When people think of places that are integral to a town’s success, they usually point to financial institutions, medical offices, and colleges. But they are overlooking a very important part of every town - the place people choose to educate their young children.
The Willow School in Norristown is a great example of how important a school is to a town, especially one that offer that offers parents a choice for quality childcare.
The Willow School’s mission is to “prepare children for success in primary school by providing a standard of excellence in academic rigor alongside a delightful, engaging, and fun environment. The Willow School is dedicated to maintaining a community where the focus is on the whole child.”
Owner and founder Kym Ramsey is an Army veteran. Of course, running a school is similar to running a small-scale military operation that requires leadership, perseverance and planning. Ramsey received a commission into the United States Army as second lieutenant. She attended the Military Intelligence School and Leadership Training in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and completed airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia. Her first duty assignment was with the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, Korea, the closest camp to the demilitarized zone at which any female was deployed. She was in command of the headquarters division, with over 1,700 soldiers. After Korea, she was sent to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, a joint military base, where she trained soldiers in electronic warfare during Operation Desert Storm.
Being a mother provided Kym first-hand knowledge of what parents look for when it comes to early childhood education. In the early nineties, full-time Kindergarten was not a requirement in Pennsylvania. Since she moved from New Jersey, where it was a requirement, this surprised her. The only place that offered full-time Kindergarten was the independently owned Goddard School.
After a stint in the corporate world working in manufacturing, Ramsey leveraged her experience, education and desire to make a positive impact and opened her own Goddard School franchise in Skippack.
“I am where I am because of the education and the nurturing I've had throughout my life,” said Ramsey.
After the stock market crash in 2008, she realized her calling to bring quality education to underserved areas. Motherhood also provided her with another light bulb moment. Her daughter's senior project was for ACLAMO in Norristown. Ramsey became more familiar with Norristown and realized she could make a difference in the community.
She then opened the Willow School in 2012.
The teachers and staff at the Willow School embody Ramsey’s passion and philosophy to make children feel safe, valued, and loved.
Parents refer others to the Willow School and another wonderful form of compliment Ramsey receives comes years later when kids are no longer at the Willow School. Former students ask for hugs and parents often comment on the big difference she made in their child’s life.
The responsibility and the impact Ramsey and the staff of the Willow School have are not lost on her. She mentions the Bible verse “To whom much is given, much will be required.”
“Although I didn’t grow up with a lot, I saw how much my mother was such a giving person. When you give, you receive so much more. It is meaningful work that I know is going to be impactful. It’s not something I choose, it was something that was given to me and I am blessed to have it.”
In addition to the Willow School, Ramsey is the founder of the Norristown Chamber of Commerce. When she started the Willow School she looked for a business community and a network. When she couldn’t find one, she tapped into her military mindset and created a solution.
Ramsey partnered with the new leadership in Norristown and they collectively formed the Norristown Chamber of Commerce. They partnered with the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and reiterate the message that it’s not a matter of joining “either/or,” you can be a member of both.
“Norristown is worth investing your time and energy in. I am not jaded by what was. It will take time. But I think it's on the right trajectory. We have to have patience and grace with one another and forgive and move forward.”