It is pretty safe to assume that I finished Kindergarten. I can recite the alphabet cold, and my cut-and-paste skills (both on and off the computer) are adequate.
Yet, if you visit my office, you will see my Kindergarten Diploma from Southside Elementary School in Johnson City, Tennessee. It is even signed by Miss Honeycutt, my Kindergarten teacher. (She fantastically lived up to her sweet name.)
At first, I dusted it off and put it on display when we launched the Chemung County School Readiness Project back in 2006. There was something fun about honoring this part of my personal history while dedicating so much of my professional self to the community’s Kindergarteners.
Now, eight years later, it is there for so many other reasons. It reminds me of a period in my life when I briefly lived in Tennessee after my parents separated. With a very young single mother, it made sense to move in with my grandparents while my mother attended nursing school.
It reminds me of my grandparents’ big, brick house in Johnson City that was so different than the bungalow in Staten Island we shared with my father.
It reminds me of the last year of my life before I adopted St. Petersburg, Florida as my hometown.
Mostly, though, it reminds me of my first year of school – the place that became my refuge, my home, and eventually my ticket to the life I have today.
Someday, I should really hang up my Rollins College diploma. It is beautifully framed and seems so fancy with its Latin bits. After all, it was at Rollins that I met my now-husband and studied sociology, economic policy, and other useful topics for Community Foundation presidents.
But, no, it is my Kindergarten Diploma that I really love. It was my starting point.