Manmay LaKay Magazine gives back to the oldest preschool in Mon Repos

By: Monica Victor

Miss Dean Says Thanks!

When Alexandrine Moses Smith, a teacher from Micoud moved to Mon Repos many decades ago, she endeavored to open her own preschool. A school she named after her nickname Miss Dean. Although no one remembers how the nickname was born, what they do recall is that all her neighbors affectionately called her Miss Dean until her passing at 101 years old. The centurion, the founder of the oldest preschool in Mon Repos is gone, but her legacy lives on.

Old Miss Dean Preschool. Ike Fevrier a past student proudly points to his alma mater

Ever since it’s inception many decades ago, three generations of Smith’s have played a role in running the school. They’re estimating that over 3, 000 students from the neighboring communities have passed through their doors. Children from La Point to Lumbard, Patience to Praslin and from Mamiku to Malgretoute to Mon Repos. Students who have become teachers themselves, doctors dentists, pharmacists, journalists, bankers, barbers, farmers, marketers — you name it.

Today the school is overseen by Miss Dean’s daughter, teacher Joannie Smith — a stalwart, a pillar in the community, a dedicated 78 year old who started teaching at the age of 18.

Teacher Joannie Smith

The school still sits on the family lot in the heart of Mon Repos within the same vicinity where it was first erected and has seen numerous changes and advancements.

From a wooden structure that stood near the roadside to now a concrete building. And from only 12 students enrolling when it first opened to now about 21 kids at a time. From all Smith teachers to now a diverse group of qualified professionals. And from being called Miss Dean to now Smith’s Jolly Tots Preschool.

Albeit great advancements and changes worthy of much praise and celebration, Teacher Joannie’s greatest pride and joy in her 60 years of teaching are intangible and invaluable.

“Our biggest accomplishment is proudly being able to impact the lives of our children by providing early childhood education regardless of our circumstances or challenges. We continue to get glowing reviews and good feedback from the primary schools about our children.”

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As with everything else accomplishments also come with challenges. The biggest most often than not — financial.

When Miss Dean first opened its doors, it was during a period when a school was much needed in the community but only 12 students could afford to attend at the time.

“During that period, slates (personal sized blackboards) were being used to write,” teacher Joannie remembers. “And some parents couldn’t afford them.”

So enrollments were low and many children stayed home. Today 21 kids are enrolled at Smith’s Jolly Tots and the list of supplies required to satisfy the curriculum mandated by the ministry have changed. And although slates are no longer used, the challenges they faced back then persists. Parents struggle to afford school fees and so teachers struggle to afford school supplies.

“Our biggest challenges are finances,” teacher Joannie says. “Our income is not sufficient and payments come in late due to the struggles that parents are faced with.”

To help ease some of the financial burden, they reached out for help.

“Deciding to give back to my alma mater preschool was a no brainer. I had been thinking of a cause to give back to in my community, Miss Dean was at the top of my list. And so when they reached out I knew it was divine intervention and saying yes my only option.

Earlier this year in March, we sponsored the medals for their annual sports meet. And so we knew going forward in order to provide more aide and make an even bigger impact we needed to involve the wider community. And my goodness are we happy that we reached out. The outpouring of support from all who donated and shared the Facebook campaign was immense and admirable. Many of you so eagerly and zealously opened your hearts and pocketbooks and contributed.

Within a few days of launching the campaign we not only reached our goal of $800 but surpassed it. You kept on giving bringing the total to $920. The additional $120 allowed us to get the rest of the supplies and defray the shipping costs. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly grateful I am for your support, kindness and generosity. It would be remiss of me, if I didn’t also give a special shout out to my non-Lucian friends who so willingly contributed to the campaign.

Thank you, all of you for supporting our efforts, thank you for giving back to Miss Dean — a school that has educated and molded the young minds in the community for decades.”

Here’s the breakdown…

Our initial goal was set at $800. You contributed $920. After Facebook took it’s cut of 2.6% + .30 cents we received a total of $885.93. Supplies including shipping amounted to $973.13.

Folks, I am eternally and incredibly grateful to all of you and so too are the students, parents, teachers and administrators at Smiths Jolly Tots Preschool.

“We would like to say a big THANK YOU to every one who donated. Words can’t express our gratitude,” they said. “Thank you so much for your continued support and guidance Monica. On behalf of management and staff we would like to thank you and your team.”

And you’re welcome I say on behalf of all of you. It is our pleasure paying it forward and lending a hand in shaping the minds of the leaders of tomorrow.

When asked what are their hopes for the future? They said…

“We would like to see the school with a kitchen, computers for modern education, a playground and expansion.”

Guessed what our next campaign will be?

Your help once again will be instrumental in making the aforementioned possible.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. From the depths of our grateful hearts simply, thank you!

Monica Victor is the executive producer of Manmay LaKay Magazine. She’s a copywriter, social media and reputations manager at a financial services company. Her writings there aim to help folks make good use of their dollars and sense. Her writings at Manmay LaKay Magazine seek to celebrate her fellow St.Lucians, to empower and inspire folks to live their dream, raise awareness on the diseases that afflict us, connect all St.Lucians globally and to keep her St.Lucian heritage alive. Email:stlucianpeople@gmail.com 

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