St. Maarten students get warm and tear-filled sendoff

POSTED: 07/30/12 2:00 PM

St. Maarten — There was hardly “a dry eye” as 58 St. Maarten students prepared to depart the Princess Juliana International Airport on Sunday to further their education in the Netherlands. There was an outpouring of emotions as the assembled parents, friends and loved ones said farewell in the departure hall.
Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company Regina Labega admonished the students to return since “their purpose is clear.
“To pursue excellence in your chosen areas of study and to return to contribute in a meaningful way to the building of this nation – St. Maarten. Armed with this sense of purpose, you should realize that a whole nation depends on how you perform out there,” Labega said.
She told them to bear in mind that when they board the flight, “the gate that they will be departing from is not a gate of no return” because they will be welcomed back with all the fanfare at the successful completion of their studies in the Netherlands. She emphasized that their parents and the people of the island do not want them to become part of the “dismal statistics of children whom are sent abroad and never return or never completes their studies.”
She noted that St. Maarten need them to be good students and responsible ambassadors who will make the island proud anywhere in the world. Labega also stressed the expectation that the students will do their best and return to take their rightful place on the island and take the island to a higher level.
The airport director wished them luck in all their endeavors told them that they are embarking on “perhaps the most critical journey of their lives” in what some have described as “the Golden Fleece.” She asked them to return as soon as possible to make St. Maarten a better place for all.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams in a release to the departing fifty eight students said, “It is always heartening to see young people going abroad to stand on their own feet to pursue an education. It is always a big step.”
The prime minister called on the group to be focused and realize that government, their friends and families are there to offer their assistance. She also encouraged parents to support their child(ren) as much as possible and noted that once the students are in the Netherlands they are called to make their own choices in their studies and social life. She is aware that sometimes the students will “look back at St. Maarten where things seem much easier” where they are surrounded with the people who could give them advice and in most cases miss their families but urged them to stay focused on their goals.
“There will be that longing for St. Maarten but you have taken the decision to go abroad and study and we all hope that you have done that with the intention of returning to the island well equipped to add to the young people who have gone away and have returned after achieving their study goals,” the prime minister said before congratulating the students and wishing them much success, courage and strength as the pursue their studies in the Netherlands.
The airport, Dominos Pizza and UTS took the initiative to organize a Bon Voyage ceremony for the students. Irene Gaari-Arridell from the government’s Study Financing Division spoke on behalf of Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs. She bid the anxious students farewell and thanked the corporate entities that helped to make the Bon Voyage event a reality. LaBega and Gaari-Arrindell then cut the farewell cake, which was designed as a teal vintage valise, with black and white accents by Aurora Jeffers.
Following the cake cutting and sharing among students and well-wishers, students were asked to clear security minutes before 11:00 a.m. in order to expedite an on-time departure of their KLM flight 785. Students bid their final farewells as Caribbean tunes and various pop music hits echoed from the speakers of DJ Outkast. Just before they stepped on the escalators up to the customs and security check points the departing youths were presented with portfolios, ID holders, and other promotional items by PJIAE marketing officers Audrey Jack and Suzy Kartokromo.
Groups of students are also scheduled to leave the island in August and September to further their studies abroad.

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