Through a collaboration with her peers, Lower School teachers, and Arts teachers, Episcopal Dance Master Seminar and Senior Thesis student Christine Myer recently got to serve as a dance teacher to 45 first graders. Christine shares that experience as well as a few of the discoveries she’s made as a dancer and researcher that has inspired her to become a vocal proponent of encouraging dance in young children.
I approach around forty-five eager first graders as they wait for my instruction. I begin to lead an age-appropriate warm-up, which precedes teaching choreography to a minute-long song--just enough to get their blood pumping. One kid had just told the room that she hates dancing, another told me he was okay with it, some kids loved it, but most of them did not appear to be beyond thrilled. While these first graders were in the middle of their “healthy selves” unit, I wanted to show them how dance is a perfect example of a healthy habit. The movements within their dance were not overly simplified, but they were not impossible either; they would require practice and motivation, but the goal, in the long run, was to create a sense of pride and confidence among the kids. At such a young age, they are not as prone to the comparison they will soon face in the world, but it is crucial that we establish this self-confidence and healthy esteem in these kids before they try to seek satisfaction from other sources.
Imagine yourself as a teenager, or even tougher-- a tweenager (in-between kid and teenager). You are awkwardly growing into who you are, forming your belief system and developing character traits. You most likely came face to face with true pressure, conflict, and unsureness for the first time during these years. Imagine life back then, but add social media and the internet to the mix. How would you have handled Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and YouTube when you were younger? Wouldn’t it make adolescence even more complicated than it was?
We frequently hear that kids and teenagers are a vulnerable group, but why? Well, their brain development is complex. They face two major developmental tasks over the course of adolescence: forming their identity and making decisions. But both of these tasks, though, rely on brain structures that are not fully developed until after their teenage years, as described by Eugenia Ives. This means that children and teens must navigate their identity and decisions without the development and knowledge that an adult possesses. Instead, kids’ brains are forced to make quick, fight or flight decisions that are not always logical or well-thought-out, especially when it relates to an emotional issue. Therefore, teenagers have a lower capacity of self-regulation, which gives way to peer pressure and risky behaviors among the age group. Adding the fast-paced, spontaneous world of social media to this situation only complicates the teenage brain because it provides teens with an accessible place for their risky behavior. The brain produces dopamine, a feel-good chemical, during technological stimulation, so interactions on social media provoke excitement and instant gratification among users. This is what makes social media addictive. Because it feels so rewarding, it easily influences the vulnerable teenager and is capable of separating them from one another.
With this information, it is crucial that teens are aware of what holds them back, and they should know how to cope with their developing brain. The complexity of a teen’s brain development, especially with the influence of social media, can produce harmful effects including poor body image, low confidence, and overall weak self-esteem. The modern teenager needs a way to stimulate their brain in a healthy manner, in a way that combats the impact that social media has on it. Physical activity successfully does this, and dance, to be specific, has the power to boost self-esteem and help us navigate our life and identity.
When the body exercises, the brain feels stress and releases the same chemicals that are released during interactions on social media. Endorphins are our bodies’ natural pain killers, so they serve as a potent mental health and esteem booster and give exercise its addictive effect.
Here are some more reasons on how dance provides teenagers with more of the simplicity and clarity that they need:
So whenever you think back to when you were a teenager, think of how you coped with stress and compare it to today’s world. Encourage the younger generation to gain satisfaction from more reliable and healthy sources. Social media and the internet help us in our daily lives, but too much dependence on it alters our vision of reality and leads to unnecessary stress, whereas we can find a strong sense of reward and boost of esteem by merely dancing. Like one of the first graders told me after dancing, dance “makes [you] have a big, big, big, big, big smile on [your] face!”
Christine Myer is a senior who has attended Episcopal since Pre-K. She is senior class president and a member of student vestry. As an active student of campus, she is in dance ensemble and is involved in musical theater. Christine is also a writing fellow, student ambassador, and member of National Honors Society. She loves the community and opportunities Episcopal offers through programs like Thesis and the arts.
When new students arrive on campus on orientation day, for tours or for a shadow day, I love to be the student ambassador with a friendly face that is there for them to answer all of their questions and to try and show them the special aspects of the Episcopal community.
It all started with my eighth-grade self, an outsider to Episcopal, who was terrified to show up to orientation day. I had no idea where anything was, who anyone was, and what exactly I had to do. However, when I arrived at school, two student ambassadors greeted me, answered all of my questions, and took me through my first orientation day with ease. They made me feel at home.
