Young people have something to say. And it is our job to help them express themselves clearly.
Episcopal students benefit from robust writing mentoring, and in that spirit, the Writing Center continued its work this year to support Middle and Upper School writers and nurture their development. The writing process reminds students that learning is iterative and never finished. There are endless opportunities to adapt and shape a piece of writing, which is a helpful reminder that progress, not perfection, is an ambitious, lifelong goal.
The Writing Center’s relocation to Aldrich Library allowed us to discover new ways to engage Writing Fellows with students. With a centralized location in a spacious facility, our Writing Fellows were better equipped to support entire classes and collaborate with our librarian, Tiffany Whitehead. While we still accommodated plenty of one-on-one appointments, our Fellows interacted with a number of classes who visited the library to research, write and revise.
Fellows supported the 6th grade primitive tools research project, hosted 7th Grade slam poetry workshops and judged the final competition, fielded MLA citation questions from 7th graders on their research and annotated bibliography assignment, and hosted conferences for 9th grade World History and English research papers, 9th grade English literary analyses and 6th grade argumentative social studies essays. Fellows are generous with their time and are coached to use strategic questioning that helps the writer identify ways to strengthen their work. This style of writing mentoring teaches students the types of questions to ask themselves when they are working on a piece of writing in the future.
To share our successes this year and to learn about other writing centers around the country, senior Fellow, Alex Nelson, and I presented at the Secondary Schools Writing Center Association Conference in March. Our presentation, “Writing Center Integration: Partnerships to Combat Isolation and Insulation,” focused on the work we’ve done this year to collaborate with teachers and lend support where needed. The process of applying to the conference with Alex and creating our presentation materials together once we were accepted was a rewarding experience! As the newly elected Southeast Representative of the SSWCA board, I look forward to collaborating with writing center leaders across the country and bringing the best ideas back to our WC here at Episcopal.
Finally, I’d like to thank the following senior Writing Fellows for their service during their time at Episcopal! Each one has contributed to helping students find their clearest, most powerful voice. Thank you for your enthusiastic service!
Katie Sutcliffe joined Episcopal in 2011 and is currently the Director of the Writing Center and Thesis Program, as well as the co-creator of LAUNCH, Episcopal’s annual TEDx-style student-planned and executed showcase of ideas and projects. Katie holds a Bachelor of Arts in English (Writing) from DePauw University, an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Pittsburgh and was a 2005 Teach For America corps member. Katie currently serves as the Southeast Representative for the Secondary Schools Writing Center Association Board. She has taught English and writing courses for middle and high school students, gifted students and even continuing-education adults. She’s passionate about research and writing that have practical implications for understanding and addressing real world challenges.
"Our group has shown that you don’t have to do traditional research.” Abhay Basireddy, 2021 ESTAAR student
In an unusual year, three Episcopal seniors found a way to continue the scientific exploration they love through the ESTAAR or Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research program. For several years now, ESTAAR has offered Upper School students the opportunity to work with LSU professors and gain valuable experience in a university laboratory. Past students have spent hours in the lab monitoring tests and measuring data. In a year so impacted by pandemic protocols, that traditional lab access was in question. Fortunately, the restrictions didn’t stop Abhay Basireddy, Matthew Bickham and Gregory Field as their fields of interest didn’t require traditional lab time. “The stars aligned for them,” says Guillory. “They didn’t lose out as much as another group would have.” The trio successfully completed their projects and recently presented them on the VPAC stage on LAUNCH Day.
Application of the Fast Fourier Transform in Modeling the 3D Navier-Stokes Equations
Automatic Slab Creation and Flood Prevention within Autodesk Revit
Breath Monitoring: Analyzing Breathing with Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
LAUNCHing Research on the VPAC Stage
“I’m proud of them,” says Guillory. “I’m proud of their work. They never faltered.” The ESTAAR LAUNCH Day presentations marked the culmination of a two year journey. Like all ESTAAR students, the trio initially began by taking the Scientific Research Methodology and Experimentation (SRME) course their junior year. The course is designed to help Upper School students prepare for college level research. The students say the SRME course prepared them well for the ESTAAR experience as they were equipped to write papers, conduct background research and digest scientific papers. No doubt, the past two years and the students’ innate inquisitiveness will prepare them for similar success in the next step of their educational journey.
