January 28, 2022

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Voucher program benefits ‘the whole family’

Nick and Jennifer Vermillion pose with their children Isabelle, Alexis and Evelynn, all three of whom attend Our Lady of the Greenwood School in Greenwood thanks to the Indiana school choice voucher program. (Submitted photo)

Nick and Jennifer Vermillion pose with their children Isabelle, Alexis and Evelynn, all three of whom attend Our Lady of the Greenwood School in Greenwood thanks to the Indiana school choice voucher program. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

For Rick and Ellen Taylor, sending their six children to Holy Name of Jesus School in Beech Grove wasn’t a financial burden. They received a discount since Ellen was—and still is—a teacher there.

When it was time for their oldest son to go to high school, however, Rick was not sold on sending him to a Catholic high school. As a non-Catholic, he doubted a faith-based education was better than a public school one.

But when the Taylors went to the open house at Roncalli High School on the south side of Indianapolis, “They knocked my socks off,” he said. “I left saying, ‘Yeah, he’s going to Roncalli.’ ”

With the help of Indiana’s school choice voucher system, the Taylors were also able to send their next oldest son there.

But when it came to their remaining four children, they weren’t sure they could afford Roncalli, even with the voucher program. To do so would mean a four-fold financial hit for four consecutive years—the Taylor’s four remaining children are quadruplets.

So, when “the quads” graduated from Holy Name, the Taylors decided they would send them to the local public high school.

“They were like fish out of water,” says Rick. “It was a whole different world to them. They missed the camaraderie of Catholic school.”

And the Taylors knew the four children were missing out on what Rick calls “a superior education” at Roncalli.

After two weeks, Rick recalls, “We called [the school] and said, ‘What can you do to help us out?’

“The person who handles vouchers there was a tremendous help. The paperwork was easy, and we never looked back.”

As a pre-kindergarten teacher at Holy Name, Ellen also sees the effects of the state’s On My Way Pre-K voucher program.

“The voucher program has increased our enrollment a great deal,” says Ellen, who is also a member of the school’s parish, Holy Name of Jesus. “I have a full class of 24 pre-K kids, and there’s a waiting list to get in.

“And they’re not all Catholic. If you can bring in more non-Catholic kids, that gives you more opportunity to share the faith.”

As for the quadruplets, they will graduate from Roncalli this spring. As a 1991 graduate of the school, Ellen is proud all six of her children will be alumni.

“There’s just a sense of community and family there,” she says.

Nick and Jennifer Vermillion feel the same way about Our Lady of the Greenwood School in Greenwood. Thanks to the Indiana school choice voucher program, their three children are able to attend the school.

“It’s a whole family atmosphere,” Jennifer says about the school. “We love that they bring God into every single day there, and not just in religion class.”

Nick, who was welcomed into the full communion of the Church 16 years ago and worships with his family at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish, calls the parochial school’s education “top notch.”

“As far as academics go, I’ve always been floored with what [the students are] working on versus my public education when I was a kid,” he says. “[Our kids] are doing things some of their friends haven’t even touched on in public school.”

The Vermillions say sending their three children to a Catholic school wouldn’t be possible without the voucher system.

“My husband and I both as adults changed careers,” says Jennifer. “I went to nursing school and he went to pharmacy school. The amount of debt from furthering our own education, it was a struggle to be able to pay for their education along with taking care of our financial obligations.”

Applying for the vouchers “was really easy, and the school was so helpful,” she says. “It didn’t take me longer than 20 to 30 minutes to get everything put together and sent off.”

“I am ecstatic that it’s there,” Nick says of the voucher program. “I’m also very thankful that they don’t just look at your income. On paper for us that looks really great, but when you factor out all the expenses for student loan payments and mortgage payments—after we paid for Catholic education before [using the voucher system], we barely had two pennies to rub together. This really takes a lot of stress off of us financially.”

Jennifer adds that the voucher system has “benefited the whole family.”

Their children are learning “how to see God in everything, and we don’t feel like we have to pick up extra shifts just to make ends meet,” she says. “We’re able to take the time we need mentally and emotionally to be home and spend time with our family.”

(Click here for more information on the Indiana school choice voucher program)

 

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