I thought to myself as I was going home, “I would love to help new students and families the way they helped me today.” So, when I got the email from Mrs. Manton asking students if they wanted to be a student ambassador, I immediately filled out the application. I saw this as an opportunity to show new and prospective students around our beautiful campus. Taking them through the VPAC hall with the student-made murals, giving them a taste of what the classrooms and teachers have to offer by introducing them to our wonderful teachers, and showing them the athletic facilities that a majority of our students participate in all the while answering questions about student life, workload, my favorite lunch (cheese ravioli), and anything else they think to ask. That is my favorite part of being a student ambassador.
For me, the job of student ambassador is a way for new and prospective students and parents to hear the voice of the students. It is important enough to me that during my free study on Tuesday mornings last year, whenever there was a tour, I would volunteer to be one of the students to lead it instead of getting ahead on school work or taking a much needed nap. I was upbeat and happy to be there at 8:00 in the morning to meet new families and prospective students, which I will say is rare for any teenager, but it happened.
Every student ambassador walks a different path at Episcopal, but we all make up the community here. We represent all of the opportunities students are given here and are able to talk about them because we participate in them. We provide a different voice, the voice of the student, the kids who live the Episcopal life every day, which is why I love being a student ambassador.
Sydney Summerville is a member of the senior class of 2020. She is a student ambassador, a writing fellow, participates in the select choir, and has played basketball and softball all four years of high school. She plans to play softball and major in nursing in college.
Student Ambassadors play a key role in welcoming new students to the Episcopal community. To learn more about the Episcopal admission process, click here or click on a button below.
The day I got an email from Yale accepting me to their summer pre-college program (YYGS), I felt all sorts of emotions. I was surprised, excited, and anxious all at the same time. I could not believe that I would be spending two weeks of my summer with top students from all over the world at one of my dream schools. In the last two weeks of summer, there I was driving down York Street in New Haven, Connecticut, ready to settle into my new home for the next two weeks: Davenport College, one of the fourteen residential colleges at Yale University. I stepped into the beautifully manicured courtyard of the college and immediately received friendly hellos and warm welcomes. Once the program got started, I attended several lectures, seminars, and simulations. Each day, I got to experience something new and exciting related to biology. I heard a lecture from one of the most famous climate change researchers in the world. I got to see the labs where graduate students were researching new types of cancer treatment. And I even tried writing computer code. In one exercise, my new friends and I exchanged ideas on how to stop an influenza outbreak. In another exercise, my group members and I bounced ideas off one another for our Capstone presentation, a camp-long research presentation; ours was entitled “Save the Bees.” These are only a few of the incredible things I got to experience while attending YYGS.
But these experiences were only the beginning of all that I received from the program. By the time it was over, I had made friends from all over the world. Some of my closest friends were from Kenya, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and South Korea. I still keep in touch with all of them and hope to continue our friendships well into the future. With people coming from so many different places, I was naturally worried about culture clashes. However, I was pleasantly surprised once the program began. I was amazed at how so many diverse people with such different values had gathered together because of their shared passion for biology and medicine. In this group, I did not feel like an American studying the basics of biology; I felt like a part of a global community. We were all curious students who wanted to make a difference in the world. Everyone brought the benefit of their different experiences. While we did celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of the students in the program, we also chose to focus on our similarities. We focused on how we all loved biology and medicine. We focused on cooperating with one another to solve problems, learning new concepts, and thinking about how we could make an impact in our communities.
When I first accepted the invitation to join the summer program, I was initially doing it for the academic opportunity. I did not think I could do any better than to study at Yale. While these opportunities were great, they were superficial features of the program. There was a deeper purpose for the program. I discovered that this opportunity was not about what school I spent two weeks at. The YYGS program is about the people in it, and our collaboration, cooperation, and passion. YYGS was one of the most incredible opportunities that I have been able to experience. The activities I participated in and the people I met were like no other. There truly is nothing that compares, and I am glad to say that I am a YYGS alumna.
Katherine Scarton is a junior in her fifth year at Episcopal. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she is both a math and writing tutor and an active member of Mu Alpha Theta, Science Olympiad, and the Center for Service Learning. She also plays varsity soccer and serves as secretary of the Spanish National Honors Society. Katherine enjoys being such an active member of the Episcopal community and wants to continue exploring the opportunities that Episcopal has to offer.
