Founders Day, February 25, marked not only the birthday of our school and its founders but the 21st anniversary of the dedication of “Zebo,” the gazebo perched on the hill above the kindergarten yard. What makes Zebo special is that it was built by an all-girls Explorations construction class.
Sturdily built and measuring 16-by-14 feet by 10 feet tall, Zebo has stood the test of time well. The only upkeep it requires is replacing the corrugated plastic roof every few years. Kindergartners love playing in it.
The names of the six girls who built Zebo (with our then building and grounds supervisor, Tim Tacker) are engraved on a small brass plaque, barely legible now, on one of the posts. We thought it would be interesting to track these women down and find out where their lives have taken them since their days at The Meher Schools. Katie Leonard was easy to locate – her mother is Kim Leonard, who taught third grade here for many years.
Katie Leonard, Pediatric Palliative Care Nurse
“I absolutely loved building Zebo. I felt like I could build anything after that, even at age 11. I went on to design and build a studio for all my craft projects with my dad in the backyard and have worked with him on various home-renovation projects over the years.
“In 2008 I helped with rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I worked with a group of fellow St. Mary's College students for three weeks, living in a bus and working on multiple houses in various stages. I felt very comfortable and loved both demolition and construction.
“The following year, I went on another trip through St. Mary’s and helped reinforce a boathouse for children learning English on the Amazon in Brazil. I enjoyed developing new skills and building on the skills I learned doing Zebo construction with ‘Mr. Tim’ so many years before.”
Amazing children. Katie became a registered nurse in 2012 and last August earned her master’s degree in palliative care. She works at Vitas hospice in Walnut Creek and gives COVID vaccines part-time for the county.
“My passion and chosen career path is providing pediatric palliative and end-of-life care for children. I love working with these amazing children and their families. It’s such an honor and a privilege to be invited into this space and to be present during these difficult and beautiful times. It’s incredible to see the joy, teaching, and love these special children, whose lives may seem short, bring to all the people they touch. I am called to be there, to do what I can to bring comfort and guidance, and to be a witness to the lives and journeys of the children and their families.
A lot to give. “I have no idea what it is in my makeup that allows me to do this work or exactly how I got here. I never would have expected it, but to my surprise I found I have a lot to give to this field. People don’t like talking about children being sick or dying, but it happens. There’s an assumption (that I had too) that it’s all sad. But there is so much more than that. Of course there is sadness and tremendous grief. But there’s also joy and genuine laughter.
“They are kids, after all. And there is such wisdom and beauty and magic to it all. Just like birth. Overall, kids do it well – life, death, everything in between. Adults have a lot to learn – or remember. And I just love being a part of it.
“I’ve also seen how meaningful it is to have families on the same page, to really understand what’s happening, build memories, create lasting legacy projects, fulfill the child’s dreams, manage symptoms, and have peace at the end. It’s so rewarding to be able to contribute, to help facilitate any of these things.”