Giving back to the place generations have called home

As co-president of the Hinsdale Middle School Parent Teacher Organization, Kristin McDaniel wants the organization's bi-monthly meetings to go beyond business updates and budget discussions.

"I want the meetings to be very valuable for the people who are attending," said McDaniel, who shares the role of president with Beth Folkmann.

Along with updates about the many events and projects that the PTO undertakes each year, parents who attend the group's general meetings gain valuable information to help them support their children both at home and in school. At the first general meeting of 2022, set for 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 14, parents will hear from school psychologist Kasia Kula about ways to support their children's social and emotional wellness.

With about 80 percent of parents in its membership, the HMS PTO is a strong network focused on making every student's middle school experience the best it can be. Like most organizations, the PTO was forced to adapt to many changes in 2020 and now is enjoying a slow and careful return to in-person events.

The 2021 book fair took on a hybrid form, with opportunities to purchase books both in person and online, and Unity Day, a districtwide event held in October, promoted kindness and equity and encouraged everyone to wear orange in a show of support against bullying. While existing events returned to something resembling their old selves, new events were created to fulfill the new needs of students. As sixth-graders stepped into their new school after spending much of fifth grade at home, the PTO welcomed them with a celebration.

In addition to events, the PTO supports more tangible projects within the school. Throughout 2020 and 2021, members of the PTO helped to raise money toward much-needed repairs to Windhover. The plan is to repair and relocate the outdoor sculpture, which is registered by the Smithsonian.

Inside the middle school, the PTO is seeing the finishing touches take place on the calming room. A project overseen by Kula, the space will provide a place for students to destress and decompress.

Meanwhile, World War II Day will return in a more familiar form this March, the eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., is scheduled and graduation is set for June 3, all with the support of the PTO.

"I enjoy every minute," McDaniel said of her work with both the HMS and Hinsdale Central PTOs. With her youngest child set to graduate from middle school this year, McDaniel is preparing to step down as president just in time to take on the same role at Hinsdale Central High School, where she currently serves as PTO vice president.

Born in Hinsdale, McDaniel spent time in several states before returning to her hometown nearly 10 years ago. The move brought her back to where generations of her family settled, including her great-great-grandmother.

"I love the village. It means a lot to me," she said.

McDaniel isn't the first member of her family to have an impact on Hinsdale, and she hopes she won't be the last. She said instilling the importance of volunteerism in her three children is important and something she does by example.

"It's so important to me to give back to the community," she said.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean