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UPG attends first ever Caribbean Student Conference at Erasmus University

Rotterdam,The Netherlands- On November 23rd, UPG attended the first Dutch Caribbean Student Congress at Erasmus University. The theme was “Elevate your mind, Elevate your potential”, a day consisting of a variety of workshops powered to give students useful tips, tricks and tools that will help them to successfully complete their degrees. These workshops took place during the morning and the main event, a series of inspiring and captivating speakers and presenters in the afternoon. The day was then ended with an hour of networking.

A few of these speakers were Ms.Jean-Maire Molina, an Expert Eeducator on Study Success at Hogeschool Rotterdam. She drove a powerful presentation on her vision on Mindset, failure and success based on her Tough Love teaching method.The method looks at focusing on success rather than remaining and giving all your energy on failure. She even brought proof of her methods, with her student counterpart and future motivational speaker, Alexius Labega. 

Jandino Asporaat, Comedian and Star of Bon Bini, the movie, made his talk about the students.Taking questions from the audience shed light on his journey to success, Asporaat shared shared his experience of coming from Curacao and dealing with the shame of not speaking the Dutch language perfectly.Then, learning what made him special and how tapping into and cultivating his natural talents coupled with hard work led him to his current success. Ending his talk, with encouraging the students to dream big and work hard.

Aminata Cairo, PhD, Lecturer for Inclusion and Diversity at The Hague University, delivered a presentation on Connected Learning. She first interacted with the audience with singing and dancing that later lead into great storytelling. These were stories  that spoke about the good and hard times in her education, the family stress she endured and those that her student colleagues were enduring that drove the message of “never judge someone’s success because internally they could be struggling”. It was truly a refreshing and memorable experience.  

UPG saw and meet many students from the different Dutch Caribbean islands as well as other stakeholders present. It was a great days if showing support to other organizations, learning from others and being inspired.

Why we chose to stay: Carlvin Brooks

What is your background?
I have a background in law, more specifically financial law. For the last couple of years I have been working in financial services and most recently, about 6 months ago, I started working in the field of Anti-money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.

What do you find is the biggest reason that people do not return to St. Maarten?

They do not know where to start. When most students are finished with their studies, they talk about wanting to return. But there is huge uncertainty on where they will be able to find work. The only place where they talk about working is for the government. So, I would say it’s not being certain of where they would be able to find work and secondly, finding work in the field in which they studied.

What do you want to focus on while in UPG?

I have 2 approaches. First, it is developing the platform of UPG, to a platform where (young) professionals and students can join and gain experience in a field that they are passionate about while building their professional network. Secondly, taking time out to really get to know the people of the islands, coaching (young) professionals, students and help them accomplish the goals they have set out for themselves on a personal level.


What goals have you made for yourself in UPG?

The main goal that I have right now is to make sure that the system works, to make sure that the platform develops! For the rest of this year, time is being taken to research what happens when someone gets the opportunity of a lifetime. As an example if a young professional or a students gets the opportunity to work doing the job that they have always dreamed of, what does that do to them? Where do they need to develop to handle the responsibility that comes with the job? Personally, when it happened to me, I could not really believe it until, I started myself. And then I began to realize that having my dream job was a lot harder than I imagined it would be. I needed a lot of coaching to help me build up skills that I did not have before.


When was this? When did you get this opportunity of a lifetime? Can you share more about that?

It started with the concept itself of UPG. A few years ago, after attending a project management workshop, I contacted the main speaker via Facebook. We quickly had a meeting with each other in which I had the chance to ask him, about his professional experience. During our meeting, we spoke about my dream of giving back to Sint Maarten. We then spoke about how this can be approached and before I knew it, UPG was a fact. It took awhile before everything could actually sink in. I’m going to make sure that UPG works. I saw what it helped me and it will do the same for someone else.

How did UPG develop your career? How did it take you to the next level in your career?

It taught me a lot about strategy. Whenever you want to do something, everyone always has an opinion or an idea of how it should be done, especially at work. Chances are they see it different than you. However, you were not hired to necessarily do things differently. You were hired to do a certain job and that’s it.  Here’s is where having a thought out strategy comes in, you first have to find out how things work within your work environment. Once you know what works, you will see what you need to do to change things. You’ll also gain confidence when you discover that you can change things if you approach it the right way.

I’ve learnt that if you want to create big changes you get it accomplished with a lot of small steps. You need to understand the process of small steps, or goals. You have to learn how to accomplish goals quickly. It is possible to accomplish big things and it is possible to do things differently you just have to break it down into steps.

This has helped me tremendously now that I am working! Now when I enter an environment I want to know what is expected of me. I then break the expectations into smaller goals that others can see and manage. It makes it easy for those around me to give tips on how to improve what I am doing.


How did that help you get to another level?, Did you say to yourself, “Okay, I want a new job and what I did in UPG helped me to do that ? What did you do?

Well, it took some time to figure out what I wanted. I have a background in Financial Law. That is a broad field of law and doesn’t really say much when you apply for a job. It does show that you know about financial law, but that’s it. However during my study I did specialize in payment systems, so that helped with narrowing down what I’m good at. A payment system is a system that allows money to be transferred from one bank account to the other. Not much jobs are available in this field. In order to get a job in that field you first need experience. And I did not have that.

