Volunteers keep the show going at BYU Education Week

Jana Petrossi first volunteered at Education Week alongside her mother as a teenager.

Now, at 60, Petrossi is still volunteering — as is her mother.

“We just have fun all week,” Petrossi said. “We make new friends.”

Petrossi and her mother, Jenell Bendall, are among the 500 to 600 volunteers who help with Education Week at Brigham Young University in Provo every year.

Bruce Payne, program administrator of BYU Education Week, said the volunteers are crucial in helping the 20,000 Education Week visitors navigate the week.

“We’d be hard-pressed if we didn’t have volunteers,” Payne said.

More than 1,000 classes on topics from religion to family history to finances will be held from Monday to Aug. 25 as part of Education Week. Volunteers, also referred to as hosts, perform tasks such as making sure rooms don’t go over capacity, making announcements, helping people who need assistance and checking name badges at the door to keep things moving seamlessly. In exchange for some volunteer work, they get free admission to Education Week.

There are more than 440 volunteers already ready for this year and about half of the volunteers each year come back to volunteer again. Payne said many of the volunteers are couples and families.

“It’s amazing every year to see how many people are willing to give their time and help out,” Payne said. “Is is just a tremendous contribution.”

For Petrossi and Bendall, their tradition of volunteering at the annual event has been on and off throughout the years. They’re both building hosts now, which means they oversee all the volunteers in a building.

As a building host for the Wilkinson Student Center, Petrossi and her husband have established a traffic flow for the building to help people move around better.

One of Bendall’s favorite parts of Education Week is meeting new people, and her family has even become friends with some of the presenters, like Merrilee Boyack, a motivational speaker and attorney, and Brad Wilcox, an author and speaker. She also enjoys going to music classes and names pianist Marvin Goldstein as one of her favorite presenters.

Both Bendall and Petrossi live in Orem now, but Bendall used to spend time in Utah and attend Education Week when her military husband was away.

“I just fell in love with it,” Bendall said. “I think it’s a great way of getting informed of what is going on and to learn the gospel.”

And just because she’s in her early 80s doesn’t mean she’ll stop volunteering at Education Week anytime soon.

“I just plan to go until I can’t go anymore,” Bendall said.

Petrossi has watched Education Week grow through the years and has changed which classes she attends based on what stage of life she’s been in at the time. When she had young children, she attended parenting classes. Now, she’s getting into the music and scripture classes.

Petrossi and her husband, Ted, decide which classes they want to attend, split up to go to different ones and then come home and compare notes.

She’s become an advocate in her community for the event.

“You can get anything you want at Education Week,” Petrossi said.

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