PARENTS PITCHING IN
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January 23, 2024
Booster Club and Parents Club volunteers play key role in the success of Notre Dame Prep and its school’s mission.
When you step inside the halls of Notre Dame Prep, every so often you discover a different kind of groove. It’s not the typical school shuffle of textbooks and bustling hallways; it’s a rhythm all its own. It’s the steady beat of adult volunteers—family, retired teachers and friends of the school. They bring their A-game, sharing their time, talents and treasures to keep the Notre Dame spirit alive.
In the world of Catholic education, volunteers are the unsung heroes who breathe life into the school’s mission and values.
At the heart of NDP lies its mission – to work with God to form young men and women into good Christian people, upright citizens, and academic scholars. Volunteers are not mere supporters; they are living embodiments of these principles. Through their selfless dedication, they demonstrate the essence of Notre Dame’s mission, contributing to the growth of young minds spiritually, academically and morally.
John and Kim Blakeslee, devoted parent volunteers with the Booster Club for almost two decades, encapsulate this sentiment: “Our involvement as volunteers is an extension of the values we hold dear as a Notre Dame community. It’s about living our faith and nurturing these young minds into compassionate, well-rounded individuals,” John said.
The Blakeslees said volunteering is also a good way to set an example for their children: Brian NDP’18, Brad NDP’19, and Bree NDP’24, as well as to meet other families.
“I first got involved helping coach my kids’ co-ed basketball team that Mr. (Mark) McGreevy started back at the lower school some 18 years ago. From there I helped coach the baseball team with Mr. (Robert) Patterson when my boys were in fourth and fifth grade,” John said.
Each season, parents of student-athletes are required to volunteer for three shifts per student-athlete. These can include working in the concession stand, security for games, ticket gate or 50/50 raffles. Parents also have the option to sign up for season-long positions such as scorekeeping, announcers, line judges, clock management and more.
John said the volunteer hours never felt like a “requirement.”
“We always go to all their games so why not help out and get the best seat in the house as a clock operator or sideline seat for soccer games?” he said.
Aaron Crouse, assistant athletic director, said dedicated parent volunteers are essential to pull off all the games, tournaments and practices for NDP’s 30 athletic programs.
“Volunteers are essential to running our over 500 athletic home events each school year. Not only do our volunteers help in filling positions that are necessary to run an athletic event, but they are often one of the first points of contact that visiting spectators, teams and officials have with Notre Dame Prep. Through the way that they conduct themselves as Christian people, upright citizens, and academic scholars in these positions, our volunteers show that our mission statement extends not just to our athletes and coaches but to the parental level as well.”
Parents Brent and Melissa Tompkins began volunteering in 2018, when their oldest child, Meghan NDP’22, was a sophomore.
“Melissa and I had both coached our children in various sports prior to starting at NDP. Being involved in sports was a great way to spend time with our children, and volunteering at NDP seemed to be a natural extension of our coaching experience,” Brent said.
He further explained that volunteers play a crucial role in easing the day-to-day burdens that would otherwise be shouldered by coaches and athletic staff. With volunteers handling administrative and logistical tasks, coaches can direct their attention toward developing strategies, providing training and offering guidance to athletes. Coaches also have more time to nurture player development.
“The benefits of volunteering and helping out really start and end with knowing we’ve helped our children and their team/classmates have the best experience. It’s important that we do all we can to make it as rewarding as possible for our children,” Brent said. “If parents didn’t volunteer, our teams would be less prepared—no pre-game meals, no post-game snacks/drinks—and the additional burden to the coaches and staff would impact the quality time they get with their teams when their role goes beyond the Xs and Os and into developing future leaders.”
Kim Blakeslee agreed, stating: “Volunteering is the best way to learn more about the school as a parent. It offers assistance to coaches, teachers and teams as a whole. Being a part of a Catholic school, volunteering opens a great opportunity to be resourceful and assist the school with our own expertise of careers as well as those of other parents. Therefore, volunteering is the best way to support the school, meet many families and staff and network with the multiple families at the school.”
Keeping the train on the tracks
The Parents Club is another key support arm for the school. Made up of parents from all three divisions, volunteers play a vital role in everything from sponsoring student social events, supporting the band and theatre programs, staffing events like the lower school’s Boo Bash and Field Day, as well as fundraising through events like the Senior Fashion Show and Oktoberfest. Many behind-the-scenes tasks are also handled by parent volunteers, such as hospitality lunches for teachers and staff, and sponsors for student clubs like ski, robotics and forensics.
“The Parents Club plays a pivotal role in organizing, fun and educational activities that all students will treasure. I also feel that these activities play a crucial role in making school a place where students eagerly look forward to each day,” said Kim Wisniewski, who serves as volunteer coordinator.
“The sense of community in collaboration within the Parents Club is truly rewarding, knowing that we’re all working together to provide our children with a positive and memorable school journey. It’s heartwarming to witness joy in my kids’ eyes when they talk about some of these activities, and that’s why I find immense satisfaction at being part of this wonderful group,” Wisniewski added.
Volunteers build a strong sense of community, connecting parents, teachers and students for a supportive, collaborative educational atmosphere, Wisniewski said.
And while some parents balk at the idea of “required” hours (every parent is required to complete 10 volunteer hours per year), she said it is all about fostering a sense of community.
“The Parents Club could not do what we do without the help of our families. I believe when parents are required to volunteer, it establishes a strong partnership between the home and school environments. It allows parents to gain deeper insights into their child’s academic and social development, fostering better communication and understanding between parents and teachers,” Wisniewski said.
Parent involvement in school activities enhances the overall school community, creating a sense of unity and shared responsibility for the educational well-being of all students.
“Ultimately, requiring parent volunteers at school reinforces the notion of education is a joint effort, with parents playing a vital role in their child’s educational journey, which can have lasting benefits for both students and the school community,” she said.
Laurie Keoleian has volunteered for the past nine years, most recently as chair of Oktoberfest. She also helped out at college fairs, lunch duty at the lower school, and International Day.
She said her children — Michael NDP’21, Sophia NDP’23, and Gabriella NDP’26 — have wonderful memories of their parents volunteering at the school.
“I enjoy volunteering for a couple of reasons. I really love being in the school and seeing my kids and their friends.
“The school is an incredible place and I like spending time there. It’s a wonderful community and to see it during working hours is special.”
Parent volunteers are crucial for the school, fostering a mutual partnership. Their involvement builds a close-knit community, enhancing the school experience for everyone,” she added.
“The school needs us just like we need it. The teachers and staff can’t do it alone. In most cases, you are at the school for a minimum of four years, you might as well dive in and get to know as many families, teachers, staff and students as possible. It makes the journey so much more fulfilling for everybody.”
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.