by Melissa Flatt, USNA volunteer coordinator
Last year, I was asked by our illustrious University School of Nashville Association if I would consider being the step-up volunteer coordinator. As the name implies, that is a two-year commitment, with the second year being the volunteer coordinator. It's my second year. Don't get me wrong, it's cool to have a title, but what I really do are two main things: 1. If you say you'd like to get involved at USN, I help you connect with the right person and place (as I said, cool job, but even better, wait for it…), and 2. I get to interview really awesome people who volunteer at USN and share their stories with you. All that said, here's the third of this year’s column I like to call “I didn’t realize.”
Picture yourself breathing in the soft spring air, echoes of an announcer murmuring in the background, pounding feet rounding a corner, the almost unheard click of the camera. Now, come inside and inhale the smell of ink on paper—not quite musty—that pulls you into the comfort of a real book. Finally, sit down and run your fingers over the many textures—smooth muslins, cushy velvets, cool spandex. You have now imagined just part of what this month’s featured volunteer enjoys.
USN community, I am so excited to introduce you to Catherine Bowles. Catherine is married to Kirk Bowles, and mother to two extraordinary daughters, Ellie ’22 and Betsy ’24. Catherine and her family have been involved with USN since Ellie started kindergarten, though it’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade.
Catherine stays busy in all aspects of her life. She is a working architect. She keeps up with their family’s two dogs (by the way, if you haven’t had a chance to pet on those love pups, you really should), and she is facilitating the transition of her mother living with them part time. Of course, since she is our January spotlight, she is also an amazing USN volunteer.
From kindergarten through the present, Catherine has been involved in our school. Catherine has been a Lower School room parent, a Middle School advisory parent, and both a Lower and Middle School helping hand. She worked on Artclectic and the Fall Book Frenzy.
She’s helped with Grandparents and Special Friends’ Day. Have you ever wondered how those unique pieces of student artwork become personalized invitations? Catherine can tell you about it in detail.
She can also share her experiences hosting grade-level parties as well as hosting multiple Evening Classes. Of course, I wanted to know which one she was hosting this year. It’s Wine Tasting, and it’s sold out. I’m going to get that one next December, when Evening Classes registration opens.
Catherine also contributes her talent for photography, often taking pictures of school events like musicals and athletic activities. That striking picture of a pole vaulter that was on the USN main page? That’s Catherine’s photo. And speaking of musicals, Catherine has helped in countless ways with our Middle School musical, with roles like snacks, backstage and costumes. Catherine is an outstanding seamstress. If you were fortunate enough to see “Sister Act Jr.” last August, I’m sure you noticed the scene with the surprise reveal of the nuns’ snazzy gold scapulars. Catherine sewed all those shiny rectangles plus some habits and wimples.
Melissa: So why does our busy working mother make time to volunteer at USN?
Catherine: I like to meet the other kids in the grades and get to know some of the other parents. It gives me a chance to see what my kids are interested in, and to see what is going on at school. Plus, it seems like that’s how things get to be as good as they are—parent volunteers choosing to be involved—that helps us take things to a higher level. Look at costuming the Middle School musical, for instance. With a cast of over 100 students each year, we could just put them all in jeans and T-shirts. Instead, the volunteers create costumes that are works of art. More help allows for a better production. That same concept applies to all of the volunteer opportunities at school. But most of all, I think volunteering at USN shows my girls that I care about what they are doing.
Melissa: Would you like to see anything change at USN?
Catherine: I wish there was more support around the school for the kids and parents to go see each other beyond what they are specifically involved in. There is usually a great turn out for the Middle School musical, which encourages our community to come together and celebrate the start of another school year. I’d love to see that wide cross-section of families also come to the school sporting events like volleyball, lacrosse, track meets. Come to the plays. See the High School shows. It would be nice to see all of these things announced more, and attendance from everyone, beyond those who are involved. I’d like to see an increase in students’ school pride. It’s not just the Homecoming basketball game. USN has a lot of great things going on. Have dinner together and make a family night of it at the game or show. Oh, and I’d love a Winterim program (extended experiential learning outside of the traditional classroom for high school students) … but that may be a discussion for later.
Melissa: Switching the focus back to volunteering. Would you do it again?
Catherine: Yes. It’s been fun. I get to meet amazing people, and I get to see what and how much goes on behind the scenes. I also get to know the teachers better.
Melissa: Any last words of wisdom?
Catherine: Try to make as much time as you can to volunteer, regardless of if the things seem little. Even sorting books for an hour or stopping by to hot glue sequins on a cape can be rewarding. Any and every little bit is appreciated by the school and by the kids.
We are so happy to have benefited from so many of your volunteer hours, Catherine. Thank you. Oh, and remind me to talk to you about those cheerleading costumes you made for “Seussical Jr.” University School of Nool… University School of Nashville. I think there’s something to that.