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Distinguished Service Award

Mary (Vander Ploeg) Post graduated from Dordt in 1979 with a B.A. in English and from the University of Iowa with an M.A. in library science in 1983. Post grew up in Pella, Iowa, taught briefly in a small rural school, and worked as a librarian following school. It wasn’t until she and her husband, Jerry, an attorney, moved to Chicago and “happened upon” the Lawndale Christian Reformed Church that she found her career. For the past twenty years, she’s been busy with urban Christian education at the Chicago West Side Christian School (CWSCS). She began her service with CWSCS as a librarian and gradually became more and more involved with the school. Ten years ago, when the principal left, she was one of three people appointed to the leadership team—essentially a shared principal position.

“It’s been a powerful model for our small school,” she says noting that she and the other two members of the administrative team work collaboratively and well together.

“I never thought I’d be a school administrator, but my work over the years gave me the experience I needed to do what I do now,” she says. Post describes her role wryly as “building engineer.” She oversees many of the logistics of operating the school, including putting out a monthly newsletter and writing grants to keep the institution afloat.

CWSCS is a parochial school run by the Lawndale CRC. It provides an amazing service to the community and also serves as a way to demonstrate the power of Christ’s love to families of its students.

“Our students are both churched and unchurched,” Post says. It is not uncommon for parents unconnected with any church to come to the Lord through their children who attend CWSCS. Both the school and the church build strong relationships within the neighborhood and with other faith-based groups in the area. In that way, the school’s influence extends well beyond its walls.

Post helps coordinate the efforts of a diverse group of teachers and supporters who are very explicit about the Christian foundation upon which their school rests. Ninety-six percent of the students are African-American, and sixty-three percent of the children come from low income families.

One of the most exciting things to happen within the past six years was the construction of a new building that more than doubled the number of students CWSCS could educate. Because of a waiting list, enrollment jumped from 99 students to over 200—capacity for the vision the school has for itself. Currently the waiting list extends to five years.

Another highlight was the installation of a playground through KaBOOM, an organization whose mission is to have a play space within walking distance of every child in America, and built by an army of 200 volunteers in less than eight hours.

Post’s days are never boring and always full of challenges.

“We operate on a faith budget,” she says. “We’re always looking for people who care about urban Christian education. And God’s provision always strengthens us. On the day we need to meet our payroll, a check often arrives in the mail. We plan as well as we can and believe our efforts will be blessed.”

Post and her co-workers continue to shape CWSCS into a thoughtful learning community where students and teachers feel a sense of belonging.

“I love what I do. The work is purposeful, and the relationships are rich,” says Post. She is thinking, though, that when she turns sixty-five, she’d like to go back to just being a librarian. For more information visit http://www.cwscs.org