The ESTAAR program is a great example of the science, technology, engineering and math offerings available at Episcopal. This commitment to STEM even earned the school a spot on Newsweek’s Top 500 STEM High Schools in America list. Read more about that ranking and other Episcopal STEM efforts here.
Join us in congratulating this year’s ESTAAR students in the comments section below!
Andrea Norwood’s thesis explores the topic of censorship by comparing the advent of the Internet’s impact on modern Chinese censorship with the invention of the printing press and its effects on the Catholic Church in the 15th and 16th Centuries.
Please enjoy the podcast she produced that reacted to the recent tension between the US Government and the popular social media app TikTok, featuring an interview with Thesis advisor, Clara Howell. In this audio, Andrea explores the eternal conflict between companies and governments and what that tells us about the latest manifestation of US-China Tensions.
Louisiana State Penitentiary, 1970s. Armed inmates acted as guards, convicted felons organized prison sexual slavery, and murders raged on throughout the correctional facility nicknamed Angola Prison. In fact, between 1972 and 1975, there were a total of 350 “serious stabbings” and 40 inmate deaths. According to Kevin Brown, “for those inside, both inmates and prison staff, the experience [was] one of constant fear and danger.” No one wanted to work at Angola, and no one wanted to serve their sentence there. Angola was one of the bloodiest and most dangerous prisons in the United States. There was no order or security. In order to try to find some control in the dangerous world that was Angola Prison, prison employees sent inmates who showed even the most subtle disobedience to solitary confinement, sometimes for decades at a time. It was here, in the bowels of Angola, a place inmates were sent after having violated prison rules, where more subtle dangers existed.
In a six by nine by twelve foot cell stands Robert King, an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary. Completely alone for twenty-three hours each day, King paces back and forth, his mind occasionally racing and occasionally blanking. After being convicted of killing another prisoner and having an affiliation with the Black Panther Party, King was sent to solitary confinement for twenty-nine years before his release in 2001. This was the reality for the 1970s, 80s, and even 90s Angola Prison. Prison administrators believed that solitary confinement was the best form of punishment for inmates with behavioral issues. In reality, it was counterproductive and led to more disobedience and bad behavior.
During his time spent at Angola, King experienced years of psychological abuse, rarely hearing people speak and participating in meaningful human interactions. He describes it as almost worse than “total sensory deprivation.” When people ask him how he came out of it sane, he states “it’s impossible to get dipped in waste and not come up stinking,” alluding to the fact that he is not in any way similar to his prior self before being socially isolated for over two decades. Along with the psychological trauma he endured by spending so much time alone, he developed vision problems after his eyes had been acclimated to short distances for such a long period of time. The very violence that was happening inside Angola’s prison was landing prisoners in the hell that is total isolation, which ironically did not correct behavior and led to inmates developing mental health issues. Like King says, no one comes out sane. Solitary confinement is a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy. And for decades, Angola stayed like this: dangerous.
However, all this changed in 2018 when Angola Prison decided to observe and restructure their administrative segregation unit. Following the lead of other prisons nationwide and with the help of Assistant Warden Perry Stagg, Angola has implemented a new, transparent system that attempts to mitigate the negative psychological effects of isolated housing. Warden Stagg explains that administrative housing has changed drastically over the past few years. It is no longer a place with heavy, steel doors trapping inmates inside. Doors are almost always open, but when they are closed, they are made of steel bars for inmates to see and talk through.
Also, administrative housing has become a leveled system with guidelines for how inmates can move through the levels to be released back into the general population. There are less restrictive and more restrictive housing options depending on the severity of prison crimes and behavior records. Additionally, Angola has implemented a tier-walking program. This program trains inmates to look for signs of mental distress and report them. This has been put into place to reduce self-harm and suicide attempts in restrictive housing units. All of these additions have made a significant impact on the administrative housing system at Angola. Assistant Warden Stagg explains that before the COVID-19 pandemic he saw a dramatic decrease in inmates being sent to restrictive housing. However, Angola cannot stop here.
