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!
“I’ve played football for as long as I remember.” Allen Stewart
Senior Allen Stewart was first introduced to the game of football at the local YMCA where he competed on a flag football team. By age seven, he began playing tackle football in the LYF leagues. Before he wore the Episcopal blue and gold, a young Allen was a member of the Baton Rouge Falcons and the South Baton Rouge Rams. Now, football will remain a part of Allen’s story as he recently signed with Rhodes College.
“It just felt at home.”
Allen says when he visited Rhodes, he knew it was the place for him. “Rhodes was the right school for me because it just felt at ‘home.’ I loved the campus and the city of Memphis altogether,” he says. “When looking for a school, I wanted an upstanding academic environment where I would have the opportunity to play football, and Rhodes gave me just that opportunity to do so.” Allen has his sights set on a political science major, and he’s not ruling out the possibility of a double major to also include business.
What does it mean for someone who has played football since elementary school to have an opportunity to play in college? “It’s truly a blessing that God has given me,” says Allen. “I truly appreciate the opportunity to continue doing something I love, while getting a commendable education. I just am elated and thankful for the opportunity.”
“Great Representative of an Episcopal Student-Athlete”
As a four-year member of the Knights football team, Allen became the Team Captain and was a selection for the 2nd Team All-District team his senior year. However, football player is only part of Allen’s identity. “Allen has been a great representative of an Episcopal student-athlete,” says Head Coach Travis Bourgeois. “He competes in three sports and holds leadership roles in his senior class while maintaining a solid GPA. He has been a positive role model for our younger players to follow.” Allen is the Episcopal Student Body President, and he was crowned the 2020 Homecoming King. He is a Thesis student who is exploring the public perception of athlete activists, particularly Black athletes. He also finds time to help others as a math tutor, and he is involved with Episcopal’s diversity, equity and inclusion conversations and efforts. It’s an impressive resume for someone who is only just beginning to pursue his dreams.
It’s no accident that Allen will play football at the next level as he has given his all to everything he has done. He has this advice for classmates. “I would say for the students who hope to play at the next level: Work Hard, Do Your Best, and Compete as hard as you can. Although these sound like cliches, they hold a lot of truth and help anyone succeed not only in athletics but in everyday life. If you stick by these three advice pieces, there will be many schools wanting to embrace any athlete who does these things.”
We are certain that Rhodes will embrace Allen next fall. We are also certain that Allen will leave his mark on the school in just the same way he has done at Episcopal. Congratulations, Allen! Please join us in congratulating Allen in the comments section below.
Read more about other graduating Episcopal athletes moving on to compete at the next level by clicking the names below:
All good scientists start with observations and a plan. With that in mind, Lower School students recently spent time in the greenhouse generating ideas to bring the space to life. It will be exciting to see their dreams bear fruit – or vegetables!
Middle School Take on Valentine’s Day
Happy Valentine's Day from Ms. Day's 6th grade World History class! Students were tasked with making Valentine's cards related to topics they had learned earlier in the year, including the early hunter gatherers and ancient Egypt. Your “mummy” will always love you!
Episcopal Third Grader Participates in National Book Club
Third grader Milo Gutfreund is a Kids Book Reviewer Club member. Author/illustrator Grace Lin hosted a contest this spring inviting students to participate in a national book review club, and Milo was chosen out of hundreds of applicants! He’s already contributed two reviews sharing his thoughts on what he has read. You can hear Milo's review by clicking here or check out the transcript here. Congratulations, Milo!
The photos below show Milo on his book club adventure including a box of books he received for his participation. In addition, Milo’s mom and Episcopal teacher Ros Won is pictured with author Grace Lin in 2012. The two posed for a photo at a book signing in Los Angeles holding a picture of Milo.
I Love with “Alma Heart!”
Second graders learned about the work of Black American artist, Alma Thomas, who was the first Black woman to have her own art exhibit. Inspired by her work, they created art to decorate the classroom.
Enchanted Engineering in the QUEST Center in Foster Hall
Once upon a time, first graders had more room to explore in the QUEST Center in Foster Hall. The additional space made it possible for the annual first grade Enchanted Engineering project-based learning unit to expand. Students built a magical fairy tale land and learned to program Bee-Bots to traverse the obstacles. What a great way to make learning fun!
