At Marymount School in Santa Barbara, students start early on building a skill set that will serve them, and others, well throughout their lives: From the youngest grade, they are focused on volunteerism, fundraising, and organizing efforts around those in need.
“We focus not only on academics but on preparing future citizens who will actively engage in their community,” said Kate Tannous, division head of the Middle School at the 245-student Riviera campus. “We value ‘caring’ as a principle to live by, and we build partnerships throughout our community starting in junior kindergarten to help broaden students’ notions of their community and build empathy.”
Marymount students have partnered with dozens of community organizations, including CALM, BUNS, Transition House, Casa Esperanza (now PATH), Unity Shoppe, Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, Garden Court, Woodglen Hall, Casa Dorinda, DAWG, Salvation Army, the Foodbank, and the Eastside Library, among many others.
“Our students respond when they sense a need in the community,” Tannous said. “In 2013, when local homeless shelter Casa Esperanza was facing financial cutbacks that threatened to close the facility, our 6th graders responded and rallied. Through lemonade stands and a concert at SOhO, students were able to raise $15,000 for the flailing organization and help it get back on its feet.”
Through a required community service class, Marymount 6th graders have fundraised to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in recent years, generating:
$15,000 for Casa Esperanza
$11,000 for Gwendolyn Strong Foundation
$5,000 for Challenged Athletes Foundation
$11,000 for victims of the Thomas Fire and the 1/9 Debris Flow, via Unity Shoppe
Former Marymount student Spencer Bassi recently returned to his alma mater to get 6th graders fired up about this year’s project. Six years ago, Bassi and his classmates organized a chili cookoff that raised $2,000 for a homeless shelter. This year, Bassi’s younger brother, 6th-grader Patrick Bassi, is carrying on the tradition.
“I like to give back to the community,” Patrick said. “It’s sad to see people homeless in the streets and not be trying to do anything about it.”
A philanthropic mind-set is instilled as early as age 4, explained junior kindergarten teacher Kate Keeley. Every year, each class chooses a cause and develops an activity to support that cause.
“Students learn the importance of helping others and what it means to be charitable by helping those in need, helping our environment, or helping those who are unable to take care of themselves,” Keeley said.