“We didn’t wake up one day and say let’s get in the dog treat business.” Veni Harlan ’77
Sometimes life takes you in unexpected places. For Veni Harlan and her family, this has certainly been the case. The Harlan siblings, including Veni, Hansel ’83 and Gretel ’89 have developed a one of a kind dog treat that also has the potential to save Louisiana’s wetlands.
Marsh Dog is an all-natural, eco-sustainable, Louisiana Certified dog treat made from wild nutria. Yes, the orange-toothed mammal you’ve likely seen gnawing on vegetation in the swamp. Who knew these native beasts would be a delicacy for dogs across the country?
The Harlan family loves animals. As in, fostered-more-than-100-birds-after-Hurricane-Katrina, loves animals. Veni remembers cages and cages of everything from parrots to parakeets being delivered to her mom’s home after the storm. In fact, Veni still has one of the birds even now. Veni also has five dogs who are like members of the family. She and her siblings have long made their own dog food, so it wasn’t really a stretch for them to create dog treats, even if the main ingredient was a little unusual. Veni says inspiration came from Hansel who was familiar with nutria having studied in South America. When a state-organized, multi-million dollar campaign to promote wild nutria for the human market failed, Hansel mused that use of wild nutria would be the ultimate eco-sustainable protein source for dogs.
With their imaginations sparked, Veni and Hansel got to work. They submitted a business plan and grant application to the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and were awarded a small mini-grant. “Our goal was to go out of business!” Veni remembers saying.
The Harlans started with a biscuit concept in Hansel’s kitchen. Veni says all of the ingredients were sourced from Louisiana. They did everything by hand, grinding the sweet potatoes, cooking the rice, and hand-cutting biscuits. The Harlan family had plenty of canine taste testers to approve their creation. They weren’t at all certain their concept would be embraced by dog owners but to their delight, people embraced the idea. More importantly, dogs loved the treats.
Demand was such that they soon realized they needed to scale production. Hansel and Veni invited their sister Gretel Harlan Kelly to join the team and along with husband Bob, the two brought an essential financial perspective. Once a major manufacturer was selected, new recipes had to be developed. The Harlans conducted extensive research calling on state and federal agencies as well as AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control) for guidance. Every ingredient was carefully chosen for quality, sustainability and environmental impact. It was also important to the Harlans that all ingredient sourcing, manufacturing and packaging was exclusively USA. The second generation of Marsh Dog treats were accepted into the Louisiana Certified product program and available nationwide in July of 2019.
Local and national media picked up the unique entrepreneurial story helping the Harlans spread the word nationwide. Within a few months, dog owners and retailers across the country were placing orders for Marsh Dog. “We like to think our products are part of an awareness campaign that tastes good and does good,” says Veni.
The products and mission of Marsh Dog have been heralded by conservationists across the country. Recognition from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary are helpful in reaching the product’s audience. “We probably have the most unique partners in the pet food industry,” Veni says. We table with multiple environmental groups like the Tulane Environmental Law Summit, the LSU School of Veterinary Science, as well as support organizations that train dogs to sniff out invasive species, area welfare groups, law and service entities like Louisiana Search and Rescue and Louisiana Warriors Unleashed which employ dogs to help veterans.
A big part of Marsh Dog’s mission is education about nutria, wetlands and environmental stewardship. “Louisiana wetlands are an invaluable asset to the entire country,” says Veni, who points out the role of wetlands in carbon sequestering, a $3.5 billion seafood industry, habitat for endangered and migratory fauna, flood aid, storm surge, recreation and strategic energy and port services. “80% of US coastal land loss occurs in Louisiana. Nutria are just one of the challenges,” she says. Scientists estimate current coastal loss at the rate of one football field every hour. “If we were losing the Smoky Mountains at the same rate there would be a worldwide uproar,” says Veni.
The Harlans are hopeful and proud of the work being done to save the wetlands and the part that Marsh Dog is playing. “We can’t control hurricanes and oil spills but we can each do something,” says Veni. “We believe employing man’s best friend is fun and easy. A dog goes from being an ordinary pet to a Canine Conservationist!”