UPG helped me to understand that I have to find out what skills I need for my career. It can be that you need three main skills. You may not get the chance to gain experience with all three skills in one job, but you can select one skill and apply for a job that helps you gain experience with that one skill.

So when I was approached to work as an Anti-Money Laundering Analyst, I immediately saw how this job can be used as a stepping stone in furthering my career. The other skills I can learn through being active in UPG.

UPG has helped me to understand, when building a career, vary rarely you get a job that matches perfectly with where you want to go. Everything takes time.


How do you think your background will help you to accomplish the goals that you have set out for yourself in UPG?

My background has a lot to do with finances and financial systems. One thing that I want to happen is for UPG to reach to a point where people can work full time to assist our people with returning home! In order to do this I am working on ways to get us funded. So my background is helping me to see options that are available to fund our activities.  I think compared to other people I have an advantage. when it comes to that.


How so? How do you have an advantage?

I studied how to set up financial systems. So if anyone should know how to get us funded, it should be me. But having knowledge and applying it are two different things. UPG has given me the chance to apply what I studied and I have gotten better at applying what I learned but I still have lot of work to do to develop myself so that I can be useful to the people around me.

So I do have the feeling that I am busy with something important, everyday I’m learning something new. I have to be independent, work good within a team and at the same time a high level of responsibility has been placed on me.

What do you want others to know about UPG, if someone were to ask you?

I will break it down in 3 parts.  For students, it’s a place where you can get work experience during your study. There is always room for new talent, you can apply and start working immediately. For professionals, it helps you use the work experience that you already have to see opportunities that are available on the islands. The goal is to motivate you to go back home because your island needs you. Lastly, for both groups, you can use UPG as a bridge to find your way back home!  

Welcome to Cheryll Bute

cheryll-buteUPG warmly welcomes Cheryll Bute to the team after a wonderful and exiting meeting in Amsterdam, along with Mel Lake, Albert Brooks, Shaquille Peters and Raimond Nicodem.

Cheryll masters International and European Tax Law at the University of Amsterdam, after obtaining her BSc/LLB  International Business, Trade and Tax Law at the same University. She works at IFAA Accounts & Belastingadviseurs.

Cheryll will be part of the Legal & Financial team of UPG and brings vast knowledge, cheer and quality to the team.

Welcome Cheryll, on behalf of the whole UPG team!

First integral UPG team meeting

First integral UPG team meeting - Library of AmsterdamThis past Thursday night, the entire UPG team met in the Public Library of Amsterdam to discuss the developments of UPG and future projects on the horizon.

The library reflects on UPG by the ability tapping into almost unlimited amount of knowledge, available to research and validate findings. Also the students network as well as the executive network of the UPG team members adds to the value.


Streamlining UPG for projects

First integral UPG team meeting - Discussion on internal work togetherThiFirst integral UPG team meeting - Discussion on projectss meeting was focused on streamlining UPG and and to organize end handling efficient and effective project work. Processes and agreements to better the individual, better the areas of specialisms and thus better the output by not “bypassing” in doing it yourself and to build on each other instead.

Efforts are made to effectively work together, to cooperate and build onto each other, to create a role model of “practise what you preach”. We are fresh and we can do this right from the start.

Intern became a small brainstorm session, where may ideas flowed on how optimally start and approach projects in general. We talked about and agreed upon the openness in connections with others on the island.

Connection with St. Maarten

shtaWith great enthusiasm of both parties UPG has been approached last week by the SHTA (the St. Maarten Trade and Hospitality Association), who based, on the great article we had in The Daily Herald, congratulated UPG on the initiative. The Board of Directors and the Executive Director of the SHTA wholeheartedly embraced our initiative. With their great interest in the initiative, our enthusiasm and their willingness to support the group, an initial set of three projects were proposed to work together on.

All three projects have sparked major interest with UPG. Right from the beginning, the first project will be at a strategic level, which requires a wide range of expertise and disciplines that is not exclusive to one department. We name this multi-disciplinary or integral. All departments can contribute this project. This is the speciality of UPG: bundle and manage all their high level and intelligent sources to better the results.

We’re very excited to be embark on this journey with STHA as it is the first step in contributing to the economic, social and environmental change of the island. Further information will follow as we proceed.

Areas of specialism

First integral UPG team meeting - Talking about areas of specialsmTo further streamline the development of UPG, areas of specialisms are defined. Currently there are five namely: Technical, Marketing & Communication, Strategy & Operations, Finance and Customer Management. Each area is able to contribute functionally to a project as well as jointly, which is key for the results: everyone  is able to apply their knowledge and develop their functional and cross-functional skills in a context that is beneficial to the island.

Wrap-up dinner for the evening

First integral UPG team meeting - dinnerIt already becomes a bit of a tradition in UPG: Hard work, fun and talking about exciting topics makes hungry.

After the formal meeting we enjoyed a nice and small homely meal on the top floor of the Public Library of Amsterdam.

It shows the team spirit, enthusiasm, drive and proudness of the wonderful initiative we took, now growing towards a professional and stimulating environment for everyone.