an interview with Kelly Eidson and Megan Philip
Why is community important to you?
K: When I’m thinking about community, I’m thinking about something that makes us feel whole. As individuals, we want to be a needed, valued part of the whole. We want to feel the community is depending on us, and vice versa. Being connected is important.
M: That’s an essential part of being a human, that sense of belonging. Both knowing people and being known by them is an important part of life and growth.
How have you seen students embrace the concept?
K: The 5th and 6th grades just finished a massive set of projects where they worked on creating games for children of the school to play at recess. Instead of playing soccer during recess, they wanted to develop games younger students could play as they grew up at Wilson. This is where they completely took the whole project on, giving back to the school community in the process. They understood they wouldn’t be able to play these games once they’d graduated, yet still wanted to do if for the younger students. They had to form their own plans, take trips to The Home Depot to build them, troubleshoot when things weren’t working, and everything else that comes with starting a project from scratch. The teachers were guiding and supervising, but the kids had to come up with plans, measure, experiment, and adjust if it didn’t work. That project just showed them what life is about; a group of people solving a problem for others. They learned to execute their ideas to develop solutions and had fun doing it.
M: Wilson really is a home away from home. When I came to pick my daughter from school one day as we were approaching the regular winter break, we were talking about how fun winter vacation would be. Instead of getting excited about time off from school, she said, "Mom, school is fun! Who needs a vacation from that?” That was a special moment where I realized how strong and engaging the community at Wilson truly is. The Wilson school isn’t a place students feel they have to be, but rather it’s a place at which they truly want to be.
As she got older, the community she experienced at Wilson shaped what she wanted out of a secondary school, and now it has predominantly influenced her hopes for college. She wanted the familiar sense of being known and knowing her peers and teachers. That was a key thing she recognized even as an 11 year old, and she’s embraced that in her current discussions of college choices. I hear about her conversations with her high school teachers and the importance community holds in her view of the world. She knows nothing different than a strong community, and now that I’ve seen her grow as a person and a student, I know that impact has had a lasting effect on her and will continue.
How is Wilson a part of the community?
K: The Wilson School has a service focus called the Wilson Outreach Workshop, or more commonly known as WOW, and it's a community service arm of Wilson. This group creates opportunities for Wilson students and parents to be involved in giving back in our community. For instance, WOW collects coats in the fall for Warner's Warmup and shoes for the Shoeman Water Project. We collect and donate to various St. Louis charities, and have also collected and donated Halloween costumes and Birthday Boxes for children in need in honor of Miss Wilson’s (our founder's) birthday. Last year during the flooding, the kids organized a drive to collect money for flood victims all on their own.
This year we have 6th graders in the International Institute where they learned about and became interested in helping refugees. They’ve started serving people new to this country, trying to understand their needs. Our kids took a field trip and brought books from their own library and read them to these kids. Based on the need they saw there, they’re holding a bedding drive. That’s a complete idea from the kids based on their interaction and observations. While it’s extraordinary in general, it’s pretty typical of our kids at Wilson.
M: Wilson teaches students to see who they are not only as an individual but as a person in the world at large. How they’re able to fit in, interact, be productive, contribute, and solve problems. Wilson starts helping them do that at a very young age.
What’s your favorite part of being a family at Wilson?
K: For me, it comes down to the teachers. Every set of teachers we’ve had since we started has so quickly and accurately honed in on my kids strengths and opportunities. Not just in academics, either. My older daughter is quiet, and it’s wonderful to hear the ways the teachers are encouraging her, pushing her, showing her how to use the tools she has, and so much more. They’ve pulled her out of her shell and she’s blossomed at Wilson. I can’t believe this little 2nd grader is now an incredible 6th grader who has grown so much in just a few short years.
It’s so helpful to have two teachers at all times. They’re able to steer them in the right direction, provide guidance and advice they might not even know they need. These teachers are awesome and have made my kids love going to school.
M: I completely echo all of that. It’s honestly really hard for me to pick one thing. When thinking about all my memories, I loved being engaged with so many other passionate people helping the community. I was the PA president when the catastrophic fire happened in March of 2012. There was so much work to be done to get things back to normal for our students and staff. We held school in three interim locations to keep things going, then moved to one "permanent" interim location after that, all in a period of just a month. It was wonderful to see the level of support we received from the parent community through all of it. The families really helped the students and faculty transition through what was a very challenging situation- the communication and collaboration were fantastic. It wasn’t even just current families; we also had many alum parents reach out and provide a great deal of help during the entire situation.
As difficult a time as that was, it was truly a positive experience to see the community come together and rise to the occasion, pitch in, and do it all cheerfully. I feel proud to have been a part of that amazing experience.
K: I was in a committee meeting recently with parents who’d never heard of the fire, and I found it remarkable to see how the school is so much more than just the building. It’s the people, the community. No matter where the school was, it was still The Wilson School.
Read Part 1 Here
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