The Marsh Dog experience has been quite educational for the Harlans. “The joy of Marsh Dog is that we’re always learning something and meeting amazing people working for the environment,” says Veni. Veni also enjoyed learning during her time at Episcopal. She joined her siblings on Woodland Ridge for her senior year of school. This adventurer says she was scared, but curious about transferring to a new school. In the end, she says Episcopal “enriched her life in a really fabulous way.” She made lifelong friends with many people like Betsy Harper, Jeanie Frey, Susan Phillips and others who literally took her under their wings. “Episcopal did change my life because of the people I met,” Veni says. “I gained a greater appreciation for academics.” Veni went on to LSU and has enjoyed a successful career in graphic design, fine arts and teaching. Hansel earned a law degree at LSU and operates his own practice in Baton Rouge. Gretel is also an LSU graduate and resides in Dallas with her family.
Everyone in the extended Harlan family was recruited at some point by Marsh Dog and deserves proper credit for their contributions, including mom, Suzanne Danna Harlan, Gretel’s husband Bob, sibling Jeff ’87 and his children Chuck ’14, Isabella ’16 and Alexander, a current Episcopal senior.
Congratulations, Harlans! Your story is proof that everyone can have an impact.
Episcopal prepared me. As a member of the Episcopal community, you’ve likely heard that slogan. You may even ask yourself, prepared for what? Episcopal alumni are artists, researchers, CEOs, teachers, coaches and everything in between. They are prepared for these roles and for lives of meaning and purpose. Recent grads are also attending a range of universities, including highly selective institutions. Class of 2019 graduate Douglas Robins is in his first semester at Princeton and already he can appreciate the preparation he received in high school.
“If I have to think about how Episcopal Prepared Me, the first thing that I can really say has prepared me is the quality of the teachers that I had,” says Robins. “Because the teachers that taught me are not only great teachers but experts in their field, I was prepared to be able to come to college and have these deep profound discussions that exist beyond the readings and beyond the textbook. These are conversations that can only be had with people who have an intimate understanding of the material as experts, and the teachers at Episcopal have pushed me to be able to interact with experts, students, and material in that way.”
In speaking with Episcopal alumni, they all share the same sentiment of preparation. As a storyboard artist, Miguel Jiron ’02 credits Episcopal with helping him develop critical thinking skills. He remembers discussing a range of topics with his classmates and teachers and how those discussions helped him think for himself and find his own voice. Megan Escott ’14 says the emphasis on critical thinking taught her to synthesize her thoughts. The focus on independence also gave her the skills necessary to be responsible for her own lab and her own experiments while at Tulane University.
From his room in Princeton, New Jersey, Robins realized the significance of the Episcopal Honors Seminar. This semester he is enrolled in two seminar courses. “I am taking a seminar this semester about poverty with a world-renowned professor who won the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Genius Grant,” he says. “He is kind of something of a celebrity and it makes people intimidated to speak up during our seminar discussions. Because of the practice that I have had in sharing the way that I see the world and having these conversations across both years of Seminar and Thesis, I am not afraid of contributing. Learning how to be in a seminar is hard (especially if your first time is with someone this decorated) and because of the education that I received at Episcopal, there was no learning curve.”
Episcopal faculty and staff encourage students to explore their passions throughout their time as a student. The ability to work around multiple commitments helps students learn to prioritize and manage their time. Robins says juggling a range of interests throughout high school helped him know immediately how to structure his time once he moved on to university. Class of 1988 graduate, Chris King’s Episcopal experience also required him to learn to manage his time wisely. King worked long hours while attending Episcopal which made high school personally challenging. He says such an experience helped him understand what it means to have high standards. Years later he sees a common thread between his family, the Cajun Army with which he volunteers and the Episcopal Honor Code.
Not all lessons learned at Episcopal take place in the classroom. An education such as the one received at Episcopal, pushes students outside of their comfort zone. For graduate Kris Jackson ’17, the experience altered the trajectory of his life. Kris was not originally a runner, yet he graduated as a state champion cross country athlete. He found family among his teammates and among those involved in efforts such as U-Knighted Club. Mike Diodene ’99 remembers the lessons learned as a member of the Knights football and track and field teams – work harder, study longer and bring value to your team. By drawing on these lessons, he earned a spot on the LSU football team and went on to a successful military career.
As graduates such as Jimmy Williams ’97, Clare Crespo ’86 and Ashley Fabre ’02 reflect on the preparation they received at Episcopal, it is comforting to see that that level of preparation remains the same with recent graduates like Robins benefiting from a similar experience. “I could go on and on about my time at Episcopal but there is no better way to sum it up than by saying that Episcopal prepared me,” says Robins. “My transition to college has been exponentially easier than I anticipated because I have been getting ready for college and life for the 4 years in upper school. I truly received the best possible education that I could have asked for and I can say hands down that the best decision my parents ever made for me was sending me to Episcopal.”
