April, 2013

By Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs

On April 11th, more than 500 Bostonians gathered at the Seaport Hotel to support Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center at the organization’s Annual Gala. The result was the most successful Gala in TIOBEC history, raising more than $575,000. The generosity of the participants was both overwhelming and humbling and I thank each and every guest for their support.

Channel 5's Randy Price, along with Principal Jeff Slater and students from the Curley K-8 school, onstage at the Gala

Emceed by Randy Price from WCVB TV Channel 5 Eye-Opener News, the evening consisted of a cocktail reception and silent auction, an inspirational video of students participating in programs on Thompson Island, remarks of welcome and thanks by TIOBEC President Arthur Pearson and a group initiative that I led (typically done by students on the island) that had the entire room on their feet and engaged.

Gala guests enjoy the interactive group activity led by VP Programs, Paul Lamoureux

Following a tasty dinner, there was a lively and extremely successful auction orchestrated by the entertaining Paul Zekos; moving remarks about perseverance and courage by North Star Award recipient Ryan Enright of Equity Office; and closing remarks by Chairman of the Board, Sandy McGinnes. Throughout the evening, current students and young alumni of Thompson Island Outward Bound programs circulated through the rooms, acting as ambassadors and regaling guests with stories of their experiences with Thompson Island and the transformative aspects of our programs.

Student ambassadors share Thompson Island stories with Gala guests

All of this, however, was the backdrop to the featured speaker of the evening, Jeff Slater, the Principal of the Curley K-8 School in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. Principal Slater was joined on stage by three of his 7th grade students who had participated in Connections programs on Thompson Island. Rather than try to summarize Principal Slater’s remarks, I have included them here in their entirety. I send my thanks to Principal Slater for agreeing to speak at the Gala and for so eloquently expressing the value of our programs to the assembled guests.

“My name is Jeff Slater and I’m the Principal at the Curley K-8 School. The Curley is a Boston Public School in Jamaica Plain with a strong academic program, a dedicated faculty and staff, an engaged parent community, and some of the best kids in the world! Our educational philosophy is about the development of the “whole child.” As the school leader, I believe in the balance between students’ academic success and the development of their social, emotional, and behavioral well-being. To that end, we look to partner with organizations that help us support that vision. For me, Thompson Island has been a critical partner in helping us meet those needs for our students.

Tonight’s theme is “Discovery of the Heart, Body and Mind.” Through our partnership with Thompson Island, I have had the unique experience of seeing first-hand how our students at the Curley are directly impacted in those areas. I see the Connections program as so important to our school that I have consistently invested the time to stay on the island during the entire 3 days and 2 nights. Spending this out-of-school time is a special experience for me as I watch the students flourish in a supportive learning environment that is completely new to most of them. Many students have never been on a boat or an island before. Most have very little exposure to the ocean, despite living so close to it. All are amazed at how close this “island wilderness” is to Boston when they gaze back at the nearby skyline.

One of the things I treasure most about our visits to Thompson Island is the opportunity it provides our students from diverse backgrounds to get to know each other in ways they otherwise would not. Students from various cultural backgrounds, English Language Learners, students with special needs – they all have the opportunity to learn together and participate in activities that help them to open their hearts and support each other in a unique learning environment. They learn the power of working together as a team and the importance of effective communication, mutual respect and compassion. I have the distinct pleasure of seeing how that translates back into the relationships that continue to grow and blossom when students return to the school.

Health and wellness is a key priority for us at the Curley. We strive to make sure that our students’ bodies grow as strong as their minds. Thompson Island helps us to support our work in this area by providing our students with physical challenges both individually and as a team. Also, students walk everywhere on the island and are constantly on the move between one learning environment and another. Whether challenging themselves on a ropes course or traversing the salt marsh, students are always active and engaged.

The development of our students’ minds is also a critical component of our experience with Thompson Island. Every year, their curricular specialists work with our teachers and staff to continually refine the academic components of the programming for our students. The process begins in our classrooms at the Curley, where the groundwork is laid for the lessons our students will be engaged in on the island. Careful effort is made to connect the learning on the island with the school’s Science curriculum. Hands-on activities help make the learning real for our students. What better place to learn about ecosystems than on an island with diverse habitats of beach, meadow, forest and marsh? How better to discover the interrelationships of organisms than through seeing them and touching them on an island filled with birds, fish, insects and small mammals…..including the bones they recover from Owl pellets in the Lab!

The amazing partnership that we have with Thompson Island provides our students with numerous benefits and the impact of student learning on the island lasts far beyond their actual visit. The relationships that are developed help to improve our school climate and culture. The physical activities contribute to our students’ success both on and off the playing field. And, the experiential learning helps to broaden our students’ thinking about the world they live in.

I am extremely grateful for the support that Thompson Island gives us in helping to meet the needs of our students. And, with your support, I look forward to continuing to grow and deepen our relationship as we work together to develop the hearts, bodies and minds of Boston’s students. Thank you.”

A 7th grade student from the Curley K-8 school steals the show while onstage at the Gala

The Gala was yet another reminder of the impact of Thompson Island programs and I’m truly thankful for the amazing generosity of all those attending the event. I’m extremely proud and grateful to be part of an organization that inspires such support from the community.
I also want to thank the students, their families, and other friends of Thompson Island who volunteered at the Gala. We couldn’t have done it without you. But mostly, I want to thank Principal Jeff Slater who so clearly demonstrated his passion for the value and impact of the Thompson Island experience.

Teachers from the Lilla G. Frederick Middle School in Dorchester attend the Gala to show their support

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