By Stephen Hirsch
I moved to the Methow, along with my wife Rebecca and son Nate, in 2001. I remember a visit that spring, looking for a place to rent. We stopped by Little Star Montessori School. We learned about the toddler program, and we also heard about the Little Star auction that weekend, which we attended. The Barn, decorated fantastically with spaceships and planets, was where I first glimpsed this incredible community. Hundreds of people, in all manner of costume, were having a wonderful time coming together to support a school and its children.
Seventeen years later, I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of our valley community. So many people contribute so much, in so many ways, to help this place thrive.
When I first heard about Little Star’s expansion, I was skeptical. I was so fond of their program, from which Nate and now Mira had graduated, that I didn’t want to see it change. But when they explained the lack of options for so many parents, their careful planning to maintain high quality, and their unique position to be able to solve a child care and early childhood education crisis in this valley, I was 110 percent on board. In fact, I asked how I could help. Soon after, I became chair of Little Star’s capital campaign to support this expansion.
I didn’t go to Little Star, like Dani, the executive director, and so many other incredible alumni. I haven’t been on the Little Star staff like the current staff, who offer a combined 180 years at Little Star. I no longer had children at the school. So, why did I volunteer to chair this campaign? Because I have known so many Little Star children and graduates. I believe our entire community needs Little Star – more than we know it. I believe that we’ll look back in five or 10 years, and we’ll see everything that Little Star has done for us:
• Little Star will build on 36 years of experience, where more than 2, 000 children have already experienced its incredible impact.
• Little Star will serve 128 children per day, and hundreds of families per year, with permanent programs in both Twisp and Winthrop.
• Little Star will offer licensed infant care in the valley for the first time, in both Winthrop and Twisp.
• Little Star will continue to have time and energy for every child, with two teachers per classroom and an eight-to-one student-teacher ratio, or better.
• Little Star will educate teachers, pairing 25-plus year experts with newer, aspiring teachers, forming a virtuous cycle that will staff this school well beyond the next 36 years.
• By expanding into younger ages and the number of kids per age, Little Star will drastically increase the level of experience, social skills and readiness of students entering Methow Valley Elementary.
• Little Star will continue to be affordable, with a low tuition and scholarships that help meet families where they are. This includes full-ride scholarships to the families that need it most, through its long-term scholarship program, partnership with Room One, and DSHS government subsidies.
• Little Star, in partnership with Room One, will ensure that every family in the Methow Valley has access to vital resources and parenting support.
• Little Star will allow families to rely on consistent child care for a full work week during the school year, offer a growing selection of camps and programs every summer, and year-round infant and toddler programs.
• Little Star will help employers, and our economy, by offering flexibility to parents who make up a critically important segment of our work force.
• Little Star will continue to operate in a fiscally sustainable manner, like it has for 36 years, just expanding its model to serve more children.
• Little Star will prudently invest in early learning to benefit children, families, businesses, schools and our community.
• Little Star, as always, will devote itself to the magic of childhood and the foundation from which joy, curiosity and kindness will grow.
• Little Star will realize the dream of Rayma Hayes, opening its doors to all Methow Valley children.
My two alumni children opened my eyes to the impact that Little Star brings to so many children. It has inspired me to stretch my own efforts to help in this transformation. With your help, Little Star will complete its expansion, and this pillar of our community will continue to support us in ever-greater ways.
Please join me on April 14 at 3-6 p.m. at the Winthrop Barn. Enjoy the homegrown music of Luc and the Lovingtons and John Sinclair. Share a moment of Little Star magic, and be a part of what makes this valley such a special place. You can learn more about this event and the campaign at littlestarschool.org.
Stephen Hirsch is chair of the Little Star Montessori School fundraising campaign.