September 19, 2017
Dear Friends, Members, and Advisors:
We are so excited to update you on our progress in the past few weeks! First and foremost, we would like to welcome Dr. Joshua Aronson to our team as an executive advisor. We had mentioned Dr. Aronson in a prior newsletter – he is a psychologist and professor at New York University. He is the leading expert in improving children’s academic success by teaching them about mindfulness and how to meditate. Keep reading to learn about our recent visit to one of the schools with which Dr. Aronson has been working very closely.
National Economic Council
The National Economic Council (the “NEC”) in the Bahamas was set to approve our proposal for the Institute during the first week of September. However, with Hurricane Irma wreaking havoc in the past two weeks and the islands now dealing with the aftermath, this meeting has been postponed. We have been assured by the Bahamas Investment Authority that our proposal will be presented to the NEC in short order.
Crellin Elementary School
We recently visited an elementary school in Oakland, Maryland for children from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 5. This is a school that Dr. Aronson has been working with for the past several years. Oakland has traditionally been a coal mining town, and with the steady decline in the industry, the town has a very high unemployment rate. Many of the Crellin students come from less than ideal home environments – some have suffered trauma, some are abused, some even have parents that are addicted to narcotics, and almost all are living below the poverty line. Before Dr. Aronson started working with the children there, the school was last in the state in terms of performance on standardized testing. Through Dr. Aronson’s work, it has climbed to the top school in the entire state of Maryland. It was truly unbelievable to see. The children were so happy to be at school, notwithstanding their horrendous home lives.
We received a tour from some of the oldest children, and the passion, confidence and pride that they exuded was incredible. The principal, Dana McCauley is a wonderful person. Her compassion for these children is the key in making them feel loved and giving them a sense of purpose. She has worked tirelessly to build Crellin’s campus, collaborate with learning partners, organize field trips and apply for grants to make this all possible. We are working with Dr. Aronson to put together a proposal on how he and NYU can assist in this project. Having them on board is a great advancement for the project. Dr. Aronson’s guidance and leadership will serve as a tremendous asset in ensuring that our students are happy and thriving.
The Hospital for Sick Children
We have met with Sick Kids several times, and they are very eager to assist with the medical aspects of our project. In fact, we are very close to finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding in this regard. Moreover, SickKids is also interested in conducting research and long term studies on the students. We met with Dr. Michael Salter, the head of research for the entire SickKids organization. He will be putting together a think tank of experts to develop ideas on what research could be done and how it should be carried out. SickKids will then put together a proposal for how it plans on assisting. This is definitely a step in the right direction to ensure that our students are well cared for.
The Christina Seix Academy
We connected with the head of school of the Christina Seix Academy in Trenton, New Jersey. Christina Seix started this school in 2012 for children from PreKindergarten to Grade 8, focusing on admitting students who are living with only one parent in economic need, with a preference to those who have lost both parents and are being raised by grandparents or other guardians. Although the highest grade level of the school is currently Grade 5, in three years the school will be fully operational, with each subsequent grade being opened in each consecutive year. The school offers boarding for students starting in Grade 4, and most of these students opt for this. There are 20 students in each grade, and 10 in each class so as to provide individual attention to each child. The academic year runs throughout the entire year, with only one two-week holiday in the summer. Interestingly, each child is required to pay $20 per week to the school, which money is then invested by the school and returned to the family, with interest, upon the child’s graduation. This is consistent with Ms. Seix’s philosophy of empowering the families and “paying it forward”.
The school also places a large emphasis on social emotional learning, and uses the Tools of the Mind program for their Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten curriculum. Through this, the concepts of empathy and emotional intelligence are fostered from a very early age. In fact, to maintain consistency and to avoid a disruption in their philosophy, the school’s policy is to recruit children only in PreK. Fortunately, this is possible because the school has a very low attrition rate. However, even if some children transfer out during the later years, the school will not focus on filling these empty spots. We have been invited to visit the school, and plan on doing so in the next few weeks.
Sarah St. George
Casa Laxmi recently visited Sarah St. George in New York. The St. George family is very prominent in the United Kingdom and in the Bahamas, and owns half of the Port Authority on the island of Grand Bahama. In 1955, the Port Authority purchased half of the island, being 230 square miles with a view to developing the land. Sarah is the Vice Chairman of the Port Authority and was delighted to hear about our project. Our discussions with her and the PortAuthority are ongoing. And most importantly, Sarah is an alumnus of Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland!
We are very excited to announce that we made the Nassau Guardian! Click here to see the article: https://thenassauguardian.com/2017/08/14/casa-laxmi-foundation-seeks-to-bridge-the-gap/