The reforms made by Angola Prison have been fairly recent; therefore, the success of the restructuring effort will not be known for quite some time. But, some success has already been observed. Assistant Warden Stagg says “[the number of inmates in restrictive housing] was going down rapidly before COVID hit.” If Angola’s program experiences even a fraction of the success that similar restrictive housing restructuring programs have observed, like Maine State Prison, the amount of inmates and the time inmates spend in restrictive housing will continue to plummet dramatically.
The question therefore becomes, where do prisons go from here? Numbers of isolated inmates and time spent in isolation will most likely decrease. With these tentative results, Angola will be able to use the newly available space and correctional officers to implement more extensive reform and rehabilitative measures, such as substance abuse, therapeutic, mental health, or educational programming. These are just a few ways that Angola can take the results of their restructuring and further them to integrate rehabilitation into the prison community, centering prison culture around reform and rehabilitation. Most beneficial may be Angola transforming former isolation cells into mental health units where inmates who developed mental health issues during their time in isolation can go to therapy, take classes, and attempt to recover from their time spent in solitary confinement.
Angola has changed drastically in the past four decades. It has transformed from America’s worst prison to one of the most progressive. It realizes that total isolation and sensory deprivation is detrimental to the mental health of inmates, is counterproductive, and puts the entire prison community at risk. However, the remedies Angola has in place are very recent and prisoners are still suffering from mental distress, especially those who have spent considerable time in isolation like Robert King. Angola Prison should consider prisoner experiences like King’s when deciding how to proceed with prison reforms. I often wonder how different King would be--healthier, saner, happier--if he had experienced the reforms Angola has developed during his time in prison.
As I reflect on my times during the shelter-at-home mandate, shopping comes to mind. I was stuck in my home, as we all were, with little to do. I found myself contributing hours of my day to online shopping. No guarantee I would buy anything, but shopping was a form of “entertainment” for me during this lifeless and uncertain time. However, as I scrolled through Instagram multiple times a day, I noticed small boutiques in Baton Rouge were advertising more than ever, so I began online shopping on their sites. Why not support our local community’s boutiques?
The reality is that businesses in the local community took an extreme hit during the spring quarantine leading to furloughed employees, strained financials, and the stress of having to shut down. Around April, a report which surveyed 6,000 small businesses reported that nearly 31% of small businesses in Louisiana were at risk of permanently closing due to the pandemic. Some restaurants in the Baton Rouge area, like White Star Market and Rum House, had to permanently close. The stress and financial crisis was worsened by COVID-19 and some closures seemed inevitable. All businesses were fearful and anxious about what was to come for their business.
Boutiques buy season to season, so with the cancellation of weddings, parties, dances, rush, and every event you can think of, what were boutiques going to sell? From April until May, when retail stores were forced to shut down, online shopping ramped up. According to the Baton Rouge Area City Stats Report, 48% of people replaced some in-person shopping with online ordering during the pandemic, and 33% of the EBR online shoppers were shopping for clothing. With people shifting to online shopping during this time, boutiques realized there were additional methods and techniques to gain customers and promote their products amidst the shelter at home.
Boutiques are often family-owned and run. Therefore, they are investing in not only their financial capital but their human capital. A pandemic is not ideal for a boutique. Innovative thinking has never been so crucial as owners navigate this new shopping landscape. New, modern, and digitized marketing methods, therefore, are significant in the times of COVID-19. Two popular boutiques in the Baton Rouge area, Eros and Head Over Heels, each took their own ways and incorporated fresh techniques to keep their boutiques afloat. Their techniques required methodical and fascinating approaches.
Located in Towne Center, Eros boutique has served as a go-to shopping destination for residents. The boutique's strategically-curated collection of high-end clothes, shoes, handbags, and accessories offers a chic and bold style. With the shelter at home mandate, Eros knew they needed to act fast. According to Andrea, the head of sales manager, they immediately began promoting "shop with us online." Every post had a link to the website as a reminder that people could shop with them at home. They concluded that Instagram drives the website because people will forget about them if they do not promote themselves on Instagram. In the first month, they did "20% off your entire purchase and free shipping." This discount was a huge incentive for people to keep shopping. A problem that arose for Eros was the limitation on shipping vendors, so they had to focus on the casual ones that could ship and keep the goods coming. Since people could not leave their homes, they wanted to purchase comfortable, machine washable, and super casual loungewear. After all these approaches, they took another step to make it even easier for the customer by offering local delivery, curbside pickup, and free shipping. Eros has put their heart and soul into tackling this challenge by continuously pushing and promoting their store.
