Former Student Creates Memorial Garden for Riley Elementary

Eric Schneider has taken on a project to create a memorial garden at the Riley Elementary School 1983 class reunion for those associated with the class who have passed. The project, which was Schneider’s project in his Self-Expression and Leadership program, took place on July 12, was written about by the Wheeling Countryside newspaper, a publication that covers suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

Community Service part of Riley’s ’83 Class Reunion

By Todd Shields

The Class of 1983 from Wheeling School District 21’s Riley Elementary School in Arlington Heights is undertaking a community service that will bind friendships for the future, said a reunion organizer.

On Saturday (July 12), 20 former Riley sixth-graders are planting a garden at Countryside Association in Ela Township with a Palatine address, a nonprofit serving people with developmental disabilities.

Memorial Garden, located near the front circle drive, is dedicated to Countryside’s clients, board members and staff who have died.

“I wanted to do something in the same spot for all of us to work on,” said Eric Schneider, a class member who helped plan the reunion party and planting. Schneider, an Evanston resident, lived in Arlington Heights while attending Riley School.

“Elementary school was a time of innocence, exploration and nonjudgment. Many of us grew up in the same Northgate subdivision on East Burr Oak Drive,” he said.

Schneider started the garden idea while participating in courses at Landmark Education that teach leadership, personnel development and community giving. Before enrolling at Landmark, which offers seminars in 125 cities, Schneider said he viewed “things only as how they affected me.”

“I now have a profound relationship with my family, team members at work and friends. I even look upon strangers very differently now,” Schneider said. “I wanted to put that new action and feeling into a community project like a garden.”

He said 65 to 80 people are expected to attend Sunday’s (July 13) reunion at Barnaby’s Family Inn, Arlington Heights, followed by games at Centennial Park on Burr Oak Drive and east of Riley School.

Schneider said Betty Stein, a substitute teacher for School District 21, has plans to show up at the reunion. He still referred to his favorite teacher as “Mrs. Stein.”

“She was just very sweet and understanding. Mrs. Stein related to me as a person. While I respected her as an authority figure, I always felt she was on my side,” Schneider said.

For more information, call Schneider at (312) 758-1934.

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