After spending 16 years as the Community Education director for the New Richmond School District, Cheryl Emerson has many things to be proud of about her time educating the community.
"The things I am most proud of are our STEP program, our Starr mentor program and Empty Bowls as well as our Community Commons project. Growing the program over the last 16.5 years has also been a pleasure," Emerson said.
As of Dec. 20, Emerson will have officially retired and she hopes that her time with the district, and as part of the New Richmond community, has left a positive impact on those with which she has come in contact.
"I feel like I've left a legacy of kindness, compassion, empathy, and make our community enriched by using the resources and talents of those who live and work here. Hopefully I've been able to bring some joy to those in our community to never stop learning and investing their time and talents," Emerson said. "I hope in some small way I made the community just a little bit better and leaving community ed in a better place than when I started. And it was pretty darn good then!
"Also, I treated those who I worked with in all aspects, with kindness and respect, peace and happiness. I love helping people. I especially enjoy being a mentor and supporting those who are just starting out; my life is best served in service to others."
Emerson graduated from WITC with a marketing and retail merchandising degree and spent over 25 years running Trends on main street in New Richmond, while also working as an adjunct instructor at WITC in the Marketing/Entrepreneurship program.
"I worked for Restaurant Finance and Franchise Times, as well as the former Cullens Furniture store," Emerson said. "Of course I had other 'jobs,' aka volunteer jobs, that took up my free time, was on the chamber board for five years, Miss New Richmond and Miss Heritage and many other committees, Heritage Center, Rotary and Turningpoint were just a few."
Although Emerson has loved her time as community education director, everything just fell into place for her to retire.
"As they say the 'stars aligned' to make it happen," Emerson said. "I feel very blessed to be able to retire from the most wonderful job I have ever had. I still plan to continue community work, as my family says it is in my DNA."
After spending so much time working with the community and working to educate people in many different and interesting areas of study, Emerson has amassed many fond memories of her time in charge Community Ed.
"Some of my fondest memories were the people I had the pleasure of working with every day. The instructors, STEP workers, staff, administration, community members and non profits. Watching things come together as the community is very gratifying," Emerson said. "When you meet with an instructor with passion for an idea, and form a class to share that passion, and guide them through the process to see them succeed and the joy of the students who share in the instructors' passion as they learn something new that will enrich their lives.
"I really have had so many good memories of my years in community ed. Sometimes it is the smallest things that make a footprint in your heart ..."
One of Emerson's favorite memories was when it snowed 13 inches in April and almost forced the closing of that year's Empty Bowls event.
"I will never forget making the decision to not cancel it, even though everything else had cancelled that evening. We already had everything set up, soup was warming, bread was made, silent auction was up, bowls were displayed ... how could we cancel?" Emerson said. "I recall shutting my office door and praying that I would be happy if even five people showed up that night! I was so blown away by the people who continued to come and stayed that night, over 600 people, it was one of our best Empty Bowls ever! Now that is a supportive community!"
Although it will be tough to fill Emerson's shoes, she feels the program's future is bright.
"It has changed so much over the years, but the dedication of community educators is second to none. They are compassionate and have a burning passion to help the community work together to provide lifelong learning and enrichment opportunities for all ages," Emerson said. "There is no other program quite like it, that opens up the doors of the school to the community to share opportunities for enrichment and learning."
Now that she is retired, Emerson plans to spend more time with her family and friends, go camping, travel, read, volunteer in the community and occasionally serial watch Netflix.
"I hope to be able to also dedicate time to some of the causes I am passionate about," Emerson said. "Even though I won't be the face you see in the Community Ed office, I will continue to be a support to the community in other aspects."