Another Baton Rouge boutique, Head Over Heels, offers a destination for customers to shop in a friendly environment. Due to their prevalence online and on social media, switching to a digital-centered business model has been the key to staying afloat during the pandemic. While they could not physically have their doors open for some time, they continued to help customers shop through several resources. According to the social media coordinator Hadley, they shifted their focus towards online sales, offering curbside pickups, local deliveries, and free shipping. Head Over Heels took it a step further by offering virtual try-on sessions for customers who wanted to try clothes. 90% of their sales were generated from their website, while the other 10% was from Instagram and Facebook marketing. A new, creative marketing strategy the store took on was instead of posting their usual three to four pictures a day, they decided to double that number. This type of user-engagement is crucial for their store because it allows them to have a constant presence on social media and stay on people's radars. According to their website analytics, an increase in the average session spent on the website increased. Head Over Heels even increased how they showed support for customers. This incorporated occasionally offering discounts to generate sales, which engaged their customers and kept their sales up amidst the pandemic. Their involvement and incorporation of new techniques led them to capitalize in a time of uncertainty and financial scare.
Even though small businesses have been particularly vulnerable throughout the pandemic, they have done an extraordinary job keeping their businesses going. New approaches and techniques through Instagram have saved them and kept customers interested and buying. The difficulty following ever-changing local guidelines has not stopped the boutiques. Despite the hardships and uncertainty that came for the local business community, specifically boutiques, Baton Rouge needs to keep up its robust environment for small businesses. All businesses can look at Head Over Heels and Eros' adaptation techniques and apply them. The past several months have been extremely challenging, but recognizes the importance of making an online presence. The time has come to defeat these uncertain challenges and put in the extra work and determination to keep one's business up and running and not fall short to the economy and country's circumstances.
Now celebrating its eighth birthday, LAUNCH has become a staple in the Episcopal Upper School. A multisensory knowledge sharing experience, LAUNCH is packed full of presentations as well as community creativity outlets. The day provides a student-based platform for fresh perspectives, original ideas, and thought-provoking outlooks. The purpose of LAUNCH day is for each and every student, teacher, and staff member to feel inspired, enlightened, or moved in some way. One might call this event “a celebration of thought,” as students are encouraged to let their minds wander as they take a break from the monotony of a regular school day. LAUNCH includes thought leaders, creativity sharers, and performance enthusiasts from different parts of Upper School student life. This year, twenty-one Thesis students, three ESTAAR students and a multitude of students from Ethics, Seminar, and more, have informative and inspiring work to share!
Being a Thesis student myself, I have spent the past three years watching in awe as my Thesis predecessors leave their hearts and souls on the VPAC stage. Writing my own thesis this summer, I yearned for my own senior LAUNCH day, where I would finally earn a moment to bask in the bright lights of self-fulfillment. However, in the face of a global pandemic, my dreams of accomplishment came quickly crashing down.
As we entered into the 2020 fall school year, I tried to remain optimistic. LAUNCH was a good six months away, so surely COVID restrictions would lighten up by then. Unfortunately, as we approached the end of the first semester, the reality of our situation set in: LAUNCH was utterly and completely incapable of occurring at its usual scale. Due to COVID rules, it was impossible for large groups of students to gather together to support our brave presenters, let alone pack the entire Upper School into one room all at once. To put it plainly, my thesis peers and I were devastated. The blood, sweat, and tears of writing a twenty page paper would feel looked over if not completely ignored without this eagerly awaited day. For most of us, this one moment in the spotlight, where all eyes are on us, was the culmination and celebration of all that we had accomplished since beginning the Thesis program. Without it, we feared our work would be undervalued, leaving us feeling dulled and devastated. In those first few moments of uncertainty, it felt like our LAUNCH celebration was being ripped from the grasp of our hopeful hands and hearts.
