Jefferson City Family Donation

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JEFFERSON CITY - The largest donation to date from the Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation was presented to the Southwest Early Childhood Center in memory of John A. Morris Friday.

When Morris passed away earlier this year, his wife and children decided to donate money in his name to help further early childhood public education in Jefferson City. The late Morris served on the Jefferson City School Board, twice as president. 

Morris’ oldest daughter, Sarah Riddick said, “My father’s spirit is certainly with us. He was a life-long learner and of all of the things he was passionate about, education was the focus. From day one it was education. He was proud to put all five of his children through college and the two girls, there were five us, we’re both educators, which is a direct influence of my father.”

The family decided to donate money to the Southwest Early Childhood Center in Jefferson City.

“We kept coming back to early childhood education because we know that, if you can help children at that special age, before they get to kindergarten, you are going to make such an impact. Statistics are there to show how important this is."

Riddick said her father would be "a little embarrassed" by all the attention the donation is getting.

"This was not his thing, and we’re all a little embarrassed, too, but we decided that, if we could get the world out about how important this program is, a lot of people may not know about it, and early childhood education," she said.

Southwest Early Education Center is part of the Jefferson City Public School System and  serves children ages six weeks through fifth grade, but excludes first and second grades.  Southwest focuses on children with academic and behavioral needs, many of which live in poverty.

The money from the Morris family opened a new classroom, the John A. Morris Classroom and hired a new preschool teacher, bringing 15 more children to the school who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to go to preschool.

Larry Linthacum, superintendent of schools at Jefferson City Public Schools said, “With a generous gift like this, it can be a kick-start. It’s almost overwhelming in how the willingness, the generosity, the givingness of just working together for students and for our community and so it’s a real testament to them and how we can come together and be stronger together.”

The new preschool teacher, Jennifer Boyce, says she’s honored to fill the position opened up by the donation.

Boyce said, “I’m excited to give children an opportunity that they might not have had otherwise to become life-long learners.”

Nicole Langston, principal at Southwest Early Education Center, expressed her gratitude to the foundation and the Morris family.

“The gift to this school is about so much more than 15 kids coming to our school and walking our halls, it’s about our community, it’s about helping each other out, raising kids together and building a stronger community. That’s why we’re so excited about this gift,” she said.

Langston said the donation will have a lasting impact.

"We’re gonna help them be successful when they walk in those kindergarten doors and help them to have this love for life and love for learning and their families to feel that same way.”