Renee Rodimel is on a mission, one she is passionate about.
In her third year as the part-time public relations and marketing director at St. John the Evangelist School in St. John, the Cedar Lake native is sold on a parochial education.
"It's the family environment. . .they definitely go beyond the curriculum and integrate faith into everyday teaching, especially now that we have the (three) sisters on the staff," Rodimel said of her support for SJE.
An alumna of Holy Name School in Cedar Lake, where she grew up the daughter of LeMont and Lorraine Wolff, Rodimel graduated from Hanover Central High School in 1986 and attended Sawyer Business College in Merrillville before beginning her business career with an HMO in Merrillville, then in the health benefits department at Inland Steel Co.
After marrying Larry Rodimel, she spent 15 years at home in St. John raising three daughters, and found herself just seven courses short of a business degree from Indiana University Northwest. After her children were all in school, she finished her bachelor's degree "and this opportunity came up," she said of SJE.
Rodimel is no stranger to PR and marketing work, having chaired the St. John the Evangelist Festival for five years. "I liked the challenge of trying to improve it, make it better each year, and I enjoy that challenge with the school, too."
She is focusing on developing partnerships with local businesses that benefit both SJE and the business, rather than just asking for donations.
And when speaking to prospective SJE families, Rodimel can easily answer their questions. Her oldest daughters, Lauren and Emily, are SJE graduates attending Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, while Hannah is a seventh grader at SJE. She has coached her daughters' volleyball teams and serves on the SJE Parish Council.
"I just think every child should have the opportunity to experience a school like St. John the Evangelist," she said.
While her marketing efforts usually focus on Catholic families, she reaches out not only to St. John parents, but those in neighboring Cedar Lake, Lowell and Dyer, where parochial schools have closed due to dwindling enrollment.
That is not an issue at SJE, where enrollment is strong at 390 and renovations are continuing to upgrade all classrooms, add technology, and grow enrollment in the years ahead. "The students begin working with iPads in preschool, and start learning Spanish in kindergarten," Rodimel said.