~ Job Coach, Educational Motivator and Dream Catcher ~
Every Academy PSVE student and former student knows who Sabahoglu Zeynep is. Better known as Miss Zen, she has been job coach at the high school for more than seven years and has done her best to answer questions, motivate when needed and help pave many a student’s path to success. It isn’t always an easy job, but Miss Zen does not give up easily! She is determined and passionate to help as many young people as she can to achieve their goals in life and ultimately reach for the stars so they can grab hold of their dreams.
Tell us a bit about where and how you grew up?
My parents migrated from Turkey to Holland in 1970 to have a better life. I was born the second child of four in Hengelo, which meant that I grew up very multicultural speaking Turkish, Arabic and Dutch. There wasn’t much money around so my mom had to be extremely creative for us to get by. She had her own vegetable and fruit garden and made clothes for us to wear. Looking back I have a lot of admiration for my mom.
How did you find yourself on Sint Maarten and what was your first impression of the island?
During university, I made friends who were from Sint Maarten. When they had moved back, they invited me over to come and visit, which I did in 2006. As anyone who visits the island, I liked the beaches and the weather, but what I loved most was the friendly and laid-back culture of the people on the island. Just a year later, I made the decision to move to the island for a year to see how I would like living on Sint Maarten. That is now 10 years ago [laughs].
Why did you decide to go into education?
I grew up in Holland, experiencing discrimination first-hand, not only from my fellow students but from teachers as well. There were many misconceptions going around about my family background. My siblings and I had to work extra hard to prove ourselves. We lived in a Dutch society but at home were taught Turkish and Arab cultural morals and rules. We had to constantly adapt, which was not easy for us, but often even harder to explain to others what we had to go through. I want to be there for students who have it rough as well; students who are going through similar or other difficult situations. I want to let them know that I understand them, hear them out and will try to help them using my own life-examples. Most importantly, I want to teach them to never give up pushing yourself because in the end, you are the price!
What did you like least and most about being a guidance counsellor at PSVE?
I sometimes wonder if people truly know what our young people go through. There is so much misunderstanding and hardship going around that it is heart breaking to hear the stories the students tell me at times. It is even worse when you feel as if you cannot help them enough with the few resources you are given. I wish there were more funds and attention pumped into the schools on the island so we could give students the attention and help they deserve! Of course, my work also has a lot of rewards; I form such strong bonds with certain students that I treasure greatly. I love to see students reach their goals. It makes me so happy to join students who invite me to their graduation after they have finished PSVE, knowing that although they had a hard time, they pushed themselves and stayed focused so they could stand on that stage and receive their diploma!
What other things do you enjoy doing when you are not in school?
Hugging and cuddling with my “umpalumpa” (daughter); she is medicine to my soul. I also love going out with friends and family, doing research, learning new things or watching documentaries, kicking up my legs to watch the sunset while sipping my wine, going to the beach and – as all my close friends know – I am a proud coffeeholic and LOVE a good cup of coffee!
Any other big future plans?
Oh yes, in the making! I want to have my own offices all around the Caribbean where people can come for help and leave refreshed, motivated, excited and a better person! I want to help people get the job they want, improve their skills, reach their goals, realize their dreams and grow into the person they envision!
What is the most important advice you give to your students?
That depends on the student and their situation BUT I always think it is important to remind them that their current situation does not have to be their lasting situation. I’ll also add: “Keep your eye on the prize which is YOU. Winners do what losers don’t. Walk tall and keep your head high and STAY FOCUSED!”
If you could serve three people (dead or alive) dinner, who would they be and what would you serve them?
Prince – I would tell him about how I grew up, what I am up to now, and how his music helped me through that journey; my grandparents who died too young so I did not really get to know them – I would love to hear their stories: all my siblings and my daughter (I know I am cheating but I can’t help it!) – they would have to be at the dinner table too so they can also meet my grandparents and learn more about their roots! I would cook them the authentic Hatay/Arab food which is basically what my mom would cook, as she is from Hatay. The dishes have loads of fresh own-grown vegetables and herbs – this also means that it tastes incredible!