Members of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine’s (AUC) Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) partnered with the St. Maarten Mid-Isle Rotary Club to fill and donate 90 backpacks to local school children.


The backpacks were presented as a surprise to Ki-Mani Olivacce, a 15-year-old student from Phillipsburg who started a back-to-school drive after learning that many families struggle to afford supplies for their children.

In June, Olivacce called on local businesses and organizations to provide things like binders, notepads, pencils, calculators, folders and more in time for the 2016-17 school year. As the first day of school—August 18—inches closer, the LMSA’s donation has certainly helped Olivacce achieve his goal.

Aligning with the Community

Olivacce wasn’t originally on LMSA’s radar but the timing of his drive turned out to be serendipitous.

After beginning to raise funds for a mission trip to Guatemala, LMSA had to put the trip on hold due to logistical challenges. It was around that time that Brian Greene, a student at AUC and Rotary Club member, heard about Olivacce’s back-to-school drive. He spread word around campus and reached out to student organizations, including LMSA, to support it.

“When we realized the mission trip was off, we knew we wanted to use our funds to give back to the community,” said Kayla Anthony, Secretary of LMSA. “Ki-Mani’s story really hit home for us and it was an easy decision for LMSA to get involved.”

With help from Greene, Anthony and LMSA President Patrick Bergin connected with the Rotary Club and began hatching a plan. On a single Saturday—over a long 8 hours—Bergin and Anthony drove across the island purchasing numerous school supplies. Later, back on campus, the two stuffed 50 backpacks while the Mid-Isle Rotary Club separately purchased and filled 40 backpacks.

“We were very touched by the Rotary Club’s generosity,” said Anthony. “We’d like to find opportunities like this to partner with them again in the future.”

Fulfilling a Local Youth’s Dream

Ki-Mani.jpegBoth LMSA and the Rotary Club decided to keep word of their work mum. That decision built excitement and anticipation for Tuesday, July 26, when two SUVs arrived at a Rotary meeting to surprise Olivacce.

“He was incredibly gracious and humble,” said Bergin. “I don’t think he imagined such a large donation; it was great to see the community come together and support him.”

Olivacce, who will begin his sophomore year of high school at Learning Unlimited, plans to distribute the backpacks to students who are unable to afford supplies.

Inspiring a Next Generation of Medical Students

Bergin and Anthony hope the backpack initiative continues next year, and that LMSA’s involvement becomes a tradition.

“Raising money for the island is very important to LMSA and to AUC,” said Anthony. “We hope to continue this type of work and to get incoming classes excited about working with the community.”

Both overwhelmingly recommend that other AUC students—whether new or returning—look into the university’s student clubs and interest groups. And, with the fall semester about to begin, multiple events and fairs will be held to introduce students to a variety of such organizations.

LMSA, for example, is a chapter of the National Latino Medical Student Association. The student-led group promotes Latino culture in the field of medicine and educates other AUC students about Latino health issues. In addition to community service events, LMSA hosts Spanish workshops that help teach students Spanish terms and review ways to approach and deliver healthcare to Latino patients. Workshops are particularly helpful for students who go on to rotate at clinical sites where Spanish is prominent—places like Miami and New York.

To learn more about LMSA and to contact the group, send an email to

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Shannon Toher

Posted August 07, 2016 04:02 PM

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