Snaps for Seventh Grade Poets
Mrs. Valentine's 7th grade English students held a poetry slam competition in the QUEST Center to wrap up their poetry unit. Students recited their original poems in front of their peers and a few special judges. Snaps for these brave performers!
Eighth grade students participated in a Step-Up afternoon, where they learned about all of the opportunities the Episcopal Upper School offers its students! They heard from student panels on academics, athletics, arts, college counseling, and club offerings, and were able to ask questions about life in the Upper School.
Happy Mardi Gras, Knights!
Lower School students enjoyed Mardi Gras fun this week before the holiday break.
Like all Episcopal students, McCraney Brown ’13 and Nicklaus (Nick) Russell ’12 attended services in the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd every week. Similar to their classmates, the two were also active members of the student body. McCraney was a part of the cheerleading squad and tennis team, and Nick was a member of the baseball and football teams. However, unlike most students the two developed a relationship that would one day see them return to the Chapel as bride and groom.
McCraney remembers Nick from Middle School. A year younger than him, she jokingly says she knew him, but he didn’t know her at the time. By McCraney’s ninth grade year that changed, and the two talked at a friend’s crawfish boil. McCraney’s junior year provided them the opportunity to become friends as they had several elective classes together. That friendship blossomed, and the two had a first date that McCraney remembers well. She says she had just finished participating in a '70’s theme dance recital before the big outing. She was dressed in a blue leotard and bright blue eyeshadow. With no time to change, she met Nick for their first date at a local sushi restaurant.
The young couple continued dating, and McCraney remembers spending time together in the Episcopal quad and the student center. The two were also frequent visitors to the coffee shop. Once Nick graduated and enrolled at Ole Miss, where he studied business administration and economics, there were frequent trips between Oxford and Baton Rouge. McCraney remembers Nick having lunch at Episcopal with her younger sister Joyner when he was home for a visit. “She felt so special,” she says. There were also occasions when Nick picked Joyner up from school. Nick had truly become a part of McCraney’s family. This became obvious when the two took a two week break from dating. McCraney’s younger brother Tad accused her of taking away his only brother. The break didn’t last, and the two quickly reunited. The first ring Nick presented to McCraney was her Episcopal class ring, as he was the one to ring her at the traditional Ring Day Ceremony. Eventually, McCraney graduated from Episcopal and joined Nick at Ole Miss as an exercise science major.
Through the excitement of college life with tailgating at the Grove and late night study sessions, McCraney and Nick remained together. They continued dating when they returned to Baton Rouge, and McCraney enrolled in nursing school. In April 2019, the two planned a trip to New Orleans to celebrate Nick’s 25th birthday - at least that’s what McCraney thought was happening. Nick surprised her with a proposal, and the two began planning a wedding.
McCraney had long envisioned getting married at First United Methodist Church, but church renovations made that impossible. Her mom suggested the Episcopal Chapel, and initially McCraney was unconvinced. None of her friends had gotten married at the Chapel, and she just wasn’t sure it was the right location. After a quick visit to the venue, she changed her mind. Once friends discovered the wedding location, everyone was excited to return to campus for the special day. On December 28, 2019, McCraney and Nick, surrounded by many of their Episcopal classmates, got married in the Chapel, the location of weekly services, college announcements, Lessons and Carols and the baccalaureate ceremony that marked the end of their high school days. For McCraney, marking the beginning of their marriage in the Chapel was perfect. “It was a place that meant something to both of us,” she says. As her grandfather would later say in a toast, the occasion occurred eight years and two months after the two first began dating on that same campus.
McCraney and Nick’s first year of marriage was unconventional. She finished nursing school in May, with a pandemic impacting the Baton Rouge area. After only a few months of marriage, the two were confined to their apartment. McCraney says they walked the LSU lakes, did puzzles and Nick tested out new recipes. “It was kind of nice to have just us time,” she says. “A lot of people don’t have that special time.” There were other unusual events during that first year of marriage. Nick had his appendix removed, providing McCraney the opportunity to test her nursing skills, and the couple had a bout with COVID-19.
