Educating and Encouraging Youths of Sint Maarten

March 1, 2011

During a recent tutoring session with high school students from the St. Maarten Academy, American University of the Caribbean, Medical School (AUC) student Arash Yazdani encountered frustration from a young girl who had trouble figuring out the molecular formula of a chemistry problem. The girl told Yazdani that her dream was to become a doctor, but difficulties getting through the science course was discouraging her from those thoughts.

Yazdani stopped the session and explained to the student that even he, a fifth-semester student, was having issues with certain subjects in medical school. But he told her to keep plugging away, and to not be intimidated because everything was possible with work.

“Her attitude changed considerably and she started talking to me about medical school courses,” said Yazdani, who entered AUC in 2009 after completing his bachelor’s degree in Biology at Florida State University.

That interaction was partly the reason the AUC Honor & Service Society organized the tutoring program with students on the island.

“It feels good and is a bit of a taste of reality that you lose from keeping your nose in books all day,” Honor & Service Society president Damian Salerno said.

“It gives us the same motivation for being a doctor.”

Salerno, who received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from SUNY Fredonia in New York, is currently in his fifth semester at AUC. He helped organize the tutoring program, along with Brandon Stransky.

Salerno said the Honor Society has completed two tutoring sessions this semester, and is hoping to finish two more before May.

“The program is one way that the students give back to the community that hosts them for five semesters,” said Dr. Cindy Stroschein, AUC’s Interim Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Faculty Advisor for the Honor & Service Society.

“The Honor Society is a pretty self sufficient group, and they are the best and brightest, so we entrust them to come up with projects on their own.”

The tutoring sessions last approximately two hours and take place at AUC. Honor & Service Society members – about 18 of them – assist St. Maarten Academy students with work in Physics, Math, and Chemistry. The Honor & Service Society uses money from fundraisers to pay for the students’ bus transportation to and from the university.

Salerno said this semester, the Society is doing a silent auction to help pay for those fees.

The Honor & Service Society is an AUC student organization dedicated to excellence in academics and community service to provide what’s necessary for the islanders of St. Maarten. Students are only eligible to be members of the Honor & Service Society when they are going into their fifth semester.

The tutoring program hasn’t only impacted the St. Maarten students.

“I came here straight after undergrad, so in my mind I’m still a kid that no one looks up to,” Yazdani said. “But working with these kids and being looked up to made me feel great, like, wow, I’m almost a doctor.”