Bethany Pope likes to help people — whether that’s family, friends or someone she’s just met.
Her willingness to support and encourage others is frequently on display in the halls of Whitehall High School, and it’s one of the reasons the senior is a La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Award recipient.
“She’s always willing to lend a hand either to a friend or even somebody who isn’t part of her friend group,” said Whitehall High School counselor Laura Eide, who was part of the committee who nominated Pope. “She’s just a great role model for our younger kids.
“She’s gone into the classrooms with the younger kids,” Eide said. “She’s worked in those classrooms and done a great job. She’s just got that heart of gold.”
People like Pope are rare, Eide said. Pope believes she learned how to effectively help people and what it means to sacrifice for others from her family, which has persevered through hardship.
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Pope’s father left when she was just a baby, so she has no memory of his departure. But she has seen and experienced the hole he left.
Her mother had to raise eight kids on her own — Pope is the youngest of her siblings — while also going to college. The older siblings, who were homeschooled, were frequently tasked with watching the younger ones.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but it brought the group together as they all worked to make sure everyone’s needs were met.
“We’re such a close family,” Pope said. “My brothers are basically my dad. I say they treat me like their daughter.”
Those bonds remain today, and Pope said lessons of selflessness have trickled down to her after years of seeing that trait in her siblings.
So when Pope sees an opportunity to help others, that’s precisely what she does.
Pope currently works as a dietary aid at Gundersen Tri-County Hospital in Whitehall, and, through her church, she has spent time with organizations such as Second Stork and Feed My People.
“I just like doing it just because it brought me closer with the community,” Pope said. “It’s just fun seeing people’s faces light up.”
Pope’s desire to help people was also a driving force as she weighed options for her future.
Pope said she always wanted to be a teacher — she enjoys working with kids — but she had second thoughts after being a TA in a 4K class last year.
“I just did not like it,” Pope said.
So she met with Eide, and the two discussed other possibilities that would allow Pope to help others while also working with kids. They landed on occupational therapy.
“They help ages (ranging from) babies to adults,” Pope said of what went into the decision. “I really like helping people, and I think it’d just be good for me.”
Pope plans to attend Western Technical College — she likes that the school is cost-effective and allows her to stay fairly close to home and her family — and is excited for what comes next.
Eide is excited, too, and believes Pope has the work ethic and positive attitude to achieve her goal of helping others.
“Some kids can become frustrated or use what happened to be the victim, and she just doesn’t do any of that,” Eide said. “I think she’s going to do really, really well.”