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Monday, June 12, 2006 

June 12, 2006 - Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, N.A

Gibson: More students
should be sent to USM

USM Class of 2006 graduates

PHILIPSBURG--Forty-one students became alumni of University of St. Martin when the university held its annual commencement exercises held at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Convention Centre Saturday night.

The audience heard an appeal from keynote speaker attorney-at-law and former minister of constitutional affairs of the Netherlands Antilles Richard Gibson for more emphasis to be placed on sending students to the university.

He was very critical of the use of taxpayers’ money to send students abroad, saying it did not benefit the island in many respects, as many of these students never returned to the island. He suggested that instead more effort be made to send students to USM and said his vision for the university was to see it attract more students from Caribbean islands.

Valedictorian Royette Tavernier delivered a speech that stunned the hundreds of attendees at the ceremony. She also won the Academic Achievement award and was the top Summa Cum Laude graduate with the highest grade point average. Tavernier, a national of Dominica, referred to the treatment of foreign students and the difficulties they faced while attending USM.

Also graduating Summa Cum Laude were Laureen Prince, Hanisha Besant and Madhu Panjabi. There were four Magna Cum laude graduates: Jhonella Fitzpatrick, Nelly George, Ruth Ward and Linette Gordon.

USM President Josianne Artsen-Fleming selected Regina Belizar for the President’s Award and Paula Gordon was given the Board of Director’s Award. The faculty member chosen by the students to be honoured was Rhoda Arrindell.

According to Artsen-Fleming, Belizar is special because “I can recognize the drive and the passion for success in all that is accomplished and the no-nonsense approach and the ability to be highly professional, the will to move mountains and achieve the highest cause, and the goals in her eyes. She has made USM proud in many ways and gained the respect of many who have seen her work.”

The class of 2006 graduation ceremony was often filled with screams and bursts of laughter from graduates and their family members showing excitement and joy at the accomplishment of the 41 students.

Commissioner of Education Sarah Wescot-Williams was unavoidably absent due to business of government that required her to be off-island. She said in a message that the graduation of the USM class of 2006 was “another proud moment in the history of USM and the lives of our graduates and their families.”

She said it was also a moment for the nation to share the joy, as its human capital increased with every graduate’s achievement. She said, “The development of our island and the needs of our people have caused USM to constantly evaluate and, where necessary, adjust its sails. In doing so it has had assistance from many and has been challenged by many.”

She said she was proud that, like the 2006 graduating class, USM had come a long way, overcome many obstacles and had a bright future.

She said, “Therefore, for USM and the graduates this moment is worth all the sacrifice it took to reach this far. It gives me pride and strengthens my conviction that as a nation we will make it and our people will continue to seek out educational opportunities and USM will continue to grow with St. Maarten and our government will remain committed in its support for our tertiary institution, USM.
Copyright ©2006 The Daily Herald St. Maarten

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