As Robins forges ahead at Princeton, it will be exciting to see what’s in store for him. No doubt he will be one of the many successful Episcopal alumni who return to campus to share the story of how the school prepared them to be the next generation of leaders. Preparation is a key component of the Episcopal mission and ministry. It is central to the Episcopal experience.
Whether an Episcopal graduate attended the school beginning in PreK-3, Middle or Upper School, the education garnered certainly changed their life. You can learn more about the Episcopal experience at an upcoming Lower School Mini Open House or by scheduling a campus tour. To learn more click here.
Upcoming Lower School Mini Open House dates:
November 5th or 10th
“It was such a privilege to cheer for Episcopal athletics in high school, and I am thrilled to continue to be a cheerleader for the school by supporting the new Field House.” Carolyn Moore Wood ’82
Winning the game. Finishing the race. Giving it your all. Inspiring your peers. Setting new records. Breaking old ones. Learning that teamwork, health, wellness, and physical activity are essential parts of life. Athletic experiences open new paths to understanding in the classroom and new opportunities for college and beyond. The athletic and physical education programs at Episcopal are offered to all students and create lifelong memories.
The 1986 Episcopal Knights football team won Episcopal’s very first district championship. “Some of my best memories at Episcopal were on Friday nights or even during summer football workouts.” Paul Garrett ’89
Episcopal’s athletic program has grown over the years. What began as basic offerings of football, basketball, track, cheerleading, and volleyball has blossomed into 62 varsity and sub-varsity teams in Upper and Middle School. With 80% of the student body participating in athletics, it is only natural that our students have memories of both their athletic experiences and the camaraderie that follows. Generations of Knights have won state titles, beaten fierce rivals, and crafted their own Legacies through these programs.
Beginning in Pre-K 3, Episcopal students participate in Physical Education and Wellness Programs. Coach Heidi Hebert states, “With the advances in technology and the video game generation, daily physical education is more valuable than ever.”
As the school has grown, so has the Physical Education and Wellness Programs that begin with our youngest Knights. On any given day, Lower School students can be found learning how to exercise like an astronaut, train for a triathlon, compete in Nursery Rhyme Olympics, or practice Yoga with their classmates. Episcopal offers physical education classes five days a week for all three divisions through ninth grade. Students have the opportunity to be active every day and explore team sports in a non-competitive environment. This comprehensive, early focus on health, wellness, and athletics develops the whole child for years to come.
The 1980-1981 girls volleyball team was supposed to have a year of re-building. Instead, the team hosted the district tournament in Episcopal’s new Gym Annex and became district champions! They went on to win the State Title for the third time.
Very soon we will celebrate the opening of our new Field House. The Field House will mark the first major athletic facility constructed on Episcopal’s campus since the pool was installed in 1997 and the first athletic building since the 1982 addition of the Annslee Laura Phillips ’00 Memorial Gym. It was designed with ALL students and coaches in mind. While the inside of The Field House is certainly impressive - cardiovascular and strength training equipment, collaborative workspaces, flexible areas for wellness programs, updated locker rooms, and dedicated space for the coaches - the outside is just as special. The expansive terrace and new concession stand will quickly become THE gathering place for all Knights to celebrate as a community, remember the legacies of those who came before them, and celebrate future champions for years to come. This is truly a Field House for everyone.
Lower School Field Day is now a tradition. Coaches, teachers, and other faculty members come together for a full day of physical activity and creative games to celebrate the end of the school year.
We are pleased to announce that you have the opportunity to commemorate you or your child’s Episcopal memories by choosing a paver on The Terrace to tell their story. A commemorative paver is also a great way to honor a coach, memorialize a teammate, or remember a win. The possibilities are endless. Naming options on The Terrace are now available and start at $5,000. Write your story on one of the concrete or granite pavers that line the entryway and encircle The Terrace. Sponsor a locker, weight, or aerobic exercise station, starting at $1,000. Cement your legacy at Episcopal for years to come.
Richard Chauvin ’72 is inviting fellow classmates to join him in memorializing three former teammates. Chauvin ’72 states, "David Castillo, Richard Dardenne, and Larry Grantham were unselfish, hard-working, positive people whose qualities fostered strong bonds of trust and friendship that I learned are the immeasurable rewards of striving together toward a common goal. These men went on to greater success in sports and life, and I believe our experiences in Episcopal basketball played a part in who we became as adults."
