It began in the mid 1960's with one man having a vision and much courage
In 1965, the late Lt. Governor of St. Maarten, Japa Beaujon, visited the Netherlands in part to recruit teachers for Sint Maarten. While in the Netherlands, he met a young couple who impressed him with their zeal for education. Governor Beaujon invited the couple, Mr. and Mrs. W. Helmich Snijders, to come to St. Maarten as educators. The Snijders accepted the challenge and left their home, families and friends in the Netherlands and moved to the small and at that time relatively unknown island in the Caribbean. In August of 1965, the young couple arrived on St. Maarten full of hope for the future.
In 1968, the couple was faced with the dilemma of selecting a school for their first-born daughter, who was four years old. They seriously considered establishing a Christian school and began contacting like-minded church leaders. On April 23, 1968, the Foundation for Protestant Christian Education in the Windward Islands (FPCEWI) was established on St. Maarten. The first appointees to this foundation were Mr. Arthur Hodge, Mrs. Inez Thomas, and Mr. Charles Vlaun, who are now deceased; Mr. Klaas Pikkert, a secondary school teacher who now resides in Canada; and Mr. Helmich Snijders, who now serves as the president of the board.
Despite the Foundation’s zeal, there appeared to be few funding opportunities for a Christian school from sources such as local government and international organizations.
In 1973, a parcel of land became available in the St. Peters area but funding remained elusive. To realize their dream, the Snijders obtained a second mortgage on their home and used the proceeds to begin the construction of a small school building. Instead of waiting for construction to be completed, they opened the school in 1974 with 55 students, meeting in a local youth center and the Brown House in St. Peters. Asha took on the challenging roles of school principal and sole teacher of the 55 students, as well as school secretary and nurse, among other roles, until January of 1975 when help arrived.
The newly constructed school, named St. Peters Hillside School, opened its doors in 1975 with four classrooms. A new principal from the Netherlands and two teachers were soon added to the staff. During the 1976-1977 academic year, the government of St. Maarten commissioned the addition of four more classrooms for the school. This allowed the addition of the first Kindergarten class.
In 1985, the island government approved the expansion of the school with Dutch development funds to build 8 classrooms, a gym hall, and 2 office spaces. The project was completed in 1987. The official opening of the new St. Peters Hillside School took place on October 9, 1987. In 1992, Mrs. Stevens met with Angela Decker, director of SIFMA. They decided to start a pilot project in early childhood development in 1994. The pilot class was so successful that it became a permanent part of the St. Peters Hillside School the following academic year.
The name of the school was changed in March, 1995, to The Hillside Christian Schools to reflect its expanded program and its Christian identity.