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Parents Serve as Leaders on Campus

Nobody knows the needs of parents—and, often, students too—better than parents. That belief was the driving force behind the establishment of a Bethel University Parent Council this fall. The group supports Bethel’s alumni and family relations team by helping them uncover the information that matters most to parents of Bethel students. More importantly, the five Bethel parents who compose the council serve as an invaluable resource to their peers.

While some form of a Bethel parent council existed many years ago, the new council was created to help address a continually evolving challenge for parents today. “[Parents] have raised children in a society where they have daily announcements from coaches, teachers, church leaders—they know what’s going on, what’s happening,” says Jennifer Scott, associate director of alumni and family relations. “And then when their students go off to college, the information is limited.”

The drop-off is intentional. Because college-aged students are young adults, specific information about them must legally remain confidential. But, as council member Crystal (DeBoer) Soltero ’86 explains, that change represents a major transition in the role of parents. “That’s harder for some of us than others,” she says.

Soltero and her husband, George ’82, are second-time Bethel parents from Tucson, Arizona. Their daughter, Noelle ’17, was a biokinetics major, and their son, David ’21, is a Bethel freshman this year. “They have really experienced what we had hoped they would in the way of Christian friends,” Soltero says. “They were both on amazing freshman floors, have made lots of new friends, and are just really diving head-first into a totally different environment.” As members of the Parent Council, the Solteros were able to address the unique challenges of sending their children to college across the country when they spoke with parents at Welcome Week in August and Family Weekend in November—the two events that all council members are required to attend.

They also brought a deep level of empathy for new Bethel parents’ experiences. Despite the fact that they both attended Bethel and have served on Bethel’s National Alumni Board, not to mention George’s tenure as a Bethel Board of Trustees member, they surprised themselves with the number of questions they had upon first becoming parents of a Bethel student. It’s that experience and those questions from council members that have helped to direct Scott and her team when planning informational sessions for parents.

Before Welcome Week and Family Weekend, the Parent Council received a “behind the scenes” look at Bethel—equipping them with a wealth of knowledge that they were then able to share conversationally with other parents. For the Solteros, sharing about Bethel also meant sharing about their own journey. As a professor at a state school down south, Soltero can attest to the Bethel difference—and the value she and her husband place on a Bethel education.

Scott believes this Bethel difference is reflected in the establishment of the Parent Council itself. “The word that comes to mind is ‘care,’” Scott says. “It’s the personal touch. It’s having eyes to see, and one of the differences between Bethel and larger schools is that, here, students (and parents) are seen and known.”

The Solteros’ confidence in that level of care was the catalyst that helped them to launch their own children. “If students are going to struggle…what better a place for that to happen than where there is grace and the ability to use situations to make something good?” Soltero says. “That doesn’t always happen—hardly ever happens—elsewhere.”

If you would like to apply to join the Bethel Parent Council, contact Jennifer Scott at jscott@bethel.edu. Learn more about the resources available to parents and families of Bethel students