“Your future is yours to own,” told to St. Maarten Vocational School students

Your future is yours to own,” said Connier Thelwell of the St. Martin Book Fair Committee (BFC) to students at the St. Maarten Vocational Training School (SMVTS) on Thursday.

Thelwell and author Lasana M. Sekou were at the school in St. Peters to present 152 books, by over 30 writers, about St. Martin/Caribbean history, culture, government, literature, and biographies mostly published by House of Nehesi (HNP).

The books are for the use of students and teachers and were presented during the first SMVTS assembly for the scholastic year.

(L-R, foreground): Lasana M. Sekou, projects director, House of Nehesi Publishers; Yadira Boston, chairperson, SMVTS English Dept.; SMVTS student; Connier Thelwell, BFC member; and Bill Rattiger, SMVTS coordinator of student affairs, following presentation of 152 books to the St. Maarten Vocational Training School (SMVTS). Hospitality class students are seen in the background.

Sekou said to students that they were “all St. Martin’s children” and touched on the unity of both parts of St. Martin as one nation. He mentioned to the “young brothers” in particular that their manhood was directly linked to nationhood and to reading, writing, and knowing about one’s culture and history.

I also encouraged all of the students to find out from now about professions at companies such as the harbor, GEBE; and to think of starting out as small business owners in areas such as sanitation, computer sales and repairs, and the restaurant industry,” said Sekou, who is also HNP’s projects director.

Both Sekou and Thelwell told students that their future successes were linked to paying attention to their studies now, knowledge about St. Martin and the world; and finding much of that knowledge in information and entertainment media such as books.

Teachers, administrators, and about 140 students, attended the spirited assembly, which was opened by the hospitality class students, who later entertained with song and a dramatic skit.

HNP and BFC were thanked for the “generous donation” of books by Astrigt Hermelijn, acting assistant director of SMVTS. “We will definitely make good use of it. We will encourage the students to make reports of short parts and even prepare skits.” said Hermelijn.

The gift of books is part of BFC’s ongoing promotions for youth literacy and the book fair’s 10th anniversary in 2012.

Bill Rattiger, coordinator of SMVTS student affairs, contacted Sekou in April 2011, inquiring about a contribution of books to “help the students to understand and get acquainted with writers from St. Maarten/St. Martin as well as the islands.”

Rattiger, who spearheaded the arrangements at SMVTS for the September 14 book presentation, had also said that the school was in the process of “creating a central area where students will have access to books through the teachers’ assistance.”

During a planning meeting for the St. Martin Book Fair 2011, HNP and the book fair decided to collaborate as a way to budget for a wider variety of books for SMVTS. Book Fair 2011 was sponsored by the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau through funds facilitated by USONA.

On Thursday, Thelwell promised SMVTS students that the BFC will contact their school for permission to bring a visiting author to SMVTS during the St. Martin Book Fair in 2012. Each year, the St. Martin Book Fair gathers writers and experts from the island and around the world for school visits, public literary readings, launches of new books, and free workshops on a range of topics.

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