January 27, 2017

2017 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Moms share Catholic school experience with their children

Trey Miller, center, prepares to swipe his identification badge in the lunch line as his mother, Debbie Miller, accepts the charge at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville. (Submitted photo)

Trey Miller, center, prepares to swipe his identification badge in the lunch line as his mother, Debbie Miller, accepts the charge at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville. (Submitted photo)

By Christa Hoyland (Special to The Criterion)

CLARKSVILLE—It’s not uncommon for parents of Catholic school children to work at their children’s school. Many of these parents have careers in education, or they’re stay-at-home parents who want to be on the same schedule as their children or earn extra money.

What’s unusual about Debbie Miller and Nan Fougerousse is that they each left established careers in other fields to work at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville.

Miller, a 1987 Providence graduate, gave up a 20-year career as a nuclear medicine technologist to serve lunch in the school cafeteria. Fougerousse, a 1984 alumna, had spent 20-plus years in the insurance claims field, and her role before joining the school’s main office staff was as a claims analyst supervisor for an insurance recovery business.

Each took a cut in pay, but the benefits of working in a Catholic school and in the same building with their children are worth much more, they say.

“I went from taking an hour to get home at the end of every day to a three-mile trip down Lewis & Clark [Parkway] in my jeans and T-shirt,” Miller says. “I’m a happier mom since I’ve been here. I’m just more available for them.”

Miller joined the cafeteria staff nearly three years ago before her son Trey, a sophomore, was even a student at the school. She enjoyed her previous job doing stress testing and heart imaging at a hospital in Louisville, Ky., but when her route to work was impacted by long-term bridge construction projects, she began looking for work in southern Indiana.

When she learned of an opening in the Providence cafeteria, she happily changed careers in order to be on the same schedule as her children, including a second son, Jake, who will be a freshman in 2018.

As much as she loved her previous job, Miller said she enjoys her new job even more, from watching the students hold impromptu cheer sessions during lunch to the camaraderie of her co-workers.

“Being back at my alma mater and being part of the Blue Pride and school spirit, it’s been fun,” she says.

She also likes the atmosphere of working in a Catholic school, from the values exhibited by the students and staff to taking part in morning prayer.

“I love the prayer that starts the day,” Miller says. “It sets the tone for them and us. There’s so much here outside the books. There’s so much more than just an education. It’s the values and the community feeling here.”

Fougerousse said she decided to apply for the office assistant job in the fall of 2015 because she felt like she was missing out on many of her children’s activities. In the 2014-15 school year, her son Luke was a senior on the football team and her daughter Mia was a sophomore on the girls’ volleyball, basketball and softball teams. She attended as many games as she could, but sometimes missed important school events.

“I was spending a lot of time in my car,” Fougerousse says of her previous job. “I just missed a lot of stuff.”

Now that she has worked at Providence for 1 1/2 years, son Luke is in college, her daughter is a senior on the girls’ volleyball and basketball teams, and son Alec is a freshman on the football and boys’ basketball teams.

She works their school schedule and can attend their events at school and games in the evenings. She also is happy to be working in a more relaxed atmosphere and appreciates the opportunity to live her faith.

“I like that we have Mass, and you have people who will openly pray with you—and it’s O.K. to say, ‘God bless you,’ ” Fougerousse says.

“What drove me crazy in high school—that everybody knew my parents and everybody knew me—is what I love about it now. I just like the community. It’s a family.”

That extra touch of family at school also works for their children.

“It’s nice when I have a question,” Mia Fougerousse says. “I can just come down here and ask her. People tell me all the time, ‘I love your mom.’ ”

Trey Miller shares that experience. He likes that when he talks about a fellow student, his mother is familiar with the person.

“Everybody knows my mom, and she knows everybody,” Trey says. “It’s interesting, sometimes a little awkward, but funny.” †

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