By Dr. Águeda Benito, Kendall’s Provost
When Deborah Johnson opened Restoring the Seed Childcare & Community Center in 2014, she was filling a need for basic resources in the 10th Ward of Chicago. Where others saw violence and drugs, she saw an opportunity to make a difference by using the experiences and lessons she learned while earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education at Kendall to improve and influence the lives of children and parents living in this community. I recently had the opportunity to see all the good she’s doing in the community when I visited to offer her our institutional support.
Restoring the Seed offers childcare and an afterschool program for children ages 1 to 12, and as the organization’s founder and primary educator, Deborah made it clear to the entire community that her center—and a basic education—is available to anyone who wants it, regardless of their financial circumstances or education level.
Restoring the Seed is located in Hegewisch, home to a predominantly Hispanic population for which the English language is often a major barrier to education and advancement. During one exercise, children were asked to dream big: What do you want to be when you grow up? Many had the goal to become a waiter. It was all they knew. In this moment, Deborah realized she needed to begin offering more to these children—an education. And that, she says, will give them the permission to dream and the inspiration to imagine a life beyond their neighborhood.
Student by student, Deborah is making a difference. You can see the changes in their faces, their willingness to learn. They’ll carry this perspective with them throughout their lives. She’s a committed role model and we are very proud to say that she is a Kendall alum.
Early childhood education truly is a labor of love. Most people remember their first grade teacher for a good reason: They open our minds to all the possibilities this world offers.