John Conte vividly remembers being on the playground at Family Centers’ recently renamed Grauer Preschool as a four-year-old and hearing a foghorn in the distance. Every time he’d hear it, he would proudly inform his classmates that the deep, throaty sound was coming from the nearby ferry taking passengers to Island Beach.
“That foghorn was one of my first childhood memories,” the lifelong Greenwich resident said. “Hearing it now always brings me back to the sandbox and the wonderful experience I had at Family Centers.”
In addition to identifying the distinctive sounds of the Long Island Sound, Conte said his time as a preschooler was one of great development. It was at the Arch Street Preschool where he learned the value of kindness, how to make friends and spurred a love of learning that carried into adulthood.
Although it’s been decades since Conte has roamed the halls of the downtown Greenwich preschool, Family Centers has remained close to his heart. Years after starting his landscape architecture firm in town, Conte began looking for ways to give back to his community. He was approached to join Family Centers’ Board of Directors and jumped at the chance.
“Coming back into that building after so many years felt like a homecoming to me,” he said. “Family Centers gave me my educational start, and I was honored serve as a steward of the organization.”
During his time on the Board, Conte kept a watchful eye on the agency’s buildings as an active member of the Facilities Committee. Tapping into his professional expertise, he was also instrumental in the design and installation of the playgrounds at both the Grauer Preschool and the Gateway School – another of Family Centers’ early education sites located on the Greenwich/Westchester border.
Conte was also part of the governing body that orchestrated the merger with Family & Children’s Services in Stamford. The move established Family Centers as one of Fairfield County’s leading providers of education and human services, and reaffirmed Conte’s opinion that the agency was a valuable resource to the community.
So, when the time came for he and his wife to explore preschool options for their sons, there was no option other than Family Centers. Aside from knowing that his sons, John, Jr. and Dave, would thrive in Family Centers’ high-quality early education program, Conte was excited his boys were carrying on a family tradition. Incedentally, Conte’s father-in-law had also attended Family Centers in the 1940's – making John and Dave third-generation students at the school.
As parents, Conte and his wife, Kim, couldn’t have asked for a better preschool experience for their boys. Much like Conte himself, John and Dave gained a solid educational foundation that led to successful careers in the family business.
This past summer, the line of Conte preschoolers grew longer when Dave’s son, Davey, enrolled. Dave immediately thought back on his own experience at the school when he looking for a program for his own son. At first he was unsure how Davey would take to his new learning environment, but quickly comforted when he walked into the familiar brick building.
“Preschool is a great setting for young children to gain important life skills,” Dave said. “I drew upon my own memories here and knew this was the right place for him. He comes home excited about what he’s learned, and looks forward to going back the next day. I can’t wait to watch his growth during his time here.”
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