published: Friday, February 15, 2013
FUMC preschool to celebrate 60 years
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
The preschool -- officially known as the Child Development Center -- at the First United Methodist Church in Clermont is 60 years old this year, a milestone that school officials there want to celebrate.
On Feb. 16, that's exactly what they plan on doing.
"We would love for anyone who's been a part of the school or has been touched by it in some way to join us on our special day because they're part of the legacy," Director of Adult Discipleship Candy Ogden said.
Director Misty Leistikow said, "We're having a big celebration to mark this big occasion."
From 4 to 7 p.m., Feb. 16, staff, students, alumni, supporters, parents and volunteers are invited to FUMC, located at 950 7th St., for an event intended to celebrate all the years the preschool has seen in its day. The event will take place in three separate locations on campus.
According to Leistikow, one room at the preschool will be
set up like a "sock hop" to celebrate the 1950s and '60s and its graduates.
Another room, dubbed "the big hair, rockin' band era room," will celebrate the 1970s and '80s, complete with a DJ and disco balls to illuminate the faces of those who graduated during that time.
Finally, the Wesley Center inside the main church building will be set up like a carnival to celebrate the 1990s and current times. Just outside, there will be an old car show.
"We're going to have a big carnival, face painters, stilt walkers, live bands and lots of prizes," Leistikow said, adding that hamburger and hot dog meals will be available for purchase for $3 with proceeds to benefit the school.
The students will kickoff the evening at 4 p.m. with an opening song written for the school this year. The students will be followed by a performance by FUMC's youth choir and a few words by school officials.
Ogden, who is part of four generations of family who have been involved with the school, will be there with her family to celebrate and remember old times.
Ogden's mother, Deanie Carter, started the family legacy, working at the preschool as a teacher and director from 1971 to 1975. Ogden followed suit and became a teacher at the school in 1984. Later, Ogden also became the director for three years until 1993.
Ogden's son, Justin, and daughter, Carly, also attended the school. Now, her granddaughter Taylor, 3, is a student.
"So four generations, it's quite a legacy in heritage," Ogden said as she reminisced about how much her mom, now deceased, enjoyed working at the school and teaching the kids there, just like she did.
This year, Ogden will celebrate 28 years on staff.
Leistikow said the Christian-based preschool at FUMC was started in 1952 by two local teachers at which time it became a kindergarten.
"It opened as a kindergarten, which was uncommon in that time, but from what I know the church decided it was to be a ministry of FUMC," she said.
Through the years, the school has been a K-2 school, a before- and after-school care facility and a day care.
Today, the school is back to being a preschool with 216 students enrolled and a mission statement that reads: "To develop cognitively, emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually, to the best of his or her ability."
In the fall, however, FUMC plans to restart its kindergarten program.
"We've come full circle," Leistikow said.
The one thing that's remained constant over the years is the public interest in the program.
"There is always a waiting list for the school," Ogden said. "It's even gotten to the point that when women in town find out they are pregnant, they put their future baby on the list for when they get old enough to attend.
Just recently, Leistikow also announced that the FUMC Child Development was awarded the prestigious Gold Seal Accreditation from UMAP and Department of Child and Family Services with a Florida Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten School Readiness Rate of 87 out of 100.
Leistikow said she is excited about the celebration and hopes people will come enjoy the day.
"I love my kids, I love my job and to know that I've been a part of a legacy that's 60 years old is just amazing," Leistikow said. "I'm extremely proud of what the school has been able to accomplish over the years."