From work force to volunteer force

By Amanda Lauer | For The Compass | September 21, 2016

Cedergren puts business, sales skills to work at Catholic school system

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]NEENAH — Christine Cedergren is part of a trend of educated young parents who have had successful careers and then make the jump to full-time parenting. They bring with them the experience and skills to not only raise their children well, but to also enhance the schools their children attend.

Cedegren attended St. Thomas More Catholic School in Appleton from kindergarten through seventh grade. After graduating from Appleton West High School, she earned a degree in business communication from St. Norbert College.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Christine Cedergren (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Christine Cedergren (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

She and her husband, Thomas, have three boys, Charlie, 10, Edward, 8, and Henry, 7.

After working part time in business development and sales engineering in the technology industry, Cedergren became a stay-at-home mom when her oldest son, Charlie, turned 1. One of her first volunteer positions was as coordinator for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). “That was a fabulous transition into motherhood,” she said.

In 2009, she started a group called Spouses Network. “My husband was laid off that year after a job of 23 years,” said Cedergren. “As a result of that, I realized that a layoff impacts the whole family so I started this network of education and support for the families of laid off workers and it was funded by the Fox Cities Workforce Development center.”

Ever since her oldest son started preschool at age 3, Cedergren has been actively volunteering at St. Margaret Mary School.

Today she serves as co-president of FACES (Faith and Community Enriching School). The parent teacher organization is quite active at St. Margaret Mary, which has approximately 250 students enrolled, noted Cedergren.

“We do at least one community building activity a month that you pay to come to and all the money goes to the school. We try to make it affordable so anyone can come,” she said. The biggest fund-raiser for the school is the annual Wines Around the World event held every February, which Cedergren has been volunteering for since her oldest was in preschool.

The FACES group is also interested in the health and wellness of the students at St. Margaret Mary and they’ve sponsored activities like NFL PLAY 60 and two bike/walk to school days per year.

“Our goal is to make everybody feel welcome and to really build community,” noted Cedergren. In addition to being involved with the major events the school hosts, she still enjoys helping out in her sons’ classrooms.

The spotlight for Cedergren is attending Friday morning Mass at the school. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the week,” said Cedergren, who returned to the Catholic Church after falling away for several years. “The highlight for me is seeing those little people and their faith on fire.”

The volunteering doesn’t end for Cedergren just because the school day is over. She started an after-school enrichment program in 2011. “When my son was in 4K, he was in karate at 5 p.m. and … it was dinner time and it was a nightmare,” she said. “That spring I asked our principal, Eleanor Healy, if we could do karate here. It turned out to be hugely successful. People loved having that option of being able to do something here after school.”

The program has expanded to more than 20 classes at all three SMCS elementary school campuses and the middle school as well. Classes range from FIRST Lego League to STEM classes, hip hop, show choir, piano, foreign language, theater, VEX IQ Robotics, yoga and track.

Cedergren is even busy in the summer as she introduced Camp Invention, a STEM-based day camp, to the SMCS system in 2014. During the school year, they do a version of that called Club Invention. As the director of the enrichment program, Cedergren started getting a stipend for her work a year or so ago but still puts in a fair share of volunteer hours towards this endeavor.

While Cedergren could be using her skills in the workforce, a quote from Charles Swindoll encourages her to keep doing what she’s doing. “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”

“What motivates me is obviously for my own children. These things enrich their lives,” she said. “It’s a true blessing to watch the kids at school and to be in the classrooms. Now we’re implementing STEM and VEX IQ in the classrooms this year. You don’t realize what these kids are capable of. We’ve underestimated the potential that they have. If we can encourage them to tap into that, especially girls, it will empower them.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]

Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Christine Cedergren
Parish: St. Margaret Mary, Neenah
Age: 46
Favorite saint: Elizabeth Ann Seton
Words to live by: “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” — Charles Swindoll
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