Many Episcopal alumni are hard at work organizing team gifts to commemorate their Legacy and honor their past. “The Field House presents a perfect opportunity to pull my teammates and high school friends together to remember three men who personified the type of student-athlete that made my experience in high school sports so rewarding and memorable,” said Chauvin ’72. Carolyn Moore Wood ’82, Paul Garrett ’89, and Sean Reilly ’79 are also organizing team gifts to tell their story on The Terrace. “I want future students to create and enjoy those same memories in a first class facility,” adds Garrett ’89.
The 1979 Episcopal boys cross country team won the school’s first State Championship Title, setting the pace for our 2019 Knights to be in the running for Episcopal’s 36th State Championship Title. Coach Claney Duplechin has been a coach at Episcopal for over 40 years and has been a part of its athletic legacy. “The Field House will provide an invaluable training space for our athletes and students. The growth of Episcopal’s athletic programs are tremendous and this new facility will be an unbelievable asset to our program, campus, and student body,” says Coach Duplechin.
What will you remember? An individual accomplishment. Your family’s Legacy. The team’s big win. We are ready to help you finalize your gift. Please contact Lindsay Lamont Turner ’97 in Episcopal’s Development Office to learn more about team gifts. Additionally, if you would like to reserve a space for an individual achievement or family gift you can CLICK HERE to see the many opportunities available.
Or visit the Spirit · Mind · Body website to learn about the naming opportunities still available at The Field House.
Let’s line The Terrace with memories of your Legacy at Episcopal.
In four short years, Hollywood wowed moviegoers with some of the most memorable films ever created. In March 1999, “The Matrix” introduced groundbreaking special effects and a story that made us all ponder the reality of our world. On December 19, 2001, the first movie in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy made hobbits, wizards, trolls and elves the topic of many household discussions. Then in May of 2002, the anticipation grew as George Lucas continued telling us the backstory of Star Wars with the release of “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.” To say it was a good time to be a fan of movies is surely an understatement. These films and the groundbreaking concepts that set them apart forever changed the world of cinema. For young movie fans, these blockbusters had a tremendous impact on how they saw the world. For avid cinema fan Cooper McMains ’02, these films fueled his innate passion for storytelling.
Nearly two decades later, Cooper has turned that passion into a successful career as a Hollywood screenwriter. He earned writing credits on the popular ABC crime drama “Castle” which was created by Andrew Marlowe and starred Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle and Stana Katic as Katherine “Kate” Beckett. After a successful stint writing for “Castle” Cooper then had the opportunity to write for another ABC series, “Take Two” starring Rachel Bilson as Sam Swift and Eddie Cibrian as Eddie Valetik.
More recently, it was announced that Sony TriStar has expressed interest in one of Cooper’s spec scripts. A spec script is a full-length screenplay written by the writer in hopes of attracting a production company to bring the story to life. Essentially, a writer spends a significant amount of time generating a story with no guarantee that a company will accept it. Writers may invest years of blood, sweat and tears into the idea only to have it go unnoticed. Cooper worked on his own spec script for several years while also juggling other job assignments. For a writer facing intimidating odds, it is truly amazing to receive news that a script has been accepted. Cooper says it was fun to write the story, which is a thriller in the vein of the classic “Fatal Attraction.” Now that the script has been picked up, he is eager to begin the next phase of rewrites and collaborations. The process can be lengthy, but for someone with a passion for storytelling, it’s certainly worth it.
Cooper has always been a writer. In second grade, he carried a business card that read - Cooper McMains: Writer/Basketball Player. As his basketball ambitions prove, Cooper also has diverse interests. In addition, he has an active imagination, which is certainly a requirement for telling a good story. But there’s something else. “Completely unfounded confidence that I can make it in this industry,” says Cooper regarding his tenacity and dedication to his career choice. “You couldn’t do it if you didn’t love it. I’m very fortunate.” Cooper says unlike some who experience the Sunday “scaries” when the weekend winds down, he is excited to get back in front of the keyboard and write again each Monday. In fact, it’s actually hard for Cooper to imagine a career that doesn’t involve writing. If he weren’t creating suspenseful plots or tweaking copy, he would be teaching others how to write, reading scripts or finding talent.
