Constance's dedications were wonderful. Thank you to everyone who was kind enough to come out. It was an honor having over a hundred people gathered to remember her.
Today I will post the videos from the dedication of Constance's Tree at Cherry Preschool. Tomorrow I will post the videos from her dedication at Aspiritech.
Debbie Boileve, Executive Director of Cherry Preschool at 14 October 2018 dedication of Constance (Jervis) Mar-Yohana's Tree.
Presentations at Constance Jervis Mar-Yohana's Cherry Preschool Dedication on 14 Oct 2018.
In order of appearance:
 Rhonda Cohen, Cherry Preschool’s Founding Child Development & Inclusion Director
 Bea Douma, Administrative Director and Constance's Former Teacher
 Michaela Cudahy, Constance's Former Inclusion Aide
 Rachelle Jervis, Constance's Mother
 Deborah Siegel, Former Cherry Mom and Friend to Rachelle Jervis
 Debbie Boileve, Executive Director of Cherry Preschool
Rachelle's Speech for Constance’s Tree Dedication at Cherry Preschool
Constance was a happy child. It brought me incredible joy to have her as my daughter.
When she turned 18 months old, I found a great local preschool to enroll her in. When we met with the school’s administrators and teahers, it seemed like a good fit. After Constance’s first day at the school, she was expelled for being “insubordinate.” I was shocked. How can someone be more subordinate than an 18-month-old?
As a result, I ended up calling and emailing every preschool close to our home in Highland Park. When none of them would take Constance, I continuously expanded my search. It is hard to explain the soul-crushing rejection one experiences when their child is rejected from preschool. Still, I kept calling. Constance was an only child and she needed an opportunity to play with other children. I couldn’t fathom waiting until she was in kindergarten for her to get that opportunity. Eventually, I found Cherry Preschool.
Cherry Preschool has a unique inclusion program where children who need extra help in the classroom get their very own specially trained aide. These aides are provided at no charge to the special needs parents. As the other children in the class are typically developing peers, this allows the children with special needs to have role models for typical play. It also allows the neurotypical children to learn the value of diversity and inclusion first hand.
Aides and therapy for children with special needs are exceptionally expensive. In addition, in most families with a child with special needs, at least one parent has to give up their career to manage the child’s care. This means that special needs families have fewer resources but more financial demands.
Going into our first meeting with Cherry Preschool, I understood the uniqueness of the opportunity and its exceptional importance to Constance’s development. On our way to the school, I tried calculating the exact amount of apple juice to give to Constance so she’d seem excited to be there but not spend the entire visit stimming. The only day in my life that was more nerve-racking than our first visit to Cherry Preschool was the day of Constance’s birth.
When we arrived, Rhonda Cohen, Cherry’s Child Development and Inclusion Director, gave us a tour. Rhonda then took us to the gym where she watched Constance play with figurines from a dollhouse. Rhonda noticed Constance’s sophisticated play and said she was confident Constance would thrive at Cherry.
As delighted as I was that Constance had been accepted into Cherry, I was nervous of history repeating itself and Constance being expelled. However, Constance had years of success at Cherry Preschool. Whatever challenges Constance had, Cherry’s education team strategized ways to help her succeed.
Rhonda donated her time to helping me and many other special needs parents navigate the confusing world of public education and therapy. She recommended that I enroll Constance into an ABA program. Rhonda was there to teach me and hundreds of other special needs parents how to advocate for our children in a world that isn’t as accepting and loving as Cherry.
Constance loved Cherry. She made friends with her classmates and played with them outside of school. She also adored her teachers. One of her teachers, Bea, and I actually had a meeting about how many was too many hugs Constance could solicit from her teachers daily.
While at Cherry, Constance learned so much. One of my favorite things she learned was standing in line and taking turns. Each year on December 25th, we would take Constance to a local indoor water park. There, she would wait patiently for her turn before going down the water slide and I would think, “Thank God for Cherry.”
No one knew Constance would have only eight years to use all she learned at Cherry. Since her passing, there are few decisions about her life I haven’t second-guessed. However, one decision I can reflect on happily was her time at Cherry Preschool.
Cherry Preschool isn’t special because they made early childhood education work for Constance. Cherry is special because they made it work for thousands of children regardless of their abilities, interests, backgrounds, or ability to pay.
A special thank you to those who gave to Cherry Preschool in Constance’s memory this year, thank you. It means a great deal to me and to the kids at Cherry. Those of you who know me well know that I’m infamous for being rejected from ATMs on three different continents; one’s fortunes tend to be limited when one chooses a career in the nonprofit sector. I know we all have different means but I hope you will make whatever space you can to remember Constance and Cherry Preschool in your annual charitable giving so they can continue to offer an exceptional education for all children. Thank you so much for being here today and remembering Constance. It means the world to me.