The Jean Christian Aviation Scholarship Award

By Regina LaBega, Managing Director, SXM Airport
Delivered at the Award Ceremony, SXM Airport, Monday, June 23, 2014.
Honorable Prime Minister, Mrs. Sarah Wescot-Williams;
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good evening.
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to host an event like this in which we will be sowing a seed for the future of this island. If we consider our youth to be truly our most important resource, then providing the best education for them must be seen as an investment that would yield the greatest dividends. In fact, it was Greek Philosopher, Diogenes who said, “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” And John F. Kennedy put it this way: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.”
This is why, for us at SXM Airport, education is a priority. We take the continuing education of our staff seriously, as evidenced in the many training programs we offer them or encourage them to take, whether they are firefighters, Air Traffic Controllers or even management staff. In the same manner, we consider education to be one of the cornerstones of our corporate social responsibility. Hence our adoption of the Prins Willem Alexander School, the launch of our HEALTHFAST: Breakfast in a Box for Schools Pilot Program at the beginning of this year and now the establishment of the Jean Christian Aviation Scholarship which will be awarded for the first time this evening.
The idea of awarding an aviation scholarship came as we brainstormed about how to celebrate our 70th Anniversary. The year-long celebrations kicked off late last year with our Anniversary Symposium – another educational activity – and will continue until December 3rd this year. The decision to name it after Ms. Jean Christian was almost a no-brainer considering the place Ms. Christian occupies in the aviation history of St. Maarten as the first female Air Traffic Controller of the island. Ms. Christian served the Princess Juliana International Airport for almost 40 years and helped train two generations of Air Traffic Controllers. She is an inspiring figure whose entire professional life has been spent at this gateway to our island’s tourist economy. We are indeed very happy to be able to give Ms. Christian her flowers by naming this aviation scholarship after her.
The Jean Christian Aviation Scholarship is a full scholarship that will be awarded every two years to a deserving St. Maarten student. It is a merit based financial grant to cover full tuition and fees, room and board and a stipend for books, for a maximum four year college level course in any aviation related field. Someone said that “90% of education is encouragement”. We at SXM Airport created the Jean Christian Aviation Scholarship to support and encourage the next generation of aviation leaders. The winner of the scholarship will be known as the “Jean Christian Aviation Scholar” and as long as he or she puts in their own 10% in terms of good grades, the scholarship will cover the duration of their studies.
The first winner of this scholarship is a young man whose name I am reluctant to reveal at this stage, not because I want to keep you in suspense, but in deference to how this evening’s program has been set up. But I can let you know that he attended the MAC school and went on to the St. Maarten Academy where he did two years before transferring to St. Dominic High. From there he left for Holland where he obtained his Associate Degree in Business Administration before returning home in 2003.
Ladies and gentlemen, some of you know how it feels to want to pursue a career you are passionate about and not have the financial means to do so. Careers in the field of aviation are not cheap. But as they say, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. Our youth deserve the opportunity and the financial backing to pursue their dreams and to return to contribute to the development of their island. The Jean Christian Aviation Scholars, upon completion of their studies will have to return to St. Maarten to make their contribution in their chosen field.
I want to thank the Supervisory Board of Directors who without reservation approved this scholarship. Thanks also to the management and staff of this great company that continually exceed everyone’s expectations. I am proud of you.
The Princess Juliana International Airport is focused on the future. And to get to that glorious future, we must depend on our youth and support their efforts to prepare themselves for the leadership roles they will be called to assume. That is why this is a joyful occasion. Thank you for joining us in our celebrations.
I thank you.