Fanning her passion for learning, a young Nicole Glinski walked methodically with her father, Frank, at the numerous museums and historical landmarks the family often visited.
While mother, Donita, and brother, Jamie, hustled through the tour and often waited at the car or gift shop, Frank and Nicole stopped to absorb each lesson.
Now Nicole Cheslak and married nearly a year, the recently promoted executive director at Huntersville's Historic Latta Plantation literally grew into her role.
"When our family went on vacation, we always stopped at historical spots and dad and I stopped to read each plaque," Cheslak said at her office recently a she took a break from overseeing the "Art of the Blacksmith" event.
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Suddenly, a grin appeared, recalling a fond memory: "My mom and brother would whip right through and would have to wait for me and my dad. He got me passionate about history."
"I really love historical sites."
A native of Ohio and former resident of Michigan, Cheslak's family relocated to North Carolina in 2003. In college at the time, Cheslak transferred to UNC Charlotte, where she earned a bachelor's degree in history in December 2006.
She entered graduate school, but within a few months of beginning her advanced studies, uncertainty over her professional path developed.
Sensing she needed a "break" from college, Cheslak's first move came natural, venturing to a local historical site. Swiftly earning a promotion to Latta's visitor service manager, she soon discovered, "I found a career."
Upon learning she was pregnant with her third child last year, Kristin Toler, the previous executive director, started sifting additional responsibilities to Cheslak, who handled them well enough to receive an offer to assume Latta's top role Feb. 9, the same day Toler gave birth to a daughter.
"Kristin was an amazing person to work for," said Cheslak, 26. "She was a good mentor to work for."
Advertising visitors to "step into history and experience life on a 19th century backcountry cotton plantation," the popular Huntersville diversion offers, among a host of activities, historic re-enactments, workshops, daily tours, summer camps and special programs, attended by around 38,000 annually, including 12,000 school kids, Cheslak said.
On any given day, at any given time, the rookie executive director will find herself at the gift shop, leading daily tours, coordinating events and developing events to raise money for the nonprofit institution. When most of those items are completed, Cheslak, who often attends meetings on her off days, sits for lunch.
"It can get pretty crazy," she said. "We have a small staff. It's amazing the stuff we do. Our volunteers are fantastic."
Latta's staff of six includes Blair Elder, Connor Newman, Ken Holmes, Ian Campbell, Matthew Waisner and Toler. There also are three main volunteers: Bob Giguere, Maureen Stiene and Maurice Blackburn. All have helped to smooth the transition, Cheslak said.
Among Latta's 35 major annual events, an Easter Egg Hunt is slated for April 3.
"We could not do what we do without the volunteers," she added.
With Cheslak's one-year wedding anniversary approaching June 12, she is planning a trip to Charleston, S.C., a region rich in history. Several side trips are already planned.
"We are going to all the historic spots," Cheslak said. "My husband understands."