Passion, perseverance and persistence are prerequisites for being a screenwriter. Cooper first began working in the entertainment industry after graduating from USC 14 years ago. However, his initial jobs did not involve writing, but instead were production assistant and showrunner assistant assignments. He made copies and answered phones. Even in these roles, he was learning and preparing for the writing ahead of him. As a showrunner assistant, he had the opportunity to read the scripts of other writers. He learned about the talent selection process. He learned how the industry works, and he learned that his true passion was storytelling.
Cooper’s Episcopal story began in the third grade. “I have very fond memories of Episcopal,” he says. “It provided broad opportunities to explore different things I was interested in.” Those interests included cross country, theater and learning Japanese. When he and friend Miguel Jiron ’02 expressed an interest in creating an Episcopal Film Club, Cooper says the idea was nurtured and encouraged by the Episcopal faculty. The two established the group and members met periodically to discuss ideas and simply share the joy of a good movie or a great story. Like Cooper, Miguel also pursued his Hollywood dream and recently worked as a storyboard artist on the Oscar-winning film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Cooper remembers that it was actually Miguel who joined him to watch “The Matrix” all those years ago during a trip to Destin, Florida. Afterward, he says the two talked of nothing else. Everything from the premise of the film to the unique camera shots and slow motion action scenes provided ‘90s movie fans plenty to dissect. For two high school creatives, it only fueled their passion for movies all the more.
Cooper’s dream is now unfolding. He is sharing the experience with his wife, Sarah, who is not in the entertainment industry and works instead as a business consultant. Cooper and Sarah return to Louisiana at least twice a year for the holidays or a summer break. Cooper always looks forward to spending time with family and enjoying Louisiana food. While California may seem a world away, Cooper says his mom always says you simply have to turn left on I-10 to get there.
What movie does someone like Cooper list as his favorite? He says he likes everything from romantic comedies to sci-fi and even old Japanese films. As they would say on the show “Friends,” Cooper’s favorite movie is “China Town,” but his real favorite movie is “Galaxy Quest.” He says both films have inspired his own writing style, which his agent categorizes as suspense, thriller and mystery.
Cooper McMains has grown from a young man wowed by a computer-generated Gollum or a fleet of Star Destroyers, to a talented screenwriter who is now telling stories to inspire and excite the next generation. He realized his passion early, followed his creative dream and has found a way to make a living doing what he loves. It will certainly be exciting to see where the story takes him. Congratulations on your success, Cooper!
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small people who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.” Muhammad Ali
Episcopal graduate Jamiee Williams has big goals. Like the senior quote she chose above, they are big, but not impossible. Jamiee graduated from Episcopal as a member of the Class of 2017. She is now in her third year at Duke University, where she is studying civil engineering. Her big goals are unfolding and proving to be anything but impossible.
In June, Jamiee was one of two students selected as a Duke WIN Scholar. WIN Scholars are female students with proven leadership skills. Scholars are selected by the Duke Women’s Impact Network, an organization made up of women leaders who want to encourage the next generation to continue making a difference in the world. Already, Jamiee has held numerous leadership positions while at Duke. She currently serves as the Program’s Chair for the Duke chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. She was previously a member of the Bass Connections research team that studied hazards and natural disaster mitigation. Jamiee is also a member of Duke LIFE, an organization that provides resources, mentorship and advocates for the needs of first-generation, low-income students. She is also a member of the Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) travel team. Jamiee even spent her summer getting to apply some of her technical and leadership skills with her internship at Skanska USA, a leading construction management firm.
Jamiee has also been selected as a Pratt Grand Challenge Scholar. According to the Duke Pratt School of Engineering website, the program “seeks leaders with the drive to take on some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.” The program offers hands-on research experience and includes a global and service-learning focus. The National Academy of Engineering considers 14 challenges to improving life on earth. The challenges range from making solar energy economical to providing access to clean water. As students research and work on their projects, they begin the work to truly make an impact on the world. As a member of DEID, Jamiee also has an opportunity to make a change. She is currently on a research team that is exploring ways to assist a community in Indonesia. The team is researching the project now and will travel to Indonesia in the future to implement it. Making such a difference before even graduating from college is big, but not impossible.
