By: Elise Phillips Margulis
Kolleen Adams, who some students call Grandma, has spent the last 34 years as the Director of Fun ‘n’ Friends Preschool in the United Presbyterian Church of Mt. Olive. She enjoyed being with children as a teen, volunteering at her church Vacation Bible School and babysitting, and ultimately devoted her life to educating youngsters.
Adams’ grew up imagining that she would be an elementary school teacher or a school bus driver knowing that she wanted to be surrounded by children. Her first professional teaching job was teaching second grade at Jefferson School in Roxbury after graduating from college. She remained there for seven years and left when her eldest son was born. After her third son began kindergarten, Adams accepted the Director position and began her three and a half decades at Fun ‘n’ Friends.
Some of her happiest memories of Fun ‘n’ Friends were when parents signed their children up and said that they were Fun ‘n’ Friends alumni. She usually remembered the first generation graduates. She also said that she was thrilled when her grandson attended the preschool. “It was really nice that my grandson Mason came to Fun ‘n’ Friends and now his sister Elliana is in the Junior class. It is interesting to see your grandchildren in a school environment. They still called me Grandma (and so do some of the other kids in their class).”
Other favorite memories include, “how generous our families were in their donations to our food pantry at Thanksgiving and the monetary donations during the St. Jude Trike-a-Thon (over $900). Our special programs, like Dad’s Sports Night and Spring Fling with moms always are very enjoyable. Some of our parents have been with the nursery school for 10 years or more. When that last child graduates you feel happy that you have gotten to know a special family. Graduation is wonderful. You see how much the children have grown socially, emotionally and academically. I feel happy and sad as they head off on their new adventure.”
Adams said that she was especially excited and honored when a staff member told her she met someone whose daughter wrote her college thesis about Fun ‘n’ Friends and how it gave her such a great foundation. She exclaimed, “What more could you ask for than to be remembered like that?!”
Adams talked about how the school has changed in the last 35 years to adapt to changes in the school system. She said that, “Fun ‘n’ Friends has become more academic to meet the needs when entering elementary school.” However, the school remains true to its mission to, “teach in a loving, fun and exciting way so the kids just grow in confidence and knowledge.”
The program is customized to develop the preschoolers’ social, intellectual and manipulative skills while taking into consideration the interests and attention span of each child. Adams says that the preschool truly is “the foundation for each child’s future as he/she learns to communicate and participate in a classroom program while still giving him/her the freedom of play and continued growth as an individual. Every child is helped to discover the excitement of learning and to develop a healthy attitude toward themselves and others.”
Adams cites the children themselves as her favorite part of the school. There’s a nurturing and loving atmosphere so when she enters a classroom children hug her and tell her all about whatever they are working on. “They show me their ‘special shirt’ and tell me all about it, then a lot of stories start coming out.”
The adults at the school are also very important to Adams. “Of course I’ll miss my staff. You can rarely find ten women that can work together and support one another. They work hard to make our school outstanding.”