Some people look forward to the slowing down that comes with retirement, but Laura Younkin, a trainer/educator with Peace Education who spent three decades in education, admits that she has a difficult time staying still. “I am a person who needs some structure, and I knew I would be doing something to help with social justice. I wanted to do some greater good,” she says. She has begun a second act of sorts in her work for the greater good as a trainer/educator with Peace Education.
As a former school librarian who spent 28 years at Ballard High School, she already has a bag of tricks for working with children and handling classroom management, but interacting with younger groups of students has been especially exciting. “With little kids I forget sometimes that you have to break things down in little bits. You can’t just tell them, ‘Get in a circle.’ Whoa! That was pandemonium,” she says with a laugh.
An appreciation of fun is something Laura incorporates into her Peace Education work, as well as her hobby of creating dollhouses and dollhouse furnishings, an interest that began when she was a child with her friend, Debbie. When Debbie moved back to Louisville after many years away, “we were talking about the fun things we loved doing, and we’re like ‘Why don’t we make a Barbie Dreamhouse, but we’ll give it away,’” she says. Laura had been volunteering with Family Scholar House, so she approached them to see if they’d be interested in a dollhouse for their common play area, and they very much were.
The house took about six weeks to make, and Laura was assisted by her husband, Larry Stewart, whose background as a construction professional came in very handy. He created the building itself and made tiled fireplaces for each floor. “The whole thing was made from found objects and things from Goodwill. My decorating theme was mid-century pan-African,” she says. Above each fireplace she placed framed portraits of stylish and talented Black women, including Nina Simone and Faith Ringgold. It was a joyful experience for Laura to make the house, and she often had friends who wanted to contribute to the process too, upholstering the sofas or adding accessories. “It was a fun chance to get back in touch with my creative 8-year-old [self],” she says.
Laura thoroughly enjoyed the unveiling of the dollhouse at Family Scholar House, which was a big event that included girls in an inaugural playtime with the house, refreshments, and a talk from a realtor for the mothers of the girls about the steps to homeownership.
By Carrie Vittitoe