In the book, “The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time,” Bob George and Joan Holliday recognized several programs, agencies and community figures, who contributed to the youth’s well-being in Kennett Square. Several interviewees quoted, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I also would add more specifically, “It takes each person taking on a role to support the multi-level needs in our community to “raise a child”.
Esther Rochester is one person, who has not only seriously taken on her role as a bus aide for transportation of special needs youth to elementary and middle schools of the Kennett Area School District, but she is doing it with heart. One may think this is a simple job, but it involves an available, compassionate, patient and level-headed person, who is willing to take charge whenever needed to avoid the bus driver from being distracted. She tells stories of students getting upset and how she works on calming them down. She tells about the parents accompanying their child to the bus and confidently handing them off to her for her protection, until they return home again. She speaks about each student affectionately, and beams when she tells about the Christmas gifts that she recently was given by so many of the students, whose families are expressing their appreciation. Esther is a link between the home and the school and the way she cares for each child with a loving but firm hand makes the difference of how a child moves on to their school days and transitions back home again.
Esther sets her alarm for 5am and is out the door at 5:45am. She does not drive, so is picked up by the Krapf Bus Company driver and they are on their way. She works until 9am and then returns at 1:30pm, working until 4:30pm. She also has added three days a week of work from 4:30pm to 6pm to be a bus aide for After the Bell program. Rarely has she missed a day of work since she started three years ago.
Esther has come a long way from the time I first met her in 1984. She was a teen mother, who had dropped out of school, when I visited her in her home as a public health nurse. She was receiving public assistance and really didn’t see a future for herself. After having a third child and caring for her children conscientiously, it was rewarding to see her take the plunge and work at the Kennett laundromat for twenty-six years. It was here that she learned the value of community and taking on a community role. She helped me organize and operate Study Buddies on East Linden Street for several years. Along with this, she continues to attend bi-monthly Bridging the Community meetings starting in 1998. Esther is the first one to tell someone on the street, that they need to come to a meeting to learn about how to get involved in helping the community in Kennett Square.
An example of Esther stretching her limits is her recent participation in the “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World” training offered through the KACS Bridges Out of Poverty program. Esther has demonstrated that she has a strong will and determination and is energized once again to set goals and shape her future. She talks about this training being difficult, but wanting to stay the course. With goals and help in learning how to improve her credit rating, develop healthy living practices, and improve her literacy, she sees new potential for her life.
If you haven’t met Esther Rochester, look for someone with a contagious smile on her face walking off to church on Sunday mornings at New Garden AME, or you may find her standing
outside her apartment waiting for the early morning bus to pick her up, as she goes about her work of helping our Kennett youth have a safe and friendly transport to school.
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