC to have the luxury of a gymnasium. The section of the school that we are dedicating will indeed compliment the quality of education offered.”
She urged the school to make maximum use of the gym and not take the facility.
“The SDA philosophy of education encompasses the harmonious development of our students’  mental, physical and spiritual faculties. The maximum use of the gymnasium classrooms will undoubtedly assist in achieving our philosophy. I therefore encourage our constituency members, staff and students not to take this facility for granted instead make maximum use of it. Encourage students to value it and desist from defacing or vandalizing it,” she added.

President of the NCC Silton Browne boasted that among the 7883 educational institutions run by the SDA, St. Maarten  gives the highest level of financial support in the Region.
“The NCC is deeply appreciative of the push that we get as a Christian education institution. Here on this island and to a similar extent on Statia, we get the highest level of financial support for our educational system. There is no place else that we get this level of support and we do not take it for granted.
Zeroing in on the process leading up to the building’s completion in December ,head of new projects within the Ministry of VROMI Kurt Ruan related that obstacles to the projects development were many.
“All along the way we had a great working relationship with the SDA school board. We had some ups and downs; we saw two contractors going through here, two engineering firms but thankfully Talisien pushed it through. It was a great achievement, we now have a beautiful state of the art gymnasium, outfitted to international standards. I want to thank Usona for coming through with the funding first with some 2.1 million guilders allotted and after the first contractor went belly up I and government got some 1.3 million guilders to have this school completed.

Construction started in 2010 and we finished in December 2014, so it took us some four years to have this project completed making it the longest running education project on St. Maarten,” Ruan explained.
While she was praised for her input in the project’s execution while head of the  Division of Educational Innovations, current Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Patricia Lourens-Philip reminded the school board that the gym was also to be utilized by the Cole Bay  Communication.
“There were many details and many disappointments but Mr. Connor was always full of faith and persevered. A vision or a dream without a timeline does not become an objective. The timeline I know and the borders of that timeline were moved several times. As you enjoy this building, please be reminded that it was also to be used by the community of Cole Bay. Do not forget to invite the community into this school.”

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams reflected on her days as former Commissioner of Education when Foundation-Based Education (FBE) was introduced paving the way for the SDA to provide holistic education.
“Often times around election time the question is asked to me what did I do as commissioner of education, what did I build? Building the children of this country and giving them the opportunity in the whole way through Foundation-Based Education, I think I was building,” the Prime Minister said to loud applause.
“Can you imagine the pride I feel whether it is one classroom or one covered playground or a beautiful gymnasium. It would not have been possible had we not, many years ago, to do this together in the interest of the children of St. Maarten.

As the keynote speaker, Dr. Vincent David, director of NCC Youth and Chaplaincy focused on the Biblical book of Habakuk emphasizing the importance of taking a vision from the realm of mere conception to reality.
“This is a real great moment for the SDA school and a surreal one for me because I see the center serving as an example for the rest of the country. It was worth the wait and even the apparent delay. All things work together to them that love the Lord and are called according to his purposes. Hear we can envision the engagement of children of the school and the community in quality activities like sports and education that would help steer them away from the crime and drug abuse that has taken hold over so many young hearts in our community,” he declared.
The project partners were the government of St. Maarten, USONA, Pream,  CEC, ICE and Talisien Construction and the dedication ceremony was held under the theme  “From Vision to Reality.”

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