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Mountaineer Montessori School hosting gala

Kenny Kemp
Professional singer/songwriters Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa lead Mountaineer Montessori School students in a songwriting workshop.
Kenny Kemp
Mountaineer Montessori School students participate in a songwriting workshop.
Want to go?The Luminaria Gala will be 5:15 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Clay Center.Tickets are $75 for adults, $25 for children and $15 for Montessori students.For more information or to purchase tickets, call 304-342-7870. CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Children will be the beneficiaries of an upcoming fundraising gala for Mountaineer Montessori School.But unlike at other galas, they'll also be the presenters, featured songwriters and musicians."It's going to be unpredictable and, I think, unforgettable, as well," said JoEllen Zacks, vice president of the school's board of directors.The gala is Thursday at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences. The gala will have a silent auction, as well as entertainment by Ron Sowell of Mountain Stage, DJ Billy Shahan and Huntington band Qiet.The Montessori School students have also written music to honor each of the winners of the inaugural Luminaria Awards, which will be presented during the gala to recipients who are "lighting the way for education."The students have interviewed and written about each of the recipients and have designed gifts to present to each of them as well.The children got help with songwriting from a professional team.During past songwriting workshops, they've written a school song. When the children presented the song, "there was not a dry eye," Zacks said.
Zacks said she anticipates a similar response from the gala audience.
"The songs they've written for this gala are equally moving," she said. "Children are very wise at very young ages and they see things that sometimes adults miss."Winners of the inaugural Luminaria Awards include the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, as well as the late John McClaugherty for his vision of the center; Joe Rice, a 23-year Montessori School teacher; and Austin Susman, a George Washington High School student and Montessori alum who helped create an award-winning anti-bullying video game.The Luminaria Awards are meant to honor West Virginians who "light the way for education," according to a statement from the school."No matter your age or occupation you can do something to help children, and certainly the needs in this state are great," Zacks said.While the Montessori School holds fundraisers periodically, this is its first gala, she said."This is the first time we've done an event on this scale," Zacks said.
Funds raised will go toward the school's operation and financial-aid program. School officials have not raised tuition for five years, she said."That's why we are reaching out more to the community," she said. Financial aid is available to parents based on need, she said."[The school is] affordable and accessible," Zacks said.The theme of the gala is lighting the way for education. Dr. Maria Montessori, the namesake for the Montessori method of teaching, believed the role of education was not to make a child learn things but to light a fire of intelligence in them, Zacks said.All children have that light, though life has a way of dimming it quickly, she said."Society needs to recognize the potential of each little child," Zacks said.For more information or to purchase tickets, call 304-342-7870. Reach Lori Kersey at or 304-348-1240.
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