Just a few weeks ago, I visited the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) and toured the facilities, including the MIC-IT program. I met several of our local people who had enrolled in the different construction courses being offered. I congratulated them for taking the opportunity to continue their education as a way of improving their lives and the lives of their families.
One of those MIC trainees was Natasha Schmidt, a 36 year old mother of seven who had started on a path to improving her education, skills, and training. From accounts received, Natasha had determined to turn her life around, despite all the challenges that she faced. She latched on to this hope through education at one of our local institutions. It is with great sadness that as a community, we were awakened to the news that violence had snatched a young life away.
We are called “The Friendly Island”, and not too long ago, we were still living with that culture. Today, violence and crime have invaded our communities, our homes and our minds, gripping our residents with fear and isolation. Our children, youth, adults and seniors are affected. It is time to put a stop to this digression.
To reclaim and preserve our ‘friendly’ identity, as Sint Maarteners, we must combat violence with peace. When faced with conflict, encourage our children, our neighbours and ourselves to walk away. We must defeat aggression with compassion. Consider yourself in the other person’s position and apply the Golden Rule. Let us do to others as we would have them do to us. We must counter negativity with a positive energy. Use the challenges that come our way to propel us to be better, stronger, greater!
On behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, I extend condolences to the family and friends of Natasha Schmidt, and also to her school family at NIPA/MIC. May her soul rest in peace. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child, so let us as a community give support to her children as they will need this care more than ever before.
May more of our people pursue the path to self-improvement and community upliftment through continued education. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy will come in the morning. Let us work together and overcome together.
Hon. Wycliffe Smith, MA, M.Ed.
Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport
PHOTO caption: Flags at NIPA flown half-mast in mourning