Catholic Schools Week: St. Ann’s honors its volunteers


Staff reporter

With a student population of 276, St. Ann’s School may be one of the smaller grade schools in Wilmington. But the school gets a big boost from the more than 60 volunteers that help out in classrooms, extracurriculars, or with any other need.

Sister Virginia Pfau, the school’s principal for six years, praised the volunteers’ contributions. “These individuals give of their time and many talents to enrich our program here at St. Ann School. They are truly a treasure.”

On Feb. 1, St. Ann’s School honored its dozens of volunteers at a Catholic Schools Week luncheon. Three of the honorees included:

 The Blue Word Lady

Volunteer Julie Dugan helps St. Ann seventh-graders Gabriella Santacecilia (left) and Jenn Sirillo with a Science Olympiad project. (The Dialog/

After raising her family and working for 20 years for insurance agents, Lyn Simpson, 76, began volunteering with students after her retirement when she became involved in the mentoring program at the Red Clay Consolidated School District. After the school district eliminated the program, a friend suggested she contact St. Ann’s to see if she could continue her work with children. “I missed it so much,” she said. So she called the school and asked if they needed anyone to help out.

In the third-grade class where she volunteers, she is know affectionately as the “Blue Word Lady” because the study aids she uses with the students are printed on blue paper. For the past four years, Simpson has worked one-on-one with students on extra-credit work in spelling.

“ I try to emphasize how important it is to the children,” she said. “They try so hard, even the ones who have difficulties.”

To reward the children for their hard work, a few years ago the third grade began holding an end of year spelling bee.

“I miss it when I’m not there. It’s a wonderful feeling.” She is touched by how kind and pleasant the children have been as well.

“They’ve all been wonderful, ” she said. “I’ve never had anyone give me any problems or sass.”

Pitching in

When Sister Virginia needs an extra hand at school, she knows she can count on Lynn Klous, 41, a full-time mom who’s been out of the workforce for eight years, and has four children in the school ranging from first to sixth grade. The Klous family’s proximity to the school has made it easier for Lynn to volunteer — they live right across the street.

Klous’ volunteer work is not focused on one class or team. Instead, she  pitches in on a variety of tasks around the school: “I do whatever the principal asks, from covering the office to giving tours, to covering lunch,” she says.

She first became involved as a parent volunteer while serving as Home and School Association president for the last four years. Although no longer president, she still helps out the new Home and School administration wherever she can. She also helps organize the middle school dances.

“It’s such a small community in such a big world. I get fulfilled” being able to help out, she says.

Klous’ main reason for volunteering is simple. “I have the time to do it, and I love to be involved.”

There’s also a personal benefit to volunteering at the school. “I get to see my kids all the time, and know the teachers better — and to make the school a better place.”

 Kids’ World Series

After early retirement from Dupont, Julie Dugan, 59, has been serving at St. Ann’s as the school’s Science Olympiad coach.

Dugan’s three children attended St. Ann’s – her twin sons graduated in 2000, and her daughter followed in 2002 – and she has been volunteering there since 1999.

She took on the coaching duties a few years ago. “There didn’t seem to be anybody doing it, so I picked up the slack,” she said.

Her work at DuPont was math-oriented and made her a natural to coach the team.

There are 15 children on the team, in grades six through eight, and they compete several times a year at local, state and invitational meets, which give the students “a chance to see math and science in a real world application,” Dugan said.

Once, the students built towers and bridges out of balsa wood, an exercise which demonstrated engineering concepts.

Despite the small size of the team, Dugan says they’ve had a lot of success. “The first year they placed in the top 10, I have to admit, I cried. They were competing against much bigger schools,” she said.

“This is their World Series or NBA championships.”