The Marco Island Charter Middle School has turned 20 years old. The school recently celebrated the landmark birthday at the Island Country Club with a country-western themed fundraising event titled “Soaring Through the Years.”
“It seemed like only yesterday when the school started,” MICMS School Board President Tarik Ayasun said. “I am proud of being a part of this magnificent organization. From the principal down to the part-time employees, it has always been a team effort.”
MICMS was founded in August of 1998 by a team of parents. Their original goal was to create an accessible, on-island middle school for their children. They wanted something that was close to home and did not require the burden of excess travel.
When the charter school first opened it had no building, no gymnasium, and no semblance of what most would consider a “normal school.” Instead, it was comprised of a series of interconnecting portables. There were about 200 students enrolled during its first year.
Over time MICMS began to expand. More portables were added and more students started applying to the public charter school. In 2007, after over a year of construction, the school unveiled a brand new 17.3 million dollar campus. And with that MICMS welcomed in a new era of education and said goodbye to their portables.
Today MICMS has a combined enrollment of about 400 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students, making it the smallest public middle school in the county. According to Ayasun, over the past 17 years the school has received a grade “A” from the Florida Department of Education.
The 20th anniversary celebration honored the school’s many achievements over the past two decades. Hundreds showed up dressed in their best denim, many accessorizing with cowboy boots and hats.
The ceremony kicked off with a performance by the MICMS Jazz Band led by music teacher Mrs. Miller. The band was comprised of an amalgamation of present MICMS students and alumni.
Tarik Ayasun welcomed those in attendance, giving special thanks to the MICMS faculty and staff. Following Ayasun’s speech, MICMS School Board Vice President and event co-organizer Joan Pernice took to the stage to present the award for Employee of the Year. The honor went to Rona Donato, the school’s longtime secretary. “I call her our watchdog,” Pernice said. “You can’t get past her without a word or a smile.”
Pernice then proceeded with the live auction, acting as the auctioneer. The four items auctioned off went for hundreds of dollars and will go towards the school. They included a whiskey-filled cooler, front row parking spots at MICMS, an all paid sports package for one MICMS student, and a two-night stay at the JW Marriott.
Popular Southwest Florida country ensemble, The Ben Allen Band then performed a medley of country favorites and some original tunes. Betty Newman lent her line-dancing prowess, leading those in attendance through a handful of dance variations.
“People love the fact that they could learn something and still have a great time,” MICMS School Board Secretary and event co-organizer Allyson Richards said.
After much dancing, eating and fundraising (including a silent and live auction), the annual event came to a close.