In a poignant speech before the assembly, Laviest said it did not matter whether the students were born here, or came from elsewhere, it is important that they understand what the day means as they have now made the island their home. Students should know the national symbols of the island and wear the national colours in celebration, he said. To support the efforts of the Academy, Laviest pledged to donate 20 traditional wear to the school, a $3,000 gift and asked students to wear the outfits with pride.
He also read the words of the St. Martin Song and urged students to listen carefully, as the song has significance for the people of the island.
"Only frivolous people...narrow-minded people would have a problem with the words 'donkeys, sheep, and goat'...or with 'Columbus'," the MP told the students referring to the current debate over whether or not to make the St. Martin Song the national anthem of the island.
Students also received a special treat from Benjamin Bell of God's Chosen, who performed his yet-to-be-released song, "Beautiful Island". Before they headed off to classes, Math teacher Olutunde Dalrymple entertained the gathering with folk songs as he played the Congo drum.
St. Maarten Day celebrations will continue at the Academy on Tuesday with class presentations by renowned writer Danielle Jeffrey, who will be speaking to pre-exam students about the history of the island from slavery onward; storyteller Papa Umpo; and poetry workshops by Lenworth Wilson.
On Wednesday, President of Parliament, Drs. Gracita Arrindell will speak to exam students about parliamentary procedures; Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, Mr. Fabian Badejo will present what the new constitutional status means; and Lucinda Audain will give a poetry workshop.
The week of celebrations will culminate on Thursday with the annual Art and Artifacts Exhibition and a special show. The show's line-up will include the Mighty Dow on the steel pans, Saxophonist Connis Vanterpool, Mr. Andre Patrick, the school's Education Advisor Roberto Arrindell, and many talented students.
"We are using this opportunity to celebrate our achievements as a people living on one island and to further educate our students. It is all about cultivating a sense of nationalism in our young people as they showcase the ponum dance, sing local songs, and model traditional wear," said the school's planning committee in a release.
There will be regular school on Thursday during the first four periods. Thereafter, the cultural celebration will begin. Students and teachers are being encouraged to dress in either traditional wear or red, white and blue apparel on that day.