On the occasion of 25 years of a good thing

One of the joys of non-profit work is the creating of something out of nothing. You put together like-minded people tethered by an ideal and you say, “let’s create a thing.” And over a series of meetings that seems to stretch endlessly backward in time that thing you create is molded and patterned, tested and reshaped, reflected upon, acted upon, celebrated, retooled, strengthen, defended and perpetuated.

Those four lines above describe the skeletal shape of the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois program, our advanced teacher preparation and mentoring program we created  in 1987 and launched in the winter of 1988, debuted at UIC in the summer of 1989, and this weekend in Tinley Park celebrated for the 25th year of its operation.

You hang in one place for a quarter-century, you worry over this thing like a thumb rubs a prayer stone, and you come across a passel of emotions, remember a flotilla of people, recall a trove of memories:  hilarious stories, sad recollections, worrisome times. The survival and resilience of this program is remarkable. State funded since 1993 through four governor administrations, passing of legislative power from one party to another, ever  subject  to the whims of political vicissitude, the Scholars program is a testament to the resourcefulness of good people who led it and good people chosen to participate in it.

And that paragraph above could not begin to describe the immensity of the task in creating this program, nor of the brilliant and dear people who have been part of it, nor of the countless meetings held to further, sustain or protect it. All this rolls in my mind like the memory collects—gauzy, sometimes selective, a bit secretly triumphant, sometimes secretly despondent, as we sometimes are when the rain falls and thoughts wander.

None of this, not one moment of what has transpired this last quarter century, could have been accomplished without the stunning generosity and belief in teachers possessed by our founders, Mike and Pat Koldyke. Absent them and we would have wandered a course, no doubt,  and strive, certainly, and probably achieve, but not with this level of sheen nor this amount of pride.

I wonder frequently about the young people we have brought into teaching through this program. Most nearly all are darling, but sometimes worrisome thoughts surface. I worry about entitlement seep. I worry that they don’t realize the old school notion that when someone is given a beneficence,  that beneficence is repaid seven times over. I wonder, like an old teacher wonders, if there will come a time some day in the future when they truly appreciate the depth of excelling in this profession of ours—that it is seven-eights humility and equal remaining parts of reflection and plan, with little room for hubris.

But the truest of gratitude that can be received is in the manner each of them teach. For every kindness shown a child, for every patience paid and forbearance granted, for every extra hour spent or early awakened to help a student, the effort to create this thing we celebrate, and those who know their fingerprints upon it, are thanked.

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