The History of Rising Stars Preschool

Rising Stars Preschool is celebrating its 18th year in 2021!!

In 2004, two local moms with young children, Christy Walsworth and Shawna James, were approached by the La Pine Community Action Team (LCAT) Community Advocate, Kristi Otteni, about starting a preschool in La Pine. There was a definite need in the La Pine community and in South Deschutes County for a preschool such as this.

Early on, it was decided that this new preschool, which would be called Rising Stars Preschool. would be a non-profit organization. In February 2004, La Pine Community Action team awarded Rising Stars Preschool a grant to apply for their 501(c)3 status and establish their business name. Work began in earnest to be able to open the preschool doors in 2004. In August, the Sunriver Rotary Club awarded Rising Stars Preschool their first grant to support the opening of the school.

Rising Stars Preschool opened it’s doors to students for the first time in September 2004. There were 11 children in a 4-year old class, six children in a three-year old class. This inaugural class was launched as a parent co-op preschool. There was one teacher in each class, and a parent volunteer each day as a teacher’s aid. Although this was a great start, and a great way to keep staffing costs low, it quickly became evident that training a new parent volunteer on a regular basis was not very time effective for the teacher.

As a non-profit, Rising Stars Preschool began looking ahead for ways to raise funds for needed supplies, snacks, scholarships and other operating costs. Grant writing became part of the annual tasks, along with ideas for fundraising events. In May 2005, the first Rising Stars Preschool Trike-A-Thon was held on the playground track. It was a huge success and very popular with children and their families.

In June 2005, the first group of Rising Stars Preschool students graduated on the lawn of the playground area. All the graduation hats blew off in the cold wind! Three years later, Rising Stars Preschool moved its annual Graduation Ceremony to the La Pine High School Auditorium. Money is raised throughout the year to rent the facility and make graduation a memorable event for graduating preschoolers, along with our younger preschoolers who walk across the stage, “graduating” to the older preschool class.

Rising Stars Preschool has been lucky to employ amazing teachers in the past 18 years. The first teacher was founder Christy Walsworth, with Shawna James serving as the President for the first Rising Stars Preschool Board. Teachers through the years included assistant Marni Irvin and assistant/Lead Teacher Jennifer Wilson. In 2011, Anne Barrett joined the staff at Rising Stars as Christy’s assistant. The following year Ann Tomanelli was welcomed as an assistant teacher and Anne Barrett served as the Lead Teacher. With the retirement of “Ms. Anne and Ms. T” in 2019, Rising Stars named Heidi Herb as Lead Teacher and Jessica Papp as the assistant. The 2019-2020 school year started out to be another great year at Rising Stars…then came COVID-19. We were shut down for almost a year and sadly lost our staff. February 2021, we are happy to announce we will re-open with the hiring of Laura Palmer (past Rising Stars parent of two) serving as our Lead Teacher.  Teacher Alyssa Lohner (joined August 2021) will be Director/AM Assistant Teacher. Christy Walsworth continues to be active in supporting the preschool and day to day operations as needed.

Our parents and families continue to be an important and essential part of our Rising Stars Preschool program. Although we do not have parents serving as full time assistant teachers, parents volunteer in the classroom as snack helpers, clean up helpers and also volunteer to help with special events and fundraisers, along with serving on our Board of Directors.

At Rising Stars Preschool, our philosophy is that parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. We are here to teach, enhance and add to the skills students are learning at home, and to focus on each child’s social and emotional readiness to transition from preschool to kindergarten and beyond.