My Why

I thought my first blog would be an opportune time to share, My Why – why I choose to work with children, why access and equity are driving forces for me, and why, as an educational leader, my decisions are always student-centered.

I am a native Philadelphian who grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in the northeastern part of the city in the 1970s and 80s. I am the youngest of nine children and the first in my family to attend college. My parents’ priorities were to house, feed, and cloth us, and when possible, limit the inevitable sibling squabbles that erupted on a daily basis. Overall, education was considered an extravagance and not much of a priority in my family, especially higher education. Whenever college was brought up, my father would share his very practical thinking on the subject: Why would you pay money for four years in order to not make money for four years?

My family, and most of the people in the neighborhood in which I lived, were Irish or Italian and had very limited interactions and understanding of other races, ethnicities, and cultures. In this part of Philadelphia, grandparents lived down the street from their grandchildren, cousins were neighbors, and everyone knew everyone. In a positive way, the neighborhood as a whole looked out for each child. Childhood shenanigans were kept to a minimum and dinner was always just around the corner. But I learned soon enough that this insularity had its drawbacks too.

One of the most memorable moments of life is what I eventually learned about our neighborhood dry cleaner and my community. As a child, one of my chores was to take and pick up my parents’ clothes from the dry cleaner. The language used to refer to these business owners was, at that time, a common racial slur for people of Chinese origin. The ignorance of naming the only Asian-owned business in the neighborhood a derogatory term was only worsened by the fact that the owners weren’t even Chinese, they were Korean. When I realized in high school, yes, high school, that this word meant something other than the “dry cleaner,” I knew this was likely to be but just one example of a litany of demonstrated behaviors and attitudes showcasing the limited culture and understanding of the neighborhood and times in which I lived.

It was not until I finished my undergrad degree and moved to the DC area that I truly realized how poorly prepared I was to understand, appreciate, and respect others – all others. This is when I developed my purpose for educating. I wanted to ensure that the children I served would not experience the same ignorance that I had.

I believe if whole neighborhoods can adopt negative stereotypes, that we can, through education and communication, counter those stereotypes to create enlightened communities that value open-mindedness, diversity, and acceptance. My daily motivation, My Why, has been and remains ensuring that the students I serve have the opportunities, knowledge, and skills to not only demonstrate acceptance and understanding, but to lead others along that path.

Photos: At last year’s opening Chapel and my family on the first day of school.

What To Look For During A School Tour and Parent Interview

Advice from a Director of Admission

As a prospective parent, you will be able to gain the greatest insight into a school’s community and dynamic while on your school tour. An open house is a wonderful way to see a school and make several connections, but also be aware that the school is truly on show and aiming to be at its best. Your private tour is also a wonderful time to evaluate a school and witness whether it truly enacts what it professes to practice.

From the moment you arrive for your tour, think about how you were welcomed onto campus. Was there somewhere for you to park? Was the front desk expecting you? Were you greeted warmly and offered a place to wait while a member of the admissions office was told that you had arrived? Did the admission officer greet you by name? At WES, it is our expectation that each and every family that steps foot on campus is greeted personally and with congeniality. Don’t be surprised if, while you are waiting in our admissions suite, myself or Nick enters and greets you by name and asks how your child is doing. Here at WES, our admissions office sets out to build a personal relationship with you from the first moment you step on campus through to the completion of the application process.

During the course of your parent interview, be sure to ask questions of your own, but also make a note of how engaged your interviewer is. Do they seem genuinely interested in you and your family? Are they curious to learn more about your child’s passions and hobbies? Do they take the time to answer questions you may have? The parent interview is a wonderful opportunity to gage how engaged and interested the admissions office is with you, as a unique and singular family.

Finally, as you set out on your tour of school, be looking for a few things. Do the students seem happy? Do they greet you in the hallways? Are you able to speak with some of your child’s prospective teachers? Do any administrators make sure to introduce themselves to you? Do you see any current parents around school? These are all great indications of the kind of community a school has and of the type of community your family might be entering.

So, when touring at WES, don’t be surprised if a student walks by with a cheery “Hello!” and one of our teachers invites you into their classroom to show you what our students are working on. At WES, our warm, nurturing family community is one of the things we cherish most and something to which we can’t wait to introduce you.