By HAROLD GWIN
At 94 years of age, most people would have long been retired.
Sister Jerome Corcoran passed that milestone three months ago, and, though she said she will be stepping down soon as executive director of Millcreek Children’s Center and Youngstown Community School, she has no intention of slowing down.
In fact, she really won’t be retiring. She’s just going to refocus some of her energy and attention.
“I will be working on special projects for Millcreek Children’s Center and Youngstown Community School,” she said. She also plans to help the new executive director ease into the job.
It’s a job she’s loved for the last 35 years.
She was born in Chicago, but her family moved to Youngstown when she was 7, and she’s been here ever since.
She was teaching English and education at Youngstown State University when the city asked her to take over what was then its preschool program, she said.
“I thought I would stay a few months and get it started,” she recalled.
But she soon saw the need for additional services for the children and stayed to help get them in place.
“So, I never left,” she said, adding that the thought of doing something else has never entered her mind.
But she’s ready now to hand the director’s duties over to someone else, and a careful search is under way for her successor.
“I do not want this to fade out,” she said, explaining she wants a successor who shares her passion for doing what is possible with little urban children.
The most gratifying experience is watching children develop security, attentiveness and identification with the arts, and the feeling that, “Yes, I can do that,” she said.
Millcreek Children’s Center, launched in 1976, caters to preschool children of lower-income working parents. It averages about 50 students during the school term and 25 during the summer months.
Youngstown Community School, located next door, is a charter school opened in 1998, currently serving 330 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Sister Jerome takes some delight in pointing out the academic success of Youngstown Community School under the direction of Sister Mary Dunn, superintendent and principal, saying that it reached a state rating of “effective” this past school year on the Ohio Achievement Tests, up two steps from “academic watch” the previous year. “Effective” is the second highest state rating.
The children in Millcreek score above the national average on standardized academic tests and go into kindergarten prepared to succeed, she added.
“We know we can do it. It’s a success,” she said.
“We’ve always had just marvelous [school] boards,” Sister Jerome said. The schools have been blessed with generous support from many people, she said, noting that Denise DeBartolo York has been especially supportive of the schools.
Now is a good time to move on, she said, pointing out that she has some projects she wants to complete.
Among there is a plan to do a follow-up on graduates of Millcreek and Youngstown Community School to see what they are doing, what they have achieved and what problems they’ve had, she said.
She hopes to be able to show that the schools appreciate what they’ve done and is willing to continue helping them.
She also wants to set up a program to continue assisting those families who are hurting the most financially.
The schools have kept in touch with those families, and Sister Jerome wants to be sure resources are continued to be made available to them.
“I wouldn’t want to give that up,” she said.
She intends to launch a better public-relations program to tout the educational benefit of the two schools.
“People need to know that it is a good thing,” she said.