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Teaching the Joy of Giving

January 22, 2013

By Mark Donahue
NLU Alumni Magazine

Ziomara Perez (B.A. in Early Childhood Education and Human Development, '97), a preschool teacher at Nettelhorst School in Chicago, has enjoyed some great accolades in recent years for her work in early childhood education. She was a Golden Apple Award winner in 2006 and garnered a Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award in 2011.

Ziomara, 37, is also a co-founder of SwaziKids International, which stemmed from a 2007 trip she and a colleague took to southern Africa, where they witnessed the ragged state of schools. She returned with the idea of engaging her young students to help make a difference.

The preschoolers in Ziomara's class collected spare change and with that money began a tradition of buying school supplies and toys to put in goody bags for children in Swaziland. Though she was at first worried her students might be jealous of the things they were sending overseas, Ziomara quickly discovered these young children were excited by the chance to help someone else.

SwaziKids International was started as a non-profit in 2009 and in addition to providing supplies, now raises money to send kids in Swaziland to school. In 2013, Ziomara and her colleague will hand-deliver the students' gifts to Swaziland, as they do every summer. The effort has taken on deep meaning for this Chicago teacher.

"I think I've had wonderful moments in my classroom these past 14 years, but this probably is going to be what I remember when I'm 80 years old somewhere," she said."This is just going to be what stands out for me."

Read more from the Winter 2013 NLU Alumni Magazine.


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