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Thanksgiving Tribute to the Cherry Preschool Founders: There Were no Selfies Then

The Cherry Preschool founding board (two members missing)

Published in ChicagoNow, November 24, 2016

When the founding board of Cherry Preschool held a reunion to reminisce in advance of the school’s 25th anniversary, we made a surprising discovery. There was not a single photo of the board and staff that worked tirelessly to create the early childhood program. So, we took a new photo and joked that it was better not to have to look at our 25-years-ago selves.

When we created Cherry Preschool back in 1992, it was a different era. There were tons of people willing and able to volunteer their time and talent. And social media, the Internet, and cell phones did not exist. There were no selfies.

Think about that for a minute. A parent board of thirteen people and a teaching staff of fourteen people, some of whom were also on the board, volunteered nine months of their lives to create a preschool for their community and only a handful of photos exist. And those photos were mostly of the building as it was rehabbed and the children during its first year. No one thought to turn the camera on the builders.

Aside from the absence of digital photography and iPhones, there was something else that explains the lack of a photographic record of these school founders. They were actually too busy creating a preschool community and too focused on their goal to worry about their individual roles in this amazing accomplishment.

And what they accomplished together was truly amazing.

When the founding board gathered at my home last week, its members shared stories about how they came to be involved in the journey to create a new preschool. Then the group laughed about our naivety and agreed that if we had known how much work lay ahead, we never would have done it. But none of us looked at it that way at the time. We agreed we never doubted we would succeed. Each day, we made our lists of what needed to be done and who would do it. The amazing part was that some very busy folks with young kids volunteered their time to do the work.

No job was too menial. We painted walls, cleaned ducts, washed donated toys, gathered equipment and supplies from garage sales, raised money, and publicized our new school. There were no development or fundraising consultants back then to tell us we had to proceed in a certain way or we would fail. And there were no selfies.

I understand times were different 25 years ago. Most of the women were either part time workers or home with their young children. Those with full time jobs were not slaves to those jobs and could volunteer on evenings and weekends. I can’t imagine any of my children being able to participate in a similar commitment now. All of them work long and hard just to stay afloat, and time with their children is limited and very precious. It’s not that they care less, but they don’t have much spare time to volunteer for many activities, let alone such a huge undertaking as starting a school.

The founding board members agreed creating Cherry Preschool was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all involved. We shook our heads at how quickly we accomplished the task and how confident we were that it could be done. Nine months from that first meeting in January of 1992 to opening the doors of the new school the following September 26. Much like the birth of a baby, we nurtured that preschool growing within us and forgot about the labor pains after it was born.

This is not really a traditional Thanksgiving post, but I am so thankful for the experience of creating a school community with these people. I realize now that it was a unique and very special journey, and I am deeply grateful.


by Laurie Levy
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