Learn more about the Gateway Families Association

Interview with Gateway Families Association President Lindsey Chester

Last week I sat down via Zoom with Gateway parent Lindsey Chester (Olivia, 3rd Grade) who has been the President of the Gateway Family Association (GFA) for the last 2 years. In her day job, Lindsey serves as the Executive and Artistic Director of All About Theatre, and after checking in about the challenges of running a non-profit organization in the current circumstances, we discussed the work of the GFA and what’s in store for this year. Enjoy! — Zaq

Zaq Roberts: Why do you like volunteering with the GFA?

Lindsey Chester: I love it because of the sense of community. It’s a wonderful way to find and deepen friendships. The event planner in me rejoices whenever there’s an opportunity to help, and I love cultivating community. Volunteering is a way to enrich my life and those of others. I’m an educator and love teaching and lifting people up, and in turn, it naturally does that for me too. I have also learned new skills from volunteering – everything from floral decoration and arrangement to running a large scale auction. I love meeting new people, learning from them, and hearing new perspectives. So, volunteering with the GFA is truly a joyous symbiotic experience for me.

ZR: How did you first get involved with the GFA?

LC: I remember the very first August packet I received when Olivia was entering Kindergarten. It was immediately apparent to me, that this would be a great way to meet other families at the school, to embed myself in the school culture, and also to help out. Quickly, I met a couple of other Kindergarten moms who were thinking about attending the GFA meetings as well. We connected through the GFA and have developed our friendships together through this shared experience. Honestly, it was really easy to just fill out a form and check out the meeting. Everyone made it inviting and welcoming. I knew that I had found a way to have a deeper purpose at the school.

ZR: What have you learned by being part of the GFA leadership?

LC: It takes a lot of care and effort to run the school and its events, more than I could have imagined, and that comes from someone who runs a busy non-profit! I appreciate the community of families that keep the school pulsating. A shout out to Jen, Cindy, and Petra in the Advancement Office who are exceptionally talented and incredible individuals. They are great listeners who validate the perspectives of parents and families. And then, by sitting in at the Board meetings, I’ve learned so much about what the school’s mission truly means, which I think people might sometimes take for granted. From the annual budgets and new site development to strategic planning for the future, it really takes so much to create this enriching school environment.

ZR: What’s your favorite GFA-related event or activity?

LC: Ooooooooh! There’s three actually. I’m sad we didn’t get to do the Back to School Picnic this year because I am a social butterfly and love dropping into all the different conversations and connecting with new and old friends. Next is the Winter Solstice Festival, which we just started last year — the laughter, celebration, and joy of the event were really touching, and almost spiritual. And then finally, One World One Earth Day. It’s so inspiring to see how we are teaching the kids, and each other, about all our cultures through music, dance, and food.

ZR: How is the GFA adapting its activities to this unusual year?

LC: Mindfully! And with a day by day approach, to be honest. We’ve had to change some of the beginning activities like the Back to School picnic due to being unable to gather together on campus. We are also looking to modify some activities. For example, Staff Treat Day, instead of the exquisite meal that Mary Chapman led with an army of volunteers in preparing last year, we’re focusing on the purpose of the event, which is the message of gratitude we want to send our staff. We are creating a treat package that will sustain them, so they know that we are grateful for all their hard work and efforts. For many of the future planned events, we’ll be taking our lead from the administration about what’s possible, because we don’t know where we’ll be at each month and what will be allowed with the CDC Health Guidelines.

ZR: What kind of volunteer opportunities will the GFA have for families?

LC: This is the hardest question you’ve posed. Normally, we would have lots of small opportunities to put in an hour or two, here and there, to help set up an event or wash dishes. This year it will be different in terms of making an impact. We’re looking for out-of-the-box thinkers who can bring creativity. Covid has changed the way we can function this year so we will need to use our imaginations a little more to ensure we can continue to make these events magical. We hope people will start by attending a meeting — they don’t have to commit to all of them! Just come, connect, and share their ideas. The scavenger hunt we did on First Friday last week was an epic example of how to bring everyone together in a fun way to build and uplift our community spirits. We are hoping families will help us come up with more ways to celebrate this year.

ZR: How can families get their hands on Gateway Gear?

LC: Definitely check out the Gateway Family News (GFN) — we have the 50th Anniversary mugs available now, but there are only a few left, so email Jen Graham (jen.graham@gatewaysc.org) to place your order! We are working with the 50th Celebration Committee to get more gear and we’ll have that in the GFN and on the website shortly. We may even have a table out front of the school during drop-off at some point, along with some tea and coffee.

The Gateway Families Association meets the first Thursday of the month. Everyone is encouraged to attend! We are a group of parent volunteers planning school events, and all are welcome! To attend check the Gateway calendar for the link or email Lindsey (gfa@gatewaysc.org) for information.