GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Chartocks are very proud of the little boy they brought home from Fairview Hospital 38 years ago. He has exceeded all our expectations and today he will be married in the Big Easy, New Orleans, where he lives.
He held out a long time until he found the right woman; someone with shared interests and politics. Her name is Andrea Zayas and she is incredibly beautiful and talented. She brings her 10-year-old daughter, Mila, to the marriage and Jonas is getting a crash course in parenthood. We have gotten to know both Andrea and Mila and we could not be happier with our new family.
Jonas met Andrea through work, and they became friends, seeing one another at education-related events. Her mother, Elena, has roots in Colombia and her father, Sammy, in Puerto Rico.
It turns out he grew up a few blocks from where I did in New York City. Andrea was raised in New Jersey and went to Douglass College, where, incidentally, I had my first teaching assignment. She went on to earn an master's in education at Harvard. Interestingly, Jonas did one there too but they never met.
Andrea had a vision of a charter school in Brooklyn focused on social justice and she made it happen. The school, La Cima, has been a huge success so it was not easy for Andrea to make the difficult choice to leave to live in New Orleans. The good news is, she was scooped up by the KIPP Foundation, a charter school management leader, to take a key job in their organization. She is a certified yoga instructor and has even convinced Jonas to take up the practice.
Jonas is a Berkshires native. He went to Monument Mountain High School, which he loved. He's made so many friends over the course of his life that the airlines are going to get rich just on the ones who are coming to New Orleans for the wedding.
His list of accomplishments is impressive. After graduating from Cornell, he went on to Teach for America in Compton, Calif. He received a master's at Chapman University and ran Teach for America in Houston. After he earned a master's at Harvard, he was recruited to found and run an educational group that coordinated charter school activity in Texas. He earned his doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin and then came to New York where he was the executive director of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.
Almost three years ago, he moved on to Louisiana to head the national expansion of "Leading Educators," which contracts with states and school districts to train them how to keep great teachers in the system.
Jonas and Andrea are a wonderful couple. They symbolize that America is pulling together. They share a vision and commitment to helping those with the least to have the same equality of opportunity as those whose parents can pay the piper. Roselle and I have are huge believers in public education. I have always thought that charter schools are best located where children don't have access to quality education. Andrea and Jonas have both put their all into helping children from challenged districts to learn and to grow.
I am a bit of a crier, but I never know when the tears will come. Maybe they will come because my kids are doing so well. Maybe they will come because I am so proud of Jonas and Andrea and all that they represent. Maybe I will cry because I am 72 and Jonas is 38 and I don't know how that happened. Maybe I will cry because I will turn around and see Roselle with tears in her eyes. We're not going to give parents of the bride speeches but we are going to sing a song that goes: "Oh, I've got joy, joy, joy, down in my heart."
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.