The Nature Foundation St. Maarten selected five local students to participate in their first Junior Ranger Year Program with support of the ‘Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds Caribisch gebied’, Yacht Club Port de Plaisance, the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) and Ocean Explorers. On Saturday, August 15th the Nature Foundation held its first meeting with the new Junior Ranger Participants for the 2020-2021 program, last year the Foundation already organized a Junior Ranger Exchange to Bonaire with the support of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance. The goal of the Junior Ranger Program is to educate and motivate St. Maarten’s youth to learn more about their natural environment and what they can do to help protect it. Thanks to the generous contributions of both the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and Ocean Explorers Dive Center these members will also be able to earn their PADI Junior Open Water Diver Certification. The course which consists of theory, skills, and open water diving will give members the chance to see St. Maarten’s coral reefs firsthand. Yacht Club Port de Plaisance funded the position of Educational Outreach Officer at the Nature Foundation, the AUC supported toward the Save St. Maarten Corals projects which will be a leading part in the Junior Ranger Program.
“The Junior Rangers Program is an amazing opportunity for students to be introduced to several aspects of our local environment and the ecological threats the island is facing. The only way to make lasting change for St. Maarten is to educate the next generation to regard our natural resources with respect and instil a sense of responsibility to protect these resources,” says Nature Foundation Educational Outreach Officer Leslie Hickerson, “Including the Junior Open Water Diver Certification is an outstanding addition as it is a lifetime certification that these students will be able to apply either recreationally or in their future careers.”
The selected 2020-2021 Nature Foundation Junior Rangers are; Florianthe Boasman (K-12 International Academy), Stéfanie Frederiks (CIA), Seybian Ortega (LU), Jai Shahani (St. Dominic High), and Nubia Stomp (St. Dominic High). Local students ages 12 to 14 applied to join the program over the summer by submitting essays about what we can do to help the island’s natural resources. In the student’s essays they highlighted local issues like the use of the landfill, plastic pollution, and lack of recycling.
Applicant Stéfanie Frederiks said, “The environment of Sint Maarten (and actually the environment of the planet) is something we really must protect, as if it is a golden nugget. Because if you own a golden nugget, you will take very good care of it, you would not want it to become dirty and you would not want it to break. This is how we must treat this planet and our island. If we protect the environment, we are ensuring that we can breathe clean air. Also, it is important that our island remains clean and that it stays like that. A messy island is not a nice island. Not for the people living here but also not for the tourists.”
The Rangers took to their first meeting to discuss the environmental threats they think have the most impact on St. Maarten and what residents and the Nature Foundation can do to combat them. Members will focus on these threats in monthly meetings and activities throughout the year. Each meeting will cover a different aspect of conservation or St. Maarten’s terrestrial and marine environment.
“I am very excited to learn about ways I can help protect the environment as a young child. I want to be able to make my ideas become real and be a role model,” said Junior Ranger Florianthe Boasman, “I hope to learn more about the animals on St. Maarten. I find a lot of joy in helping animals and learning about plants.”
“I am so happy that I was chosen to become a Junior Ranger because I love nature and I would like to learn more about the natural environment of Sint Maarten, especially the underwater life. I was born and raised in Sint Maarten and I think it is very important for young persons like myself to learn more about the nature and the environment so that we can help with protecting the nature and the environment of our island. I would love to make new friends who also think the same as I do and who love nature,” said Junior Ranger Stéfanie Frederiks.
Those wishing to contribute to this program or volunteer their time can contact the Nature Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Caption: Educational Outreach Officer Leslie Hickerson together with Stefanie Frederiks and Florianthe Boasman during the first meeting, Junior rangers Seybian Ortega, Jai Shahani, and Nubia Stomp joined in online via Zoom.