Writings on the people, programs and philosophies behind BSS.

Building Community

What inspires philanthropy?

What inspires philanthropy?

On the last day of school, in a sunlit classroom alive with the electric energy of the impending summer holidays, a group of Grade 6 girls came together to finish one last project. It was their leaving gift for the Junior School, a work of art featuring 48 strands – representing each member of the class – carefully woven together.

Three Grade 6 students gather around a large, woven circle, weaving with their hands.

Grade 6 girls work together to create a woven leaving gift for the Junior School.

“It’s to make the Junior School look pretty, but it’s also to leave a message about interdependence, which was our class’s big idea this year,” says Leen Al-Omran, Class of 2022. “We all need each other.”

This culture of giving and connectedness has been at the core of BSS since its founding. “Some people may not realize that, as an independent school, BSS has always relied on philanthropy,” says Melissa Beauchamp, Director of Annual Giving and Constituent Relations. “It gives the school the resources and flexibility to do the things that are above and beyond what tuition fees can cover.”

The impact of gifts from alumnae, parents, staff, volunteers and students can be seen and felt across campus. From the Chapel’s beautiful interior and the innovative design of the Junior School’s academic wing to the leading-edge space currently under construction, acts of philanthropy from our community support infrastructure renewal and transformation.

One example of this generosity is the Full Circle Project, which invites alumnae to have their names inscribed on the glass wall overlooking the new atrium. To date, over 450 of them have donated in celebration of the school’s 150th anniversary. “Our Old Girls have surpassed our expectations in terms of their support for this exciting addition to the campus,” says Ms. Beauchamp.

Then there are the intangible enhancements of the BSS learning experience provided by donors: high-profile guest speakers such as award-winning author Kim Thuy, one-of-a-kind collaborations like the Sustainable City project and unique co-curricular groups like the Moral Courage Task Force.

Why do people give? “BSS speaks for itself,” says Ms. Beauchamp. “Donors can see the direct impact of their gifts in their daughters’ day-to-day enrichment, or they want to help other bright and talented girls who might not otherwise have the same opportunity. There’s a lot of support and passion for financial assistance.” This year the Grade 12 class and their parents reached their goal of $100,000 to establish an endowed fund in support of financial assistance. The Grad Class Scholarship campaign is an important pillar of the Annual Fund, a way for Grade 12 students to leave a legacy upon graduating from BSS.

BSS community members are equally generous with their time and expertise. “BSS could not be the place of powerful learning that it is today without the astute direction of our Board of Governors and Board of Trustees, and the invaluable support provided by our parent volunteers,” says Head of School Deryn Lavell.

Steeped in this tradition of giving, BSS students are not just beneficiaries, but active benefactors. Whether they are in Kindergarten or in their graduating year, the girls participate in wide-ranging initiatives to better their internal and external communities.

This year, building on an annual tradition, the 2015–16 Grade 6 class led fundraising drives that provided books, food and toys for schools in Toronto’s at-risk neighbourhoods. Student Mairin Burke, Class of 2022, helped lead the book drive, and proudly reports that they collected 2,701 books. That one extra book is worth mentioning, she says. “Even just contributing a single book can make a big difference.” Classmate Sasha Steiner also likes to talk numbers, since she helped double the toy donation from 500 to 1,000 by convincing the toy company Spin Master to match BSS.

But, Sasha emphasizes, giving back doesn’t have to mean giving money or things. “It can be a compliment or a smile,” she says. This was a critical lesson for the Grade 6 class as they examined the concept of interdependence. They devised ways to promote consideration and empathy in their daily interactions, such as the popular playground game Four-Square. “Even though Four-Square is small, it can have a big impact on people’s feelings,” says Mairin. “So one way we can give back to each other is just to be kind.”

When Mairin and her classmates hang their leaving gift in the Junior School, the weaving will represent both what they have done and what they have learned this past year. “All the links are dependent on each other to be strong,” says student Jamie Irwin. “It’s teaching us that supporting other people and giving in general are very important skills. It makes me feel good about where I am. BSS is a giving community, and I’m proud of that.”

Megan Easton
Fall 2016