University of St. Martin develops new Pre-USM program

POSTED: 10/27/14 5:11 PM

St. Maarten – “The Pre-USM program came about because we realized the reality of St. Maarten – we need to do something for all youngsters on the island,” said Dean of Academics and Interim President of the University of St. Martin (USM) Dr. Francio Guadeloupe about the newly-established, pilot program at the university, which caters to students who have graduated from local high schools at a VSBO-TKL, PSVE or VSBO-PKL level.

On Friday, stakeholder representatives of USM, St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce, Windward Islands Bank (WIB), who are all involved in the project, came together to bring awareness to the work experience/study program in the greater context of the “St. Maarten Home is Where I Prosper” project, which is a pillar of the trilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU) established in February of this year.

The program, described by Dr. Guadeloupe as a “second chance,” bridges the gap for students who graduated from PSVE/VSBO stream secondary schools to enrolling at USM. It is a one-year preparatory program which combines the GED curriculum with USM skills courses. Moreover, it offers students the opportunity to earn a HAVO level education, enabling them to enter the university with the goal of pursuing an Associate’s degree. The work experience component of the projects aims to connect these youngsters to St. Maarten’s economic society, specifically the island’s different businesses. The course will cost students $2950, which includes the cost of school books and excursions.

Guadeloupe explained that education is a service you provide to the people living on the island, that by directly catering to these students, you indirectly cater to society. “Education must be about imitating where you are, improving where you are and enhancing where you are.” He added that the service-based education provided by USM, contributes “to the balance between politics of belonging and tourism as development.” Guadeloupe underscored the importance of preparing youngsters for the local job market in St. Maarten’s tourist-based economy. He added that in order to effectively cater to tourists, you first have to cater to the youngsters of St. Maarten, who will comprise the majority of the workers in the tourism and hospitality sector.

To help prepare students in the program to go out and interact with tourists of different cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds, the university offers a multi-lingual appreciation course, among others, which is taught by Division Head of Education and General Liberal Arts Marjan de Visser-Lemstra. de Visser-Lemstra is also coordinator of the Pre-USM program.  She pointed out that prior to this project, USM only had the GED program in place to help youngsters finalize their high school education. One of the advantages of this program, de Visser-Lemstra pointed out, is that the students will have mentors to guide them on their journey. The university held interviews this week with the students to find out how to better cater to their individual needs and goals. Part of the program requires students to intern at different businesses on the island. While on their internships, students will build and maintain portfolios as part of the personal development plan.

The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce will work closely with the students and local businesses to arrange the internships. “Via the work experience program, local students will receive the opportunity to develop their competencies as it relates to the present day-industry trends of nowadays’ market,” said Chamber of Commerce Project Coordinator Tytania Archangel. “The vision is to focus on creating an environment where adolescents acquire a good and sound education aimed at producing a sound and enhanced workforce, properly develop professionals and the maturation of strong and successful entrepreneurs.”  She went on to say that “the project is for students to achieve their highest level of self-actualization, to get to know themselves.” She encouraged the business community of St. Maarten to support the project by helping the St. Maarten students who chose to stay and get educated on the island. Businesses participating in the project will receive information about potential interns, so they can not only meet the needs of the students, but to also see which students meet their criteria.

Stakeholder representatives Jennifer Joenoes and Kary Scot were present. “We are happy to join the program. We would like to encourage all business to participate. It’s a corporate social responsibility that we cooperate,” said Joenoes, the assistant managing director at WIB. Scot, who is the senior HR administrative assistant at GEBE, echoed Joenoes’s sentiments.

“My hope is that these students will gain their associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s and come back to the island to contribute to society,” said Dr. Guadeloupe.


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Comments (2)


  1. Louis Peters says:

    There several attempts to create this bridge between the world of work and the educational system, but unfortunately these attempts never achieved their respective objectives. Nevertheless, it’s good to see essential stakeholders working together to make this bridge real on the island especially among those local youngsters who are in dire need of this opportunity.

  2. Richard Boyd says:

    This is a fantastic idea, but it do need the full cooperation from the local businesses – I would suggest that selected businesses should be approached – with the pros and cons for there assistance – this can lead to better education for our youngsters, with much more possibilities for them on the Island and the local businesses will have more qualifies youths to choose from, locally to fill there vacancies, without having to import more people constantly – to full lower to medium
    income positions.