Food, family and storytelling are the same whether those gathered share a bloodline or a lifelong bond created through a shared love of a school. When family and friends gather, there is traditionally a sense of gratitude as everyone relives the moments that connect them. That was certainly the case when Episcopal families from the west side of the Mississippi River hosted a small luncheon to welcome new Head of School Dr. Carrie Steakley. Dr. Steakley was enveloped in the enthusiasm and passion attendees had for the school she now leads. Once the introductions were made, the story sharing quickly began.
“Episcopal has been a part of my life since I was nine years old,” says graduate/former employee and hostess Renee Price ’76. Just as families set the scene for a Thanksgiving feast, Price inspired a trip down memory lane by displaying yearbooks, Knights, teachers’ notes, class rings and more throughout her home in Port Allen. Glancing at the mementos took the attendees back to a time when their children crossed the river twice daily in order to access the rigorous education their families desired.
The first group of west side families became Knights as soon as the school opened in downtown Baton Rouge many years ago. At that time, there was no bridge and students had to travel across the river on the ferry. Price’s mom, Mrs. Gayle Schwing, spent countless hours chaperoning the bus that transported that first generation of students. Now, the ladies all laugh as they recall those days. The trip required students to exit the bus to ride the ferry across. There are tales of shoes dropped in the water and all the excitement you would expect from young people on a boat together. Eventually, the bridge was built, and students began making the trip the entire way on the bus. While the thought of this daily commute may seem intimidating with today’s traffic, the families say the situation wasn’t nearly as difficult then and really only took about 25 minutes. Looking back now, they are grateful to have had access to an Episcopal education. “It was absolutely worth it,” says Mrs. Schwing.
That sense of gratitude continues as a new generation of Episcopal west side graduates takes on the world. Price proudly tells the stories of her daughters’ success in the heavy equipment and oil and gas industries while standing under a photo of the two graduates at a beach. Micheal Nicolosi, whose daughter Allison recently graduated from Episcopal in 2016, is equally grateful for the education she received. He says the experience was a boost for Allison because she learned how to study, and as a college student Allison found herself well prepared for her coursework. “Episcopal was a God’s send for us,” says Micheal. “We were fortunate to be able to send her there.”
The west side families were originally connected through carpool, athletic practices and educational experiences. Now, they vacation together, share meals, share heartaches and celebrate triumphs. They tell stories of the career success of their children and the first steps of their grandchildren, and everyone present is supportive. The families are grateful for this bond that connects them after all this time, and they are excited about the future of Episcopal. No doubt, years from now current Episcopal students and families will gather with the same grateful hearts as they share memories of their own Episcopal experiences.
What are you grateful for when it comes to an Episcopal education? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.