Who is United Way? I’ve introduced you to several people in our community. I hope you’ve learned that these people who are out and about in our community who are trying to make it a better place are just people. They are your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers, your church family, and your kid’s friend’s parents. They have an impact on your life and you don’t even know it. I’ve introduced you to six of these people. I have one more, at least for now.
Her name is Tiffany Cherry.
Now I know Tiffany a bit better than some of the others I’ve written on so far. She is the director of the preschool/daycare my son goes to. Personality-wise imagine Mary Poppins minus the uptight English aristocracy attitude and you have the patient and understanding woman that is Tiffany Cherry.
We are in the main office at United Way Childcare, and she is sitting calmly with her legs crossed in front of me. There is giggling, toys crashing, and the occasional shriek coming through the closed door. Unphased, Tiffany sits in silence with a smile on her face waiting for me to finish setting up.
After I finally settle in, Tiffany explains that she isn’t a native to the Wabash Valley, but she did go to ISU for her undergraduate degree and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for her Master of Leadership Development degree. She even settled down and had a family here.
I’m not surprised that when I ask her if she can think of any traditions her family has that it involves school.
“First day of school tradition (that) I’ve always done with my son. I would always take him to school on the first day because I wanted to meet his teacher and always form that relationship with his teacher… That’s something I’ve passed down to my grandson. I’ve always felt, now me being a teacher, forming that parent-teacher relationship was always important, and it was always important to let my son see that I always wanted to have that relationship with his teacher.”
The way Tiffany explains this is very delicate and slowly spoken. She’s not treating me like a child, but I can tell that the way she speaks to children has become a very large part of her life. Explaining things and giving details in ways that everyone can understand is just part of who she is. Whether this is learned from so many years of teaching, or she teaches because it’s so natural, I can’t tell. Though even Tiffany has limits to schooling.
“Graduation receiving my Master of leadership Development, walking across the stage at Saint Mary’s. If you’ve been to the graduation (you know) it’s very quiet. Walking across I could hear this little voice screaming, ‘That’s my mawmaw,’ as I’m walking across the stage. So, that was one funny moment. On the ride home, he said, ‘So, now what’s next after this?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘So, this is a masters. So, are you done with school?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m done.’ He said, ‘But there’s something next after this. So, you’ll go back to school?’ I said, ‘No. No sweetie, the only thing that’s next is a PhD.’ He said, ‘Ok, so when do you start that?” I said, ‘I don’t.’ He said, ‘No you can do it mawmaw. You can do it.’ I said, ‘No baby, mawmaw’s done.’” She is smiling and laughing, but the amount of seriousness dripping from her voice is real.
Just because she’s done, though, that doesn’t mean she’s done making sure others get off on the right foot.
“What led me to United Way was the Success by Six (campaign). Working with early childhood (development)… My favorite project was the literacy grants. That was the first thing that I worked on was working on writing on the Literacy Grant for my classroom.” Tiffany steps up her storytelling from the slow and delicate voice she uses when teaching just a few notches. It’s subtle but her eyes are a little wider and you can feel the excitement and pride she has coming off of her in waves. This was a really big deal to her.
Those Literacy Grants were really important for helping families of the community and the children that went to those childcare facilities that received them. Tiffany tells me about the things that she was able to do because of those grants.
What were they and how does that grant work?
Let me explain.