Cottage Co-op: 40 Years Strong

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By FRANZ A.D. MORALES | Photos by JAMES MACPHERSON

12:03 am | April 10, 2013


April 7 marked an historic event for Pasadena’s Cottage Co-op: a gala event to celebrate its 40 years of innovative teaching.

“It is Pasadena’s oldest, and probably strongest, parent participation, nursery schools, so it was really a training ground for almost every PTA in Pasadena. A wonderful institution, it was founded on the principles that were fostered by Pacific Oaks,” Joan Palmer, former board president and Cottage Co-op Milestone Award recipient, said as the evening got underway.

Cottage Co-op Nursery School is a pioneering pre-school where children and parents grow together through play. Its philosophy has inspired other institutions to adopt what Cottage has achieved; and this fundraiser event, with its goal of raising $31,000, aimed to fund results that will inspire many more.

Julia Edwards, current Cottage president, welcomed the 143 guests in attendance to begin the program.

While dinner was being served, Emily Mencken, Cottage Executive Director, addressed the crowd saying that she too was a Cottage Parent and as a girl, was a “Cottage Kid.”

Mencken said, “I know for a fact my children are better children because of Cottage Co-op. Being a Cottage Parent has taught me patience and perspective.”

Also honored that night was Kimi Robinson, an English Major freshman at Loyola Marymount and former Cottage student, was awarded the Alumni Scholarship Award.

Robinson spoke about Cottage as she received the Award: “I have very fond memories through pictures. My mom has very great memories. She knows that was the best choice for me.”

The award was Robinson’s first and she said it was quite an honor to receive.

“It reinforces the fact that I’m doing well in my life after high school. I got on the dean’s list, I am with the newspaper and I’m working in the library and I guess that Cottage liked what they saw! I’m just very proud,” she said.

An Alumni Milestone Award was bestowed on another Cottage grad, Erin Bates.

Bates, currently an associate teacher in a mixed-age kindergarten class at Sequoia School, said “it was my life-long dream to work at Sequoia and I think that the seed was definitely planted starting at Cottage.”

When asked to describe the teaching philosophy of Cottage, Bates answered, “the number one thing is that children learn from play. I think that that’s so important, children learn through play and learn how to interact with dignity and respect. [They] need a little bit of freedom, and need to develop their own relationships.”

Palmer, on the other hand, recalled her early days working as a parent and then-board president of Cottage.

She said that “parents were really the unpaid teachers and we did all the work ourselves, and then when we had to move the school, my goodness, we had to qualify in so many ways.”

Palmer also described the ups and downs of their transition to become a licensed school.

“We chose a house in 710 Freeway path, and when we moved, it was the same year as the McMartin Scandal with the satanic practices with preschoolers, so we had to go through relicensing and had to convince Caltrans and the city,” Palmer recalled of the very challenging year over which she presided.

But it wasn’t just the city government that presented problems for the struggling school; even the neighborhood at the time gave the fledgling kindergarten a hard time.

“Of course the neighbors were all very recent renters and they didn’t want a nursery school there! We worked on the weekends. We had school in the old place and then there was the move and I think we only missed four days of school. It was just amazing,” Palmer said.

The gala also gave out commendations to Cottage Co-op from some important fans: the City of Pasadena, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Assemblymember Chris Holden, Sen. Carol Liu, and LA County Board of Supervisors member Michael D. Antonovich.

40th Anniversary Chair Loren Hernandez also took the stage.

With all that Cottage Co-op has gone through in the past, its colorful history, its long list of grateful alumnae and alumni, and parents – here’s to another 40 years for the unique nursery school that could.

For more information about Cottage Co-op, call or visit www.cottagecoop.org.