CFI Grant to Children's Center Is Value-Added for Teachers

A special Capacity Grant to the Children’s Education Center of the Islands, given last year by the Charitable Foundation of the Islands (CFI), has had a signal impact on the work of the Center, according to Center Director Cindy DeCosta.

“Children come to CECI at many different stages in their development. Some have learning disabilities or special needs,” DeCosta said. “This grant has given our teachers wonderful state-of-the-art training opportunities that help us better understand early childhood learning, regardless of individual challenges.”

CFI’s grant, in the amount of $2935, is intended to advance professional development at the Center. “Helping the teachers helps the children,” said CFI Board Member Ginny Stringer. “The more training the teachers receive, the greater the benefit to the students. We are delighted at the dedication of Cindy and her staff. They are doing wonderful things at the Children’s Education Center.”

CFI’s grant funded, for all five members of the CECI staff, in-house training led by the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida. The workshop featured such items as classroom design strategies for optimal learning and methods for teaching math in early childhood.

“Visuals are essential for young children,” DeCosta said. “Thanks to this training, our classrooms have been changed to reflect natural environments, and our color scheme is more neutral—it makes for a calming atmosphere.”

The grant has also helped CECI teacher Bryanna McNamee, age 22, advance her education. “This funding has been crucial to my career,” she said. “Without such scholarships, I would be unable to attend college.”

McNamee is currently in pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree at Florida Gulf Coast University in Early Childhood Education. In her classes, she said, “I am learning about early-childhood learning preferences, as well as modes of teaching that view the teacher as a facilitator for the child’s own learning. It is arts-based project learning.”

In future, DeCosta would like to see CECI offer more arts instruction, “and to get the children more up close and personal with the natural world. Children can never have enough music or art in their lives,” she said, “and helping them forge a permanent connection to nature is essential. We are taking baby steps toward those goals.”

The Charitable Foundation of the Islands (CFI) provides continuing financial support to worthy causes exclusively on Sanibel and Captiva. Its primary concerns are basic human needs, arts and education, the environment and unforeseen emergencies. Its mission is to promote philanthropy to help people in need on Sanibel and Captiva, and to strengthen non-profit organizations in order to build a spirit of community for generations to come.

For more information on Capacity Grant giving through the Charitable Foundation of the Islands, visit CFI’s website at For information on the Children’s Education Center of the Islands, 350 Casa Ybel Road, call 239-472-4538, or visit