A story from The Push

Standing on stage with the North Park Elementary School graduating class of 2008, Principal Lynn Lawrence surveyed the 21 eighth graders and checked for a tissue in her pocket. Tonight's ceremony was destined to be a tearjerker.

This was her first graduating class to go kindergarten through eighth grade in the school's beautiful building. Oh, the school had been around for some time, opening its doors in 1980 and even earning high praise in 1998, when the Wall Street Journal reported, "North Park Elementary is a case study of how families and teachers working closely together can achieve surprising goals." But until 1999, this small yet mighty school functioned from two rented church basements, splitting grades K-3 and 4-8.

Recalling the "olden" days, Lynn says, "Our own building-a home- had always been a dream, but it was a high-priced dream! The emotional and financial costs were huge. I wanted to believe that we'd someday realize our dream, but I was losing hope."

By 1998, Lynn considered shelving her dream. Maybe status quo wasn't so bad after all.

That's when an incoming kindergarten dad volunteered for the school's recruiting committee. Lynn explained that this would not be an easy task. The little school garnered plenty of respect for its curriculum but lost many potential families because they functioned from church basements. People saw this as a disconnect on too many levels.

"He said to me, ';Good things happen to good people and North Park Elementary School is good people.'"

First, as an educator, I had a good chuckle over his questionable grammar. But then I realized he was right.

Lynn grabbed her dream back off the shelf and placed it-so to speak-smack in the middle of the city newspaper's real estate section. There it was. One school was moving on and their building was for sale. Within six months, North Park Elementary owned its first permanent home and the school's enrollment almost immediately soared to an all time high.

Nine years later, Lynn clutched her tissue and addressed the 2008 graduating class, along with an auditorium filled with family and friends. "Tonight I see 21 little kindergarteners who all wanted to grow up and be important people. They believed in themselves, as did their teachers, and today they're all bright, independent thinkers, ready to move up into high school. I also see a little school housed in two disconnected church basements that wanted to grow up and be more. Someone once explained in very simple words why I should never give up on that dream. I want to pass those words on to our graduating class, and this is my story ..."

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