APPLETON — Back when the Baby Boomers were children, their parents were pretty hands-off when it came to being involved in their children’s school life. Things changed dramatically when the Baby Boomers became parents. Many left the workforce and became stay-at-home parents and used their business skills to become ultra-volunteers in their children’s schools.
Now, with the majority of parents working full time, there’s a void of parent volunteers in the schools, including Catholic schools, which depend on volunteer labor to keep their campuses running. This is where people like Beth Hervey have stepped forward to fill the shoes of the generation that came before her to volunteer rather than having a paid career.
Hervey was born and raised Catholic. A Waupaca native, she didn’t attend Catholic schools as a child because there weren’t any in her city. However, she attended Marquette University, where she earned a degree in criminology and law studies.
“I was a juvenile probation officer prior to having children. Once I had the children, I knew I was going to stay home with them,” said Hervey. She and her husband Tom were living in Arkansas when their oldest child was born 11 years ago. Eight years ago they moved back to Wisconsin and enrolled their daughter at St. Bernadette School for 4K.
When that campus closed they switched her to St. Francis Xavier Elementary School-St. Thomas More campus for the start of second grade. Currently she is in sixth grade at St. Francis Xavier Middle School. Their younger daughter is in second grade at the St. Thomas More campus.
“At St. Bernadette I started out being a room parent and volunteering at events. Then I went on the HSA (Home and School Association) board,” she said. “When we came over here, I took a break from HSA but still stayed involved in things.” She joined St. Thomas More’s HSA three years ago and now serves as co-president.
St. Thomas More’s HSA is quite active, and Hervey helps out in some capacity when it sponsors an event. “We plan all of the community events for the school that affect the kids, that affect the families, and we do a lot to support the staff here,” said Hervey. It’s especially busy this time of year with Catholic Schools Week.
“We’re planning our Winter Carnival. That’s what ends Catholic Schools Week,” she said. “It’s a community-building, family event for everyone. This past fall we did a color run and we do Muffins with Mom and Donuts with Dad twice a year. We also do a St. Nick thing for the kids.”
The school needs lots of volunteers to make these activities successful, she said.
“For our Winter Carnival we need a lot of volunteers. We try to make the shifts just 30 minutes so you can enjoy it with the rest of your family,” said Hervey. “The Valentine’s Day classroom parties are a great way to see your kids and how they interact with their friends. You can volunteer for library. You can also come to Mass every Thursday and see your kids.” A “SignUpGenius” request is sent out one month in advance so working parents can arrange time off of work to volunteer.
When children transition from grade school to middle school there is a dramatic drop in volunteer opportunities, said Hervey. “That’s why I like to encourage people to take advantage of these younger years at the elementary school, because once they get to middle school, those opportunities are few and far between.”
Hervey said volunteering at a Catholic school gives parents a unique opportunity to see their children in a different setting.
“Being in the classroom, I get to see my kids, I get to see them interacting with their friends and to see the teacher and to have that relationship I think is important to if you’re able to do it,” she said.
While not everyone is willing or able to put their career on hold while their kids are in school, it has worked out well for Hervey. “For my personal fulfillment, I wanted to stay home with my kids, at least the first few years. But now I do so much volunteering and with running the kids around I don’t have the desire to go back to a full-time job,” she said.
The bottom line, said Hervey, is the chance to spend extra time with children and parents.
“I like to see the kids happy and enjoying things. … Even Muffins with Mom, it’s nice to see parents that you wouldn’t normally see at drop off because they have to get to work. We do it early enough that they can come have breakfast.”
It’s also great to see the school staff happy. “We appreciate so much what they do for our kids,” she said. “They’re not going to become millionaires teaching in a Catholic school but we appreciate their passion for education and for working here.”