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Giving a Gift for LIFE: MBTS Donates Over 1,300 Books to Local Literacy Charity

Ms. Erin Galatopoulos of LIFE, Ms. Jenny Frizzelle of the MBTS Parents’ Guild, MBTS Co-principal Ms. Debbie Thompson, Ms. Marilyn Conolly, Executive Director of LIFE, and several MBTS students smile with the spirit of the season, alongside 1,327 books collected for charity.

In just over 2 weeks, from November 25th to December 11th, the children and families of Montessori By The Sea (MBTS) collected 1,327 children’s books, with the purpose of sharing the joy of reading this holiday season.  

The books were donated to Cayman’s literacy charity, Literacy Is For Everyone, or LIFE, whose mission is “to improve the quality of life for residents of the Cayman Islands by providing supplementary literacy programmes and initiatives for children and adults, and by helping to raise the quality of education in the public school system.”

When they arrived at the school to collect donations on the afternoon of December 13th, Ms. Marilyn Conolly, Executive Director of LIFE, along with Ms. Erin Galatopoulos, Coordinator of LIFE’s book donation program, were astounded by the number of books collected by the children and families of Montessori By The Sea. “We are absolutely floored by the response from this school community; over 1,300 books is incredible!” stated Ms. Erin, “It’s a heartfelt show of kindness and generosity from a school that clearly values both reading and giving back to the community.”

While being the largest Montessori school on island, with over one 150 students spanning the ages of 2 – 12 years old, MBTS is still a relatively small school community, especially when compared with the other, much bigger private schools on island. Thus, this huge haul of over 1,300 new and gently-used books – averaging 8.5 books per student – is particularly impressive, and indicative that this small, special school has a BIG heart.

The LIFE Book Drive is very much in line with MBTS’s focus on whole-child development, and on cultivating empathy and compassion alongside academic ability and skill. MBTS Co-Principal Ms. Debbie Thompson states, “A Montessori education is so much more than just academics. Developing life skills and a foundation in character, values and virtues is just as important – perhaps even more so – than being brilliant in math or being a proficient writer. The LIFE Book Drive is just one example of the many ways children learn compassion and the importance of giving back to the community here at MBTS.”

Philanthropy is evident in MBTS’s philosophy as a school. For many years, its pioneering Kids C.A.R.E. Program actively involved its Upper Elementary students (Grades 4-6) in a wide variety of community outreach programs every week, from walking dogs and raising funds for the Humane Society, visiting the elderly at the Pines, and collecting goods for young heart surgery patients last year. The school has always prioritized the cultivation of care for others and the environment at every age: children as young as three years old eagerly participate in beach clean-ups, and students of all ages regularly lead and organize bake sales and collection drives for different charities.

Education is very much a partnership between the school and the home at Montessori By The Sea; the school has a very active and tightly-knit family community: “We’re very lucky to have a parent body that passionately supports the school’s stance on the importance of cultivating compassion in our children,” says Ms. Kourtni Jackson, MBTS Co-Principal.

Initiated and organized by the MBTS Parents’ Guild, the LIFE Book Drive was a way for parents to share the love of reading beyond their own families and school community. “Our children really love reading, and we just wanted to share it with others,” says Ms. Jackie Myles, Vice-Chair of the Parents’ Guild. “If we want our children to practice kindness, as parents, we need to take the lead by setting an example for our kids.”  

“Especially during the holiday season, we really want to instill in our children the belief that giving is so much more fulfilling than receiving; in essence, that giving is a gift in itself,” adds Ms. Kourtni.

This is how the Montessori By The Sea school community celebrates the spirit of the season: by going beyond holiday trimmings and festivities, to find and share the true joy of giving. 

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To learn more about supporting LIFE, please contact Ms. Marilyn Conolly at info@life.org.ky or at 938.6300, or visit the LIFE website.

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