We invite you to gather with good intentions at Yoga for Change on Saturday, September 23, at 10 am, for a morning of yoga benefiting The Community Preschool, the cathedral’s vital and transformative early childhood education program. Led by our beloved Yoga on the Labyrinth teachers and musicians, Yoga for Change raises funds for tuition assistance and preschool operational expenses, including teacher training seminars, meals, revitalizing indoor and outdoor classrooms, and our dreams of opening a parent resource center.
Learn about Loren Smith, our Director of The Community Preschool, and her story with Grace. Adapted from a speech given by Loren at Carnivale on February 21, 2023.
I’m not supposed to be here.
I grew up in the Bayview, and I became a mom at 18. My father worked in city services. He knew the system, but he discouraged me from applying for subsidized housing and helped me forge a path outside that box. I graduated high school early, and my now-husband and I created a life for our son and daughter to thrive.
My parents raised me to believe in my potential. My mother enrolled me in Catholic schools to give me opportunities not available in my neighborhood’s public schools. I had access to the arts and enriching field trips. My grandmother was a teacher. She spent her own money to make sure her students were exposed to everything that they deserved. Early on, she sparked my passion for serving children and families.
I began my career in early childhood education 12 years ago. Last year, I learned that my school was closing. I applied to jobs in the Bayview and The Mission, where women of color were commonly found. Then, through Brooke Geisen, who was leaving the position as the director of The Community Preschool, I learned about the opening.
Here’s when my bias got in the way. I didn’t think I should apply. I looked at the grand cathedral and thought I would be overlooked. Just the neighborhood alone discouraged me from applying. I thought I should stay in my comfort zone.
My supportive family and my mentor reminded me that not only was I qualified, but also that my unique background would add value to the program. When I interviewed, I found that the conversations were authentic. I didn’t feel that being a Black woman was a disadvantage here.
My experience was valued.
I was soon asked to lead a preschool that championed the potential of each one of its students. Our program offers them a place where we celebrate their uniqueness, and their creativity is nourished. Half of our students are low-income, and we give them the resources they need to flourish.
Just like my family did for me.
Last year, after we hosted a family appreciation breakfast, a single mother walked over to me crying and asked for a hug. She was so grateful. She told me she’s been so used to pouring from an empty cup that she forgot what it felt like to be appreciated. Another family, whose home language is Arabic, came to the school worried about whether their child would feel lost. Through sign language, visuals, and literacy instruction, this child is learning English and beginning to communicate with her teachers and peers.
When I reflect on what impact I want to make in the lives of the children and families I serve here at Grace, I think about each moment I felt valued, heard, loved, respected, seen, and pushed to be a changemaker.
With the support of this community and others, I realize now that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, here at Grace Cathedral, helping to transform the lives of children in The Community Preschool, one day at a time.