After graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in early childhood education, local resident Nikole Powell, director of St. Elizabeth’s Preschool, found herself working in the finance world.
Like many college graduates do, Powell drifted from her original career plans and ironically began working in the world of finance. Her father and new boss, Michael Sekara, owned a life insurance business in Columbus, Ohio. After working many years in finance, Powell would eventually come back to her true passion, early childhood education.
After Powell’s parents relocated from Ohio to The Ford Plantation 13 years ago, she and husband Scott began frequenting the coast. For years they vacationed in the area, and would eventually make Richmond Hill home in 2009. Lucia, now 10, the eldest of the three Powell children, was 3 at the time. Powell began seeking extracurricular activities for her daughter.
“I was introduced to a wonderful woman, a parishioner here at St. Elizabeth, and she taught a music class here. She moved away and I felt I needed to step in. We offered a class for children 4 years old and younger,” said Powell.
From this music class, came more opportunity to work with children and eventually lead to the establishment of the preschool and would redirect Powell back into what she felt she had originally planned to do.
Now in its fifth year, this building is humming Monday through Thursday. The preschool started with seven children and is now up to 55.
“We are a true preschool,” Powell said.
The mission of school is to get an education. According to Powell, early childhood is all about peer interaction, social interaction and learning to share.
“As a bonus, I want them to be able to go outside, get dirty, be messy and not worry about dirt under their nails. They get so much enrichment from the academics, religious aspect and nature,” said Powell.
It is the combination of these areas of focus and extremely passionate teachers which promotes a very intimate experience for the children and families of St. Elizabeth’s preschool.
The enrichment goes beyond the classroom. Weekdays provide opportunity for music, show-and-tell, and art. St. Elizabeth’s also offers Spanish to its preschool students, taught by Cindy Colon. There are afterschool enrichment opportunities that include fitness play taught by Natasha Hopkins, ballet taught by Lisa Bradley and Snapology taught by Jennifer George and Anne Gratz.
As of now, St. Elizabeth’s preschool has a waitlist. As the focus shifts to the future, Powell and her team make plans to continue developing the school through an upcoming Fall Festival, which serves as a light fundraiser for the school.
The fundraiser will consist of silent auction, pumpkin patch, face painting and more and is scheduled for Oct. 26. Parent committees are busy prepping for the event, and Powell is excited to see how the community supports the school as it has years before. Last year, the school set a goal to equip each classroom with a laptop. They exceeded that goal, and have new sights set on a butterfly pollinator garden and new landscaping. The designated area sits directly behind the current sensory playground.
Powell admits she could not do this without an incredible group of teachers, which aside from Colon, Hopkins, Bradley, George and Gratz includes Rachel Ringer, Katie Gray, Kelcey Hoover, Beth Wise, Lisa Ichikawa, Casey Lindsley, Madeline Sekara (Powell’s mother) and Brittany Pieper.
All teachers play a role in making this an intimate experience for the families who choose St. Elizabeth’s.
“It requires a special person with a certain amount of patience to be a preschool teacher and I’d like to say I’m lucky enough to have those ladies as my co-workers and teachers,” Powell said. “All of us teachers are friends and we have a wonderful camaraderie.”