Service Spotlight: Students Volunteer at Local Schools, Soup Kitchen, and Little League Field

Future physicians are often passionate about serving others, and we are proud that so many AUC students give back to the community of St. Maarten during their time on the island. Read on for a snapshot of community engagement initiatives that students have taken on in the past few weeks.

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Restoring Local Preschool, Just Kid Inn

A group of students from Phi Chi, AUC’s community service fraternity, spent their Saturday cleaning up a local preschool that had been closed since Hurricane Irma. Thanks to their efforts, it’s now open again—just in time for the new school year.

Owner Ms. Carolina Garcia had purchased a new property for her school, Just Kid Inn, after the original location was damaged beyond repair by Irma. On Saturday, July 28, Phi Chi members went to the new location to clean up the area and help make it child-friendly. Students were able to remove rocks, nails, and broken glass from the yard and playground, as well as clean the toys and equipment inside. 

“After Hurricane Irma, I never thought we would be able to restart the school,” Ms. Garcia wrote in an email to AUC. “Opening Just Kid Inn has given meaning and purpose to my life again. I am forever grateful to everyone at AUC for helping to recover this project and for making a difference in the community.” 

Ms. Garcia was also quick to praise AUC students for their enthusiasm, work ethic, and positive demeanor. With their support, she was able to open Just Kid Inn and welcome new students on Tuesday, July 31.

Third-semester student Lauren Zvolanek said the group hopes to keep working with the school in the future. 

“We plan on continuing our relationship with Just Kid Inn and coming up with more projects to complete,” Lauren said.  

Preparing and Delivering Meals

Throughout this semester, several students gathered at the Seventh Day Adventist Church's Soup Kitchen in Cole Bay to help provide meals for community members in need. Sunday mornings found them cooking and preparing food, while the afternoon shift was responsible for packing and delivering meals. 

Third-semester student Mariel Chan described it as an eye-opening experience. She initiated the collaboration after discussing community engagement opportunities with Dr. Golden Jackson, AUC’s Assistant Dean for Service Learning and Community Affairs.   

“I find it amazing that they drive to neighborhoods to deliver meals to families,” she said. “After delivering food for the first time, I got a little snippet of the local residents’ daily lives and how valuable this is for them.”

Volunteer opportunities with the soup kitchen will resume in September.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to take a break from their studies and serve the locals in need,” Mariel said. 

Tutoring Youth and Hitting Home Runs

The Pediatrics Interest Group (PIG) celebrated PIG Day on Friday, July 27 by volunteering with one of AUC’s longstanding community partners, Player Development SXM. Led by Coach Tom Burnett, Player Development is an afterschool program in Philipsburg that provides a safe space for children to learn, discover, and play baseball.  

Seventeen aspiring pediatricians led children through an exercise on leadership and seven habits of good leaders. They discussed things like finding balance while being a leader, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and staying focused on education. There was also time to help with reading and language skills before everyone took to the mound for a friendly game of baseball. 

For third semester student and PIG secretary Jordan Coyner, the day was an opportunity to bond with the children of Player Development. 

“I asked one of the children what they wanted to be when they grow up and he said I want to be a doctor like you,” said Jordan. “This relationship gives us an opportunity to tell the kids that they can be anything they want to be in life. If they set their minds on a goal and work hard, they too can achieve anything.”

As Jordan put it, time with Player Development isn’t always about what AUC students can teach the children. 

“They always end up teaching us a thing or two.”

Teaching Fifth Graders About Organ Systems 

Eight AUC students traveled to the Sister Borgia Elementary School’s fifth grade classroom on July 24 as a part of the university’s Body Smaart initiative. The student-led health education program teaches primary school children about anatomy, physiology, diet and exercise. AUC students volunteer their time to teach and help tutor young children, incorporating active learning strategies to reinforce the school curriculum.

The lesson of the day focused on the heart, lungs and GI system. Many of the children had never thought much about the GI tract, but that was all about to change. 

By the end of the day, the class was able to adequately draw, label, and recite the chambers and valves of the heart. And because all fifth graders need to expel energy, AUC students showed them how to take a pulse and respiratory rate—and then helped test hypotheses on how exercise and activity can affect the heart and lungs.

“They would engage in an exercise of their choice and then write down their new pulse and respiratory rate,” said AUC student Abdullah “Abe” Atieh. “It allowed them to identify increases to their pulse and respiratory rate and understand the reasons why.”

Students also learned important lessons about poor diet, smoking and alcohol consumption, and how unhealthy habits can affect each organ system. The day concluded with an elimination-style game of trivia, which allowed the students to demonstrate their understanding of the day’s lesson.