It is no secret, especially among the families who attend Beyond The Classroom, that owner Samantha Montes is beloved in the community. The children were really missing their afterschool activities at BTC and missing Samantha so parent, Anna States, had the idea of having them create some chalk drawings to show their love. States sent out an email to fellow BTC parents and on Saturday, several of them gathered on the BTC driveway to create their masterpieces.
Sandy Tosta, whose son was among those who drew messages on Saturday, said, “Samantha and BTC are so loved and she has been amazing with online classes and doing all to help the kids during this time. She is just a lovely human being and teacher.” Tosta, along with other parents, all agreed that Anna’s idea was a perfect way for the kids to express their feelings right now.
Saturday proved to be quite a joyful experience for all. The kids had fun, the parents’ hearts were full of gratitude and as for Montes? She was brought to tears and tells us “this was the first time I felt less scared and not alone. Seeing the drawings the children created made me feel what it really means that we can get through this together.”
When Montes opened Beyond The Classroom in 2011, the need was very real and she envisioned an after school experience that would complement childrens’ school day and nuture their emotional intelligence; to create a space where “children get to be children again, that would foster their innate desire to learn and be curious through play.” But when she had to close down to support social distancing measures, the tables were turned around and she found herself to be the one in need. She says she had to dig deep and swallow her pride to ask the families from the BTC community for help. “I didn’t know what to expect. I asked for half tuition in order to keep the center afloat. Some paid what I had asked for, others paid full tuition and some even paid more. I was so humbled. My staff and I were all humbled and touched,” says Montes.
In the weeks that followed, BTC staff went to work transitioning online to offer a virtual playdate every day. In this way they are able to continue nurturing and connecting. Teachers are also volunteering to host special playdates making slime and doing yoga while some student-led classes have included making crepes, creating masks and video games made from scratch.
“The last two weeks have been extremely challenging and hard,” says Montes, “when I came to the center on Saturday to do some work in the office, the sight of the beautiful graffiti art made by the families of our BTC community brought me to tears. It reminded me the reason why I do what I do. My heart is bursting with gratitude. BTC, and our whole community” Montes emphasizes, “is stronger together. WE are coming out stronger from this and it’s another reason to be grateful.”