CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Learning at the preschool level typically consists of lessons that revolve around numbers, letters, days of the week and so on. But in Champaign, a private preschool is ushering in the community’s next leaders through service to their communities. Using real-world experiences, three to five-year-old are seeing the changes they can make.

Chesterbrook Academy Preschool near the U-of-I Research Park has made it their mission and part of their curriculum to give back when and where they can. It’s their annual Holiday Giving intiative where they choose an organization to give back to that serves others in need. Some of those entities include the Crisis Nursery in Urbana, local hospitals, Make-a-Wish and even the Ronald McDonald Houses in the Bloomington and Chicago areas. But from 2022 heading into this year, they chose the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. They raised over 150 non-perishable items, led by educator Sarah Webb who oversees the Pre-K 2 group who also delivered the donations.

“I want them to be worldly and realize there’s more to life than what’s in their home and school because we see the same thing every day here. It’s important to have that diversity and see some people aren’t as fortunate as others. It helps us put into perspective what’s important.”

In partnership with the Chesterbrook Preschool Academy on Duncan Road in Champaign, the two preschools collected canned goods, peanut butter, coffee and more. The students were also helped by their parents in the food drive that lasted from November to December 14th of 2022. The “Pre-K 1” class at Sarah’s school packaged the donations before students in their “Pre-K 2” class delivered them. Scarlett Meier, a four-year-old, is one of the many who went to deliver and she’s already understanding the impact. I asked her why it’s important to give to those in need:

“Because then more food to get them strong,” was her short and sweet but powerful response.

But Scarlett is gaining that understanding thanks to the leadership of her school, including her Principal, Rachel Nargelenas. It’s been her pride and constant goal to see her students embrace not just the diversity in the classroom but outside of it. She and educators like Sarah aim to see their youth value what they have but always seek opportunities to lend a hand. That’s why each year, Rachel says their school strives to give to the same community their students are living in.

“We as a school, a private preschool, come together to collect for the different organizations in Champaign County just because there are people and families that need food or other supplies such as the crisis nursery and items for children that go there. Or anything else needed in the community. Because Champaign-Urbana is such a big community in need.”

Now that the Eastern Illinois Food Bank has the donations the students and their families helped collect, they will distribute the items to families in the communities they serve. Sarah tells me it’s her goal to make their annual giving go beyond just the holidays, further expanding their reach.

To reflect back on their past efforts to make Central Illinois better, click here.

For more on Chesterbrook Preschool Academy as a whole, click here.