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SXM launches Jean Christian Aviation Scholarship Award

L-R. Kevin Jeffers, the first Jean Christian Aviation Scholar, Ms. Jean Christian (with bouquet of flowers), St. Maarten’s first female Air Traffic Controller, after whom the scholarship is named and SXM Managing Director, Regina LaBega. (SXM Airport photo)

Kevin Jeffers, first winner, pursuing Commercial Pilot License

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten (Tuesday, June 24, 2014) - Kevin Jeffers is the first recipient of the Jean Christian Aviation Scholarship, which was launched by the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, on June 23. Jeffers was obviously overcome with joy, as he dabbed his face with a handkerchief and was made to repeat a statement he made in his brief remarks when he said an investment in the youth of St. Maarten is an “investment in a better St. Maarten.”

The Jeffers received the US$28,500 grant that would allow him to complete his studies to become a commercial pilot from the hands of Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director and Ms. Jean Christian after whom the scholarship award was named. He expressed gratitude to the airport and exhorted other St. Maarteners to persevere and not give up on their dreams.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, despite repeating that she is an advocate of government-owned companies sticking to their “core” business, praised the management of SXM Airport for establishing the scholarship, and therefore contributing to increasing the “human resource index” of the island. She was also full of praise for Ms. Jean Christian, the island’s first female Air Traffic Controller, whom she called her friend, for her contribution to the field of aviation on the island.

In her address, Regina LaBega said: “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 the Greek philosopher Diogenes who said, “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” She continued by quoting John F. Kennedy: “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,” added LaBega. “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’ pilot program for elementary schools at the beginning of this year, and now the establishment of the Jean Christian Aviation Scholarship,” LaBega said.

According to 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.”

An emotional Ms. Christian, who received a standing ovation as she rose to address the gathering, disclosed that it had always been the dream of her father to establish a Flight Academy on St. Maarten. This scholarship, she said, broadened the horizon to include other sectors of the aviation industry. She urged the recipient to heed the advice of senior pilots and to be disciplined.

An impromptu intervention by Reint Laan, a retired schoolteacher, who counts among his former students popular TV talk show host, Oral Gibbes of World Star Studio, initially raised eyebrows but ended with a warm ovation. Laan, who was hosted by SXM Airport in his current tour of the island performing his play, “The flying Dutchman and his cub, a dream come true” presented a copy of the book to Kevin Jeffers, expressing the hope that the Jean Christian Aviation Scholar would soon realize his dream of flying.

The event was held at the former Plantation Restaurant upstairs of the meet and greet area of SXM Airport and included singing by the students of the Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performing Arts as well as entertainment by Destiny Band. The evening ended with a buffet dinner.