Marrying your high school sweetheart is not a common love story, but it’s a story that fits McCraney and Nick. “I think it’s just fun,” says McCraney. “We were friends first.” She appreciates the fact that the two have shared so many life experiences and will continue going through the phases of life together.
The wedding felt like a class reunion with numerous Episcopal classmates on hand. The photo includes the following alumni: Denton Graham ’12, Julian Darden ’12, William Newton ’11, Kent Knaus ’12, Vincent Dellocono ’12, Gaines Hanks ’12, TR Clausen ’12, Taylor LeBlanc ’13, Amelia Rosso ’13, Jane Lloyd (Brown) Dossett ’09, Tad Brown ’16 and Joyner Brown ’20.
Episcopal will always be a part of their story. “That’s where we met,” says McCraney. “We formed friendships that lasted forever and hopefully our relationship will too.” When the two move into the parenting phase of life, McCraney hopes their children will also attend Episcopal because of the experience they had at the school. “Our friends were so close,” says McCraney. “The class sizes are big, but not too big.” McCraney says even now she still thinks about her second grade teacher, and she remains in contact with many of her former classmates.
From weekly quiet moments in the Episcopal Chapel to a wedding that seemed like a high school reunion in that same special place, McCraney and Nick have a true Episcopal Cupid Couple love story. Join us in wishing them well in the comment section below.
Episcopal’s close knit community has helped establish numerous Cupid Couples. To read about one of our other featured Cupid Couples Mollie and John Hill, click here. You can also check out this Cupid Couple video to see what some of our other couples have been up to since their time at Episcopal. Happy Valentine’s Day to our Cupid Couples!
Imagine a quiet New Mexico landscape nestled near a national forest with views of deer, a creek and mountains. For companionship you have a cattle dog named Banjo, two cats and your loved ones. This is the quarantine setting that 2001 Episcopal graduate John Graham has enjoyed. It’s a world away from the Los Angeles apartment he once called home, but he’s found that it’s an ideal setting to spark his imagination.
John was born in New Mexico and lived in a small village until his family relocated to Alaska when he was nine years old. After three and a half years in the tundra, the family moved to Louisiana, where John began attending Episcopal in fifth grade. At the time, he was also introduced to shrimp etouffee and fell in love with gumbo. Louisiana was a change, but John says he was “young enough to roll with the punches.”
"I learned how to learn at Episcopal.”
“I was not an exemplary student at EHS,” says John. He emphasizes this point, saying he didn’t get algebra and some subjects at the time. However, as a college student at the Savannah College of Art and Design things changed. John says when he got to college, he “realized the value of Episcopal.” He saw classmates struggling while he excelled. “I learned how to learn at Episcopal,” he says. “I feel confident I can figure things out.” John also found that the algebra he initially didn’t get became important when it was used to solve problems he cared about. One day, as he calculated the ideal distance from a subject to the camera, it struck him. “My teachers were right. I did need it in real life!”
In John’s real life, he is a filmmaker with seven independent films to his credit. He is involved in all aspects of his projects from concept creation to editing and directing. Recently, he celebrated the release of his latest endeavor, a movie titled “Switched.” “Switched” tells the story of a mean-spirited bully who becomes switched with the classmate she torments. “The message is love your neighbor as yourself,” says Graham. He points out that to truly love your neighbor, you must love yourself, highlighting the importance of taking care of your body and your mental health.
John’s life has not always been an adventure. When he initially graduated from college, work was difficult to find. Determined, John took an office job in order to meet people in the film industry. That commitment to his dream paid off, and he met the right people. He landed his first job in the industry as a production assistant. From there John continued working toward his goal of filmmaking, directing his first movie titled “Home Sweet Home” on his parents’ property in New Mexico.
John has a gift for connecting with others whether at Episcopal or in Hollywood. As a Knight, he was a member of the Drama Club and the Thespians. He was voted the Homecoming King his senior year. Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair Paige Gagliano remembers John well. “John is a positive, industrious and creative young man,” she says. “A great person to be around.” Throughout his career, John has cultivated relationships with talented people and worked with them on multiple projects. He thinks he connects with people because he is kind and listens. He also says, “I am go with the flow.” That laid back attitude serves him well when challenges present themselves in settings like a rigid film schedule. “Creativity and not panicking become important,” says John. At the same time, John appreciates the good that comes from a challenge. “Constraint sometimes gives you a brilliant moment,” he says. “Adversity is a way to grow.”
