Ingrid Voelker is a rarity in today’s world. She is a woman with a true spirit of service that avoids instant gratification. She can be a “lightning bolt” that gets the job done with tenacity and razor sharp instincts, or she can be a soul whisperer reaching out and nurturing with understanding clarity any of those that come her way. But no matter what personae she needs to take on-she is always a living emblem of fierce integrity and unyielding service.
Chatting with Voelker is like a mini vacation-her chats will transport you away from the harsh realities of the day and take you to a world of comfort, laughter, truth, and dreams. Fittingly, she is a beach girl at heart-much that she owns is decked out with sea turtles and palm trees, and she wears flip-flops year round- including the day we met when the temperature was 6 degrees.
“I just can’t help myself. I just love to travel, and I am a total beach girl,” she exclaimed.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, she attended Quinn Elementary School, Conrady Junior High, and Amos Alonzo Stagg High School. Growing up, her parents instilled a sense of service that she has carried with all of her life. She attended Lewis University where she earned her Associate’s Degree and a semester in business; she also geared all of her electives in psychology to further understand how people think.
Her first major career venture was with Standard Parking Corporation in Chicago, where she earned a promotion and opened up the Midatlantic District in Washington D.C., and branched into Maryland and Virginia where she met her now husband. Together they moved to La Porte in 1993. Voelker began as the supervisor for Project Ed and In School Detention, she the moved into the same position at LPHS. An opportunity arose and she started the PNC College Bound program ten years ago. After the requirements for employment changed, she took on the Get Back on Track program, which helps students earn needed credits. When requirements changed again, Voelker returned to her original station as ISD supervisor. With all of her experience with high school students she offers this piece of advice,
“Believe in yourself. Be true, because when the day is done the only person that you have to make peace with is the reflection looking back at you.”
Voelker’s main role is Girl Reserves Sponsor- a service unit that was started 88 years ago that helps young girls learn to be independent, focus on others, and to become a productive part of society.
“La Porte High School’s Girl Reserves is the last unit in the county. We are pretty proud of that. As sponsor, I am like the guiding force. My role is to help mold young women into understanding that they need to look into themselves, and that while not everyone has the same talents and treasures we all have something to give and that is time. I really believe that in volunteering we not only give to others but we get so much back in fulfilling ourselves by knowing that we have the power to make a difference one person, one hour at a time,” she explained.
The club currently has 140 plus girls that earns up to roughly 2600 hours per year. It is the only year round club at LPHS and requires intense commitment. Voelker must play an interesting role to keep the girls motivated and inspired. Her relationship with the girls is indescribable- by some she is even affectionately called “Mama V.”
“Mentor, mom, meanie. I have to be tough because while I have an open door relationship with them, when they don’t live up to the GR image I have to be stern. But the relationships that I have with many of these girls last a lifetime. I am invited to baby showers, bridal showers, and weddings. It is a sisterhood. My favorite part is watching the girls realize that all of these hours here and there volunteer added up to 100 hours when they are so busy…and they ask before GR, what the would have done with that 100 hours. They find purpose in it.”
Additionally, Voelker serves at PTSA President. Her involvement in PTA began even before she had kids. “My parents were very much into volunteerism and always saw value in education and helping kids.”
Voelker has served as president for six years, and helps orchestrate Parent Teacher Conferences three times a year, a teacher appreciation dinner, and Grandparents Day.
“That is without a doubt our biggest and most trying event. We have literally six in the morning until 7:45 am to get everything ready to serve between 650 and 820 people in two hours. We do it successfully every year, and we keep wondering when it is going to stop growing,” she said.
But if you think so many important responsibilities would make Voelker stress, you are far from the truth. Throw ten tasks at her, and they will all be done within in the week topped with a smile and style- she has her certificate in wedding and event planning. The key to her success in the midst of chaos is her passion for volunteerism and her deep belief in optimism.
“Whenever you think you may have it the absolute worse, you can take two deep breaths and you can realize that there is at least one other person who has it worse than you,” she expressed.
Outside of her responsibilities, Voelker is a veracious reader. During our recent “snowmageddon” she read five novels in four days.
“I’m not a TV person. We actually don’t have cable hooked up to the TV-we have Netflix. It is a waste of money, you want reality, come put video cameras in a high school. I do make an appointment with myself for at least 45-minutes of reading every evening, because I am important and that is something I give back to myself.”
Additionally she enjoys to scrapbook and cross-stitch. She serves on the funeral committee at her church and will quickly whip up a salad or dessert to serve her congregation. Her son will be getting married this March, but her home is still full with three dogs.
She and her husband hope to follow her beach girl dreams and retire in Hawaii. Until then, Voelker plans to brave many more winters in flip-flops and stay in charge of Girl Reserves and work at LPHS for as long as possible, positive spirit in tow.
“Be kind, never wish harm on someone no matter how they have treated you or behaved because you never know what the other persons journey is.”