Having realized the gravity of this situation, it was without fail that our Thesis directors, or rather Thesis superheroes, Mrs. Katie Sutcliffe and Mr. Scott Engholm swooped in. Having never lost hope, they worked tirelessly with LAUNCH coordinator Mrs. Whitehead to make a modified form of LAUNCH happen. Although we are limited to audiences of one-hundred, a behind-the-scenes team of dedicated adults have made it possible for each Thesis student to present to smaller groups at multiple times. LAUNCH 2021 may look a bit different than its previous birthdays, but this celebration brings forth an immense sense of hope in the face of change. In fact, my peers and I have decided on a butterfly as this year’s LAUNCH logo, as it serves as a symbol of hope during these trying times. Although we are in the midst of a global pandemic and things may look a bit rough on the outside, LAUNCH 2021 will prevail. We will emerge from this chrysalis of doubt, strain, and sadness, unbroken. Inside each and every one of us is something more beautiful, talented, and strong than has ever been seen before. We have fought and overcome unprecedented adversities that have made us stronger writers, presenters, and people. LAUNCH 2021 may look a bit different on the outside, but the core of the tradition remains the same. In just a few weeks, my peers and I will be stepping foot into the final phase of our thesis journey, we will be emerging from the chrysalis of uncertainty as confident, ambitious butterflies.
I can still recall the rush of emotion I first felt when Mrs. Sutcliffe assured my thesis peers and I that we would be presenting on LAUNCH day. I was overcome with relief, excitement, and hope, knowing that my time to shine would soon come to fruition. As a thesis student myself, it is my honor to declare with utmost pride that the Thesis class of 2021 will be getting our moment in the sun. We will be basking in the bright lights of self-fulfillment as we reach our fullest potentials because we will be presenting our theses as we inspire the Episcopal community at LAUNCH 2021.
Katie Knight designed this year’s LAUNCH logo. Below she expresses the symbolism behind the iconic butterfly. Katie will present her thesis on the environmental impact of “fast fashion” on Wednesday, March 10.
We are happy to announce that the theme of LAUNCH 2021 is the Butterfly! Usually when we think of butterflies, we think about their beautiful patterns and colors but sometimes forget about the journey it took to get there, which could be the most important part. On LAUNCH day, we want to celebrate the individual journeys that students in the Episcopal community have taken in order to create something unique and beautiful. Though parts of this journey may not be so pretty, it is from persistence and determination that creativity and originality are found. Especially in the crazy world we find ourselves in today, we will find ways to grow and adapt from the obstacles that we’ve faced, and ultimately create a future filled with new possibilities. So on LAUNCH 2021, we want to encourage everyone to spread their wings and celebrate the journey taken to get there. - Katie
LAUNCH merch is in! Pick up a t-shirt and mask in the library. T-shirts are $15, masks are $7, t-shirt/mask bundle is $20!
Since I came to Episcopal in middle school, I have had more and more writing assignments year after year. And for the most part, I — surely like many other students — did not really see how what I wrote for a grade could extend beyond use in a classroom setting. As much as I enjoy writing and delight in the process of creating something new, it just wasn’t as rewarding for my writing to be read only by a limited audience: one or two of my teachers or my parents at the most. But what if there was a way to put that student writing out there? What if the writing that students might think to be no more than school work could go beyond the walls of the classroom?
At first, I was surprised that no one had taken up the reins after the two seniors in charge of it prior to me graduated. Students wouldn’t even need to work to get published; they just needed to submit original pictures or written work (and of course be accepting of minimal editing). I quickly realized that I had underestimated the effort that had gone into previous issues once I was suddenly in the position of chief editor of the magazine.
There was (and still is) no guidebook for how one keeps a publication afloat — or, in this case, how one brings a publication back to life. No one warned me of how difficult it was to wrench written submissions from the student body, nor of the steepness of the learning curve for the Adobe suite.
In my effort to reignite interest in the publication, I garnered the help of a few friends to remake this magazine. One friend promoted the magazine’s publication, another designed the graphics, and I solicited and screened submissions, and communicated with student contributors. Although this tremendous effort has currently one hard-copy issue, I am still hopeful that my contribution to its creation is enough to spark something new.