“I always wanted to be a storyteller.”
John has established a successful career through hard work and determination. He offers the following advice to current students. “Try your hardest so you can get where you want to be. If you find something you love, find a way to make your career doing that.” He also reminds students to be kind. “Be cognizant of how you treat each other,” he says.
From the American west to Woodland Ridge Boulevard and back again, John has pursued his dreams while having adventures along the way. We can’t wait to see what this creative will do next.
You can check out John’s latest adventures on Instagram @johnkdgraham. His film, “Switched,” is available on DVD or VOD.
We love telling alumni stories! Send us a message at email@example.com if you have a story to share.
Wish John well in the comments section below.
“It is so hard to get recruited in Louisiana because it is not a ‘hot bed’ for lacrosse and coaches gravitate to players from the northeast rather than a kid from Louisiana. So, it means so much that I can start being a trail blazer in Louisiana Lacrosse recruiting and start showing Louisiana has some ballers too.” Logan LeBlanc, Class of 2021
It’s not every day that a Louisiana athlete signs on to play lacrosse at the next level, but that is just what happened this week when Episcopal senior Logan LeBlanc made it official with Southwestern University. Southwestern is located in Georgetown, Texas, near Austin. Logan says there were multiple reasons for inking with the Pirates. “The first is it is a top class academic institution that will challenge me but also gives me so many opportunities to follow my major in the medical field,” he says. “Secondly, I loved the location of being right outside of Austin and the actual city of Georgetown being so pretty. Lastly, Coach Bowman was the first coach to ever recruit me. He was the first person to believe that I was a college player and that stuck with me.”
Opportunities to play lacrosse in Louisiana are not as common as other sports, but that didn’t impede Logan. He has been playing the sport for eight years after first competing for the local club youth team in Baton Rouge. “Once I hit high school, I started playing for the Dutchtown club lacrosse team but the past two years I switched over to the Chaos Lacrosse Club which is based in Mandeville,” he says. “Also, I played for FTK which is a select lacrosse team with the best players for Louisiana.” Logan credits FTK coach Shane Koppens with helping him garner the attention of college teams. “He put my name out there and put me in positions to make a name for myself,” says Logan. As a part of the national team, Logan also had the opportunity to play in the northern part of the country, which he says, “started putting Louisiana out there.”
Once he arrives in Texas, Logan plans to pursue a Pre-Med major. He is accustomed to juggling rigorous academics and a range of athletic involvement. “I also was an Episcopal Track and Cross-Country runner which helped me so much as a lacrosse player which also let me become a multiple cross country and indoor track state champion,” says Logan. “Coach Dupe shaped me into the player I am and showed me anything is possible.”
“Logan is an amazing person,” says Coach Dupe. “He came to me as a 7th grader and had one of the slowest times on our team. He never let this bother him. He just kept working hard each and every year and eventually became a member of our top 7 in cross country and also a huge contributor in track. I have used this example so many times with our younger runners.”
Logan’s determination and commitment are part of the advice he offers to classmates. “My advice is never give up on yourself,” he says. “Your biggest enemy is the person that stares back to you in the mirror. Always believe in yourself and there is nothing holding you back. You can do anything you put your mind to. Also, if it seems like it's hard right now I always like to say this ‘Remember there is always light at the end of the tunnel.’” From what Coach Dupe has witnessed, Logan is sure to be successful. “Logan was a great leader and captain,” he says. “He cares so much about the team. I would be willing to bet that he will eventually be a captain for his college Lacrosse team. He works very hard to be not only the best athlete he can be but the best person he can be as well.”
As Logan nears the end of his high school experience, he’s looking forward to the next chapter as a college athlete. We wish him well as he realizes his dream of playing lacrosse and making Louisiana proud. Congratulations, Logan!
Read more about other graduating Episcopal athletes moving on to compete at the next level by clicking the names below: