Friday, January 14, 2011
St. Ferdinand's new preschool: 'Welcomed with open arms'
By Paula Doyle
The St. Ferdinand student body welcomed the youngest "Vikings" ever to the 81-year-old campus as the school opened its new preschool Sept. 1.
Clad in petite sizes of the school's red, white and gray uniforms, the 20 preschoolers (ages three and four) have been embraced by the older students as well as the parish community in San Fernando.
"The preschool has been received very well; there's been a lot of interest," said Thomas Ambriz, principal. "It's phenomenal to be at two-thirds of capacity already." The preschool, which is licensed for 30 children, will be receiving four more students this month.
"I think as word spreads, it will generate more interest and more buzz," said Ambriz. An open house will be held Jan. 30, when San Fernando Region Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson will preside at the parish 8:30 a.m. Mass followed by a dedication ceremony.
The preschool will be formally dedicated to Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Eleanor Marie Ortega, who served 24 years as St. Ferdinand's principal. She is scheduled to attend the Jan. 30 event, where tours of the campus, including the new preschool, will be offered from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
"The preschool has been welcomed with open arms," said Lauren Muscarella, preschool director. "The K-8 students want the preschoolers to be participants in everything that the school does. It's really nice to see that. The kids are really happy."
Muscarella, 28, whose mother is the director at Incarnation preschool in Glendale, says she always knew she wanted to be a teacher of some sort. Although she applied at a former school to be a kindergarten teacher, she was invited to try preschool instead and has found her niche.
"I said, 'Why not?' and I've stuck with it," said Muscarella, whose previous position was at Immaculate Conception in Los Angeles where she opened the preschool.
"I wake up every day happy to come to work," she added. "I love the kids. I love that everything is brand new to them. Anything I teach them, they're seeing it with fresh new eyes. It's so nice to be in a position where I get to witness that all day long."
Besides the traditional preschool lessons where children learn the alphabet, colors and days of the week, students at St. Ferdinand also have computer class, outdoor physical education and religion studies.
"I'm born and raised Catholic," said Muscarella, who graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. "It's important for me for [religion] to be in our preschool. It's something I really enjoy teaching."
The children say prayers every day in class and have religion lessons from the "I Am Special" program where they learn to thank God for their many blessings. Muscarella has also incorporated a program based on a book titled, "Heartprints," by P.K. Hallinan which teaches the concept of doing "extra" to help people.
"We have a little chart and when they do something extra, they get a sticker and a surprise," explained Muscarella. "The other day a little boy was crying and one of his friends went up and gave him a tissue. That was doing something extra for a friend, so we call those 'heartprints' because it makes your heart say, 'Yeah!' It seems to really work with them."
The director noted the preschool offers half-day and full-day programs as well as before- and after-school care. Parishioners who meet criteria receive a discounted tuition rate. Additional information is available on the school website: www.stferdinand.com or by calling the preschool, (818) 361-0390.