We hope you enjoy the current edition and invite students and faculty to submit their work for the 2021 issue! We accept fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, photography, and artwork. Send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Check out the latest issue by clicking here.
Alex is currently a senior at Episcopal. She has been a Writing Fellow and Math Tutor since she was a sophomore and recently helped design a website for the Writing Center. Alex is currently in the Thesis Program. Alex enjoys writing and its promotion and is currently editor-in-chief of the fledgling student publication at Episcopal, Troubadour. She is also the Quiz Bowl club president and a member of the Episcopal powerlifting team.
The Episcopal Wearable Arts course is proof that art is meant for more than decorating walls or hanging in museums. Upper School students recently participated in a fashion photoshoot highlighting their wearable creations, which included everything from hats and earrings to boots and blue jeans.
The project was an opportunity for students to learn more about their family heritage as students were encouraged to create wearable art based on their origins. With family trees reaching back to France, Vietnam, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, South Korea and more, there was plenty of inspiration to be discovered.
The photoshoot was an opportunity to celebrate the students’ accomplishments. “With Music and Theater, students have a performance where all of their peers and parents acknowledge the hard work they’ve done,” says art teacher Veronica Hallock. “This was the first really big assignment the students completed. I wanted to create a finish line, where they could be excited for each other and celebrate what they created.”
Budding artists at Episcopal are fortunate to have a range of arts courses to explore. “With the arts being cut more and more, many schools don’t have the means to offer more specialized classes,” says Hallock. “I was fortunate enough to have a fiber arts class in my high school which was the inspiration for me wanting to start this class!”
From future artists to scientists and explorers, Episcopal offers academics to inspire and challenge tomorrow’s leaders. The new Wearable Arts course is sure to be a favorite for years to come. We know you'll enjoy these final creations. Leave these students a comment below congratulating them.
As I and many other high schoolers can attest, the past couple of months of quarantine, social distancing, and lack of interaction with our peers have not been the most exciting of times. I can still remember our last day of school. I finished my day with track practice, and even though we had been informed of the potential of school closing, the idea seemed unrealistic, and I certainly didn’t anticipate my junior year to end so abruptly. The quick and unexpected end to our physical school year left many without a sense of closure. We all felt for the graduating seniors and their loss, and for many of us as we begin transitioning into the next year, it almost feels as if last school year didn’t exactly end.
Being the outgoing teenage boy I am, the end of school meant the end of sports, the end of so many daily interactions, and the end of many countless little things I never knew I took for granted. I think I can speak for many when I say the first couple of days of online school genuinely didn’t seem too bad. We slept in, got our work done, and had a little extra free time. However, it wasn’t long before we all felt an unusual sense of loneliness. As cliche and normalized as so many little things throughout the school day are, we never realize how much we enjoy or even need them. Whether it’s racing to the front of the line to be the first one to get lunch, Coach Anderson cracking a joke before giving us a math lesson, or Coach Dupe getting us prepared for a big track meet for the weekend, it is the small acts and interactions that make Episcopal like a second home to me and so many other students. It’s not just where we go to learn, carry textbooks, and take notes, it is so much more than that. I and so many others have made many meaningful relationships at Episcopal throughout our time at the school, and this extended time away from school has, without a doubt, made us all cherish and value them so much more.
As we to return to school, despite how the environment may change due to the uncertainty of situations going on within the state and the world around us, we aren’t just preparing our minds to get lectured on the Pythagorean theorem or on learning the importance of mitochondria in living organisms. We’re getting ready to return to an environment we call home. A place where we interact with some of our closest friends and one with a wonderful group of teachers and faculty, who I know want nothing more than to see myself and other members of my class graduate and get ready to take the next step in our lives. I have never once admitted during the summer that I was ready to go back to school, no matter how many times an adult asked me. In the end, it’s because I never truly appreciated “school” for all it really is to me. However, this year as I finish cramming summer reading, pack my bag with pencils that will magically disappear within the first three weeks, and give a large sigh as my mom begs me to take my final first day of school picture, I can truthfully say I’m ready to go back to school. I’m ready to return home.
Oliver Jack is entering his Senior year, has attended Episcopal since Pre-K, and competes on the football, track, and powerlifting teams at school. He hopes to study engineering in college.