Inspiration and Transformation   Leave a comment

April 28, 2011

By: Paul Lamoureux, Program Director

Orchard Gardens Students and Gala Snail Activity

Gala attendees participate in hands-on activities led by students.

Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Annual Gala was recently held at the Seaport Hotel and was an unmitigated success. More than five hundred people over flowed the Seaport’s largest event room. Student ambassadors and young alumni from Thompson Island Outward Bound programs acted as guides, shepherding attendees from the many hotel entrances to the registration areas while regaling their charges with stories of Thompson Island experiences. Corporate volunteers, many of whom provide service days of physical labor on Thompson Island, were extremely helpful staffing the registration and silent auction areas. The teachers, principals, and most importantly the students we serve shared their Thompson Island experiences on stage and spoke about the great impact that Thompson Island has had on them and their schools.

An Island Classroom.

Boston's Island Classroom.

As I listened to students from the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, I felt extremely proud to work for Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. Their stories reinforced for me the impact that our programs and our island have on people, in this case students from one of the historically worst performing schools in the state.

It was heartening to hear from the new Orchard Gardens principal, Andrew Bott, as well as from an award-winning science teacher, Erin Dukeshire, about how important Thompson Island experiences have been for their students. They discussed how Thompson Island program curriculum has been integrated into classroom curriculum and has helped jump-start learning. Thompson Island, they said, has also helped change the culture at the school and has created strong bonds, both among students and teachers, as well as among peers. Thompson Island program alumni are now student leaders at the school and are pivotal in aiding the school’s “turnaround” process.

Thompson Island posters in the Orchard Gradens Foyer

Thompson Island collages in the Orchard Gardens foyer.

I recently visited Orchard Gardens School and the first thing I noticed upon entering the spacious foyer was a huge collage of photos of Thompson Island experiences. Given this entry way, I was not entirely surprised that as I walked through the hallways with my Thompson Island shirt on, I was repeatedly stopped by students who wanted to say hi and talk about their island trip, or those with eyes wide when they asked, “Do you work for Thompson Island? I want to go to Thompson Island!”

I’m reminded that the Thompson Island experience is so rich and has so many different aspects that you are never sure which one will be the most impactful. Will it be the ferry ride to Thompson Island? The vast majority of Boston inner city youth have never been on a boat before. Will it be camping in the fields or sleeping in a dorm room that feels a little bit like you’re in college? Will it be getting stuck in the salt marsh mud or climbing the Alpine Tower? Could it possibly be the Nitro swing or will it be catching and identifying insects in the meadow? Tide pooling or beachcombing? Catching minnows or eating the awesome food in the dining hall perhaps? The list goes on and on. What is undeniable, however, is the effect, the glow, the impact. I could talk about the fantastic evaluation results, both academically and developmentally, but not here, not today. Today, I’ll just glow myself and bask in the positive feelings that Thompson Island experiences generate.

Thompson Island Ferry brings smiles to visitors.

Thompson Island's ferry brings smiles to students and visitors.

It is equally clear that this impact, this feeling, does not only apply to teachers and students. This holds true for everyone who comes to Thompson Island from the conference attendees, to wedding parties, to professional groups, to the scientists and researchers, to the corporate volunteers, to the company clambake outings, to the runners in our annual 4k race. No matter what the program or event, Thompson Island has the power to touch or transform lives and to create lasting memories through learning or bonding experiences. And all of this on a beautiful island only one mile from downtown Boston!

Patrick Chung of the NE Patriots participates in the live auction.

Patrick Chung of the NE Patriots at the Thompson Island gala.

Attending our recent Gala was yet another reminder for me of this impact and I’m truly thankful for the incredible generosity of all the stakeholders attending the event. Apparently guests could clearly see Thompson Island’s impact because their donations enabled us to exceed our fundraising goals. I’m extremely proud and grateful to be working for an organization that inspires such support from its board and its donors.

I also want to thank the corporate and student volunteers who worked at the Gala. We couldn’t have done it without you. But mainly, the youth who stood up on stage, in front of more than five hundred well dressed, successful adults and bravely and articulately spoke about their Thompson Island experiences. After seeing their poise and hearing them speak, I understand what Principal Bott means about a new culture emerging at Orchard Gardens fed by student leaders from Thompson Island programs.

Summer Learning students with teamflag.

Summer Learning students with team flag.

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