Most of us Americans are here because someone in our family, somewhere along the line, thought America was the land of opportunity. And indeed it is, despite the global financial crisis, despite unrest all over the world, and despite what other countries can offer their citizens. No other country in the world is quite like ours and most of us Americans know that. In fact, all we have to do is to travel a few hundred miles to our south to see just how difficult getting ahead can be.
We recently returned from a short trip to Belize, formerly known as British Honduras. Most of Central America was colonized by the Spanish, but this country the size of New Hampshire was controlled by the British until 1981, when the country became independent and changed its name to reflect its Mayan roots. Naturally, the country’s official language is English and is spoken in the schools, but at home the Belizeans speak either one of several Mayan dialects or Spanish. And among themselves the Belizeans speak a Creole. A country of about 300,000 finds itself a third-world country despite the facts that 90% of its children complete 8th grade and 70% complete high school, and all of its citizens speak multiple languages. We mono-lingual Americans could do so well!
In our ignorance we could perhaps cite our beliefs why these people continue to live in sub-standard conditions. But after having seen them and having direct contact with many, I can only tell you how hard they work and how bright and well educated they are. What they are missing though is opportunity, the kind of opportunity we Americans enjoy from our country and our government.
And so I come to the Parents Association Spring Fling and our school’s financial aid program. What is standing between success and failure is often opportunity. And that’s what our school’s financial aid program gives to children in our community whose families cannot afford the total school tuition. Those of us who have chosen a private Montessori school for our children have many reasons for doing so. Mine were to give my children and now my grandchildren a quality of education not found elsewhere:
appropriate academic education that is individualized and if needed, accelerated; psychologically safe interaction among adults and children in which all are respected; interaction among children that is not only supervised but also in which problem-solving instruction is valued and practiced, a school where parents are welcomed to witness the life of their children’s classrooms first hand.
These things seem to me to be the keys to success for all children. But as the daughter of Manatee County public school teachers and as a graduate of these schools, what I did not want was to place my children in a social setting that was only for the elite as many private schools today are. Our world is as diverse as our country is ethnic and part of a good education for our children is to present the world to them, the world of diversity.
As the director of this school, I am grateful to the Parents Association for all of their hard work in presenting the Spring Fling, whose financial proceeds benefit the school’s financial aid program. Those of us who can easily afford the tuition and could afford to enroll our children at any private school, are giving our children friends, not based on who their father and mother are or how much money they make, but on qualities of the individual friend. And those of us who could not financially afford to give our children the opportunities of our school’s programs are able to find tuition assistance. How many children are helped is only limited by our willingness and ability to be generous.
In these difficult global economic times, even the wealthiest of us are caused to pause, but as Americans we know what opportunity means and the difference it can make. We congratulate the Center Parents Association for their hard work in providing us with a terrific event, the Spring Fling, which translates to opportunities for our entire school community.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher