Hi Everyone! It’s time for Lincoln Park Moms Meet a Mom Monday! This week’s Meet a Mom feature is Ashley Chia, Lakeview mom and Director of Operations at Park West Co-Op. Keep reading our interview below, where Ashley shares more about her career transition to Early Education (super cool!), fun tidbits about life in city with her kids, and lots of helpful information about what makes Park-West Co-Op unique! Ashley is an amazing mom in our community, and we are so excited to introduce her to you today.
If you are a local mom that would like to be featured in our “Meet a Mom” series, please send an email to [email protected]
Thanks so much for speaking with us today Ashley! Can you tell us about yourself, and what brought you to Chicago?
Well, I’m originally from a small town in Michigan where I grew up surrounded by family, from grandparents who lived next door, to aunts, uncles and cousins across the street and down the road. I attended the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and then lived in several large cities until I met my husband in Atlanta. We then followed his career to Seattle for a few years, where my first son was born. I love fitness, especially running and have completed a full marathon and more than a dozen half marathons along the way. We moved to Chicago from Seattle for my husband to take a role at GrubHub in 2015. After growing up in Michigan, Chicago was an appealing next stop on our journey.
How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
I have two boys, Charles who is 8 and Benjamin who is 4.
What is your favorite part about being a mom?
The way my boys make me laugh every day. Even when my day is hard, I can count on them to crack a joke or do something else to make me smile. They’ve learned this from their father and it makes me happy that even when things can be tough we alway can find a way to make each other laugh.
Which neighborhood do you call home? Do you have any favorite local businesses that you like to frequent?
We live in West Lakeview. We love Building Blocks Toy Store, Stan’s Doughnuts on Saturday mornings and so, so many of the wonderful restaurants in our neighborhood.
What are your favorite things to do in the city with your kids?
We love going to the museums, zoo and Botanic Garden. With COVID we spent a lot more time at the Botanic Garden the last few years and I feel like we always discover something new each time we visit.
Can you tell us about your career journey prior to joining Park West Co-Op?
I went to school thinking I wanted to be an engineer and after earning a degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering I spent more than a dozen years in Environmental Health & Safety. My favorite job was the time I spent as an Environmental Consultant helping corporations understand and comply with the regulatory requirements that applied to their operation. I took a few years off when my oldest son was born to stay at home but after 3 years realized I loved working in my field and went back to work. Then COVID hit. And I knew our family was best served with me helping the kids with remote learning, keeping them engaged in safe activities, etc. During that time I was pulled onto a Park West Task Force to help school re-open for the 2020-2021 school year. After spending last school year as the board VP at Park West I accepted the role as Director of Operations.
Tell us about Park West Co-Op and what you offer!
Park West is going on 50 years of leading Early Childhood Education in Chicago. We are a progressive, play-based nursery school, offering programs for children ages 18 months – 5 years. We offer half day classes, including Caregiver/Tot classes, 2, 3 and 4 day morning classes and two junior kindergarten (JK) classes. Park West does an amazing job of not only creating a community for students, but also for their families. We have a very active Alumni Network that provides Park West parents support through many stages of life. The robust Parent Education Program is foundational in who we are. Each family assists in the classroom multiple times during the school year and learns directly from the highly experienced teachers. Parents are seen as partners with their teachers. The Director of Park West and teachers host parent discussions throughout the school year and will often bring in book authors, social workers and therapists to assist in the discussions. Parent-run committees plan regular play dates, social events and community outreach. Spending time in the classroom and partnering with teachers at Park West was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me as a parent.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
Getting to greet children and their parents at the gate each morning. Watching them grow from timid at the beginning of the school year to running through the gate and into their classrooms now has been so rewarding. When we came back from winter break a student saw me from the car and was beaming and waving as she arrived. When she got out of the car she looked me directly in the eye and told me she missed me and took my hand to walk to the gate. Having that little relationship with the kids and families is by far the best part.
What is one more thing that you’d like to share with our readers that we haven’t covered?
I encourage all parents looking for a preschool for their child(ren) to check out all the really great options Lincoln Park and the surrounding area have to offer. In your search process, talk with not just staff from the school but also parents. A lot of people say that you will really ‘feel’ when a school is the best fit for your child and family and I believe this is really true.
Rapid Fire Round!
Best way to start the day?
I wake up every morning around 4 am to get in a workout before my kids are up. I believe that we need to take care of ourselves as moms before we can be our best in caring for others.
Favorite Chicago neighborhood?
Lincoln Park / Lakeview
Coffee or tea?
Ideal vacation destination?
Anywhere with a pool and a view of the water
Favorite way to unwind?
A glass of red wine and a chat with my mom or sister