Taking parental involvement to a new level
It’s normal for children to feel apprehensive on their first day of nursery school. But lucky for Lena Jessen, MBA’04, and Andy Jessen, MBA’04, years ago their daughter, Livvy (now an eleventh grader at U-High), dove right into Lab’s Nursery School and never looked back.
“She just looked like she was at home,” remembers Lena, who is currently a full-time parent after working as a business consultant. “The classrooms are set up so perfectly to spark the kids’ curiosity. Livvy dove right in. She couldn’t wait to get to the marker table to write her name, then to the sand table to dig up dinosaurs. We knew it was where she belonged.”
When kids two and three, Eliza (now grade 8) and Graham (now grade 5), came along, the Jessens wanted the Lab experience for their younger children as well.
“The teachers, even for the younger grades, give the kids a lot of agency,” Lena says. “Lab is not a place where the teachers will prescribe every detail. That’s important to us as parents, because life isn’t curated.”
This strong belief in the Schools’ design and mission is what inspired the family’s substantial parental involvement as volunteers. What began as a tenure as a room parent in 2008 has snowballed into an incredible commitment of time and resources. Andy and Lena became co-chairs of Connections—Lab’s gala fundraising event—in 2016, after first volunteering for the committee in 2008. Lena has been an active member of Lab’s Board since 2008, chairing both the Board’s Alumni and Family Relations and Development committees. She has also chaired the Parent Development Committee, is a member of the Parents’ Association Board, and is still a room parent!
“We felt in the beginning that joining these committees would be a great way to meet people in the community,” Lena says. “We weren’t affiliated with the University, so getting involved in the Schools helped us cultivate relationships with other parents and with teachers.
“Now, Lab is such a huge part of our family’s lives. We spend so much time there. Our kids’ friends are there, our friends are there. We’ve benefitted so greatly from Lab, and we feel it’s important to give back.”
“Lab is a school that is developing confident, independent, and critical thinkers,” Andy adds. “We want to do anything we can to support such a special place.”
- Lab Board
- Parents Fund