When considering universities, Jamiee knew she wanted to attend a school that would provide opportunities for travel. She has certainly found that at Duke. Jamiee is currently more than 8,000 miles away from her hometown of Baton Rouge, studying abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She has fully embraced the Australian culture and is enjoying local festivals and sightseeing. However, what she enjoys most are the people. “People talk to me all the time,” she says. “Australians have a way of making everyone feel welcome while also allowing everyone to be themselves.”
Jamiee is proving that it’s not impossible to remain true to yourself, even while adjusting to new cultures and chasing your dreams. In fact, this is something she has always done. In 2013, a young Jamiee enrolled in Episcopal’s Middle School for the very first time. As you can imagine, making the transition to a new school in the eighth grade can be challenging – but it’s not impossible. Prior to attending Episcopal, an introverted Jamiee was enrolled in a diverse public magnet school. Once she arrived on Woodland Ridge, she found that most students had existing relationships dating back to childhood. Many of the Episcopal students had grown up together in similar households with similar socioeconomic backgrounds. As a transfer student, Jamiee says it was interesting to navigate this new social structure and find her place in a community where she felt different and came from a different background. However, Jamiee embraced the opportunity before her, accomplishing much during her time as a Knight.
Jamiee was an active and engaged student throughout her Episcopal career. Although she entered a community where many students already had existing relationships, she found her cohort. By her senior year, Jamiee was active in Club UKnighted and a member of the National Honor Society. She was also a member of the Knights softball team and a state champion in the 4 X 200 meter relay and the 4 X 400 meter relay. Looking back on her Episcopal experience, she says she pushed herself beyond her comfort zone and it paid off. Jamiee now has the following advice for students who may be making a similar transition. “Embrace the moment while staying true to yourself,” she says. “Make the most of any and all opportunities and allow yourself to explore your true passions without fear of judgement or intimidation of others.”
Jamiee has also embraced her interest in engineering. She says she was always what she calls “pretty good” in the field. While some may think of engineering as a male dominated industry, this doesn’t bother Jamiee. “I’m going to do whatever interests me most,” she says. She hopes others will do the same. “Do what you love the most,” she says. “Let your passions drive your career. Don’t be misguided by the doubts of others or turned off by a challenge.”
Tenacity. Passion. Ambition. Jamiee Williams is approaching life with all of this and more. She is chasing her dreams. She is making the impossible, possible.
Enter first grade teacher Mary Kathryn Vey’s classroom and you may find students working in groups or seated together on the rug. Each group encourages each other and there is an enthusiasm for learning as a team. This cooperative approach to learning is called Kagan Learning Structures. Learning is organized into structures including mix-n-match, quiz-quiz trade, stand up-hand up-pair up and I have-who has. Vey shares more on how the approach works and the benefits of this type of learning.
The Kagan approach to learning creates active classroom engagement. Teachers engage students to boost achievements and lower discipline problems. In a traditional learning structure, the teacher leads a whole-class discussion and asks for responses. The Kagan approach creates a less intimidating environment. With Kagan Structures the teacher uses one of several approaches that create and boost the classroom environment. Students use the learned structures to quiz each other or answer the questions collaboratively. Cooperative learning is a positive alternative and creates student interaction.
The Kagan structures promote collaboration and student communication. They use the learned structures to help guide pair and group work; which increases student participation. Kagan is a positive, hands-on approach to help students use team building and positive classroom language. The students learn to praise their partners and work collaboratively together. Students feel empowered and ready to share collaboratively with their peers. The Kagan approach promotes a positive learning environment where all students want to actively participate.
With Kagan, the teacher forgoes the traditional “whole class discussion” or the “one answer at a time” approach and instead has students use one of the structures that involves everyone and encourages student participation. Kagan promotes powerful and positive teacher language that in return creates positive student interaction. It helps create cooperation and self confidence. It’s a non-threatening way for all students to feel actively engaged within their classroom. The Kagan approach helps increase student communication skills and aids in positive student growth. The students will practice several Kagan strategies that they will use throughout the year to check for content knowledge.
Mary-Kathryn Vey joined the Episcopal faculty in 2015 as a first grade teacher. Before joining Episcopal, she taught first grade for six years in Mississippi and received the Teacher of the Year Award in 2013. Mary-Kathryn graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in child development. She continued her education and obtained a second degree in the area of elementary education. Mary-Kathryn is passionate about creating lifelong learners and enjoys instilling the love of reading in each of her students.
The ABC's of the Vocabulary Parade
The 9th annual third grade vocabulary parade had it all! It was “patriotic” and “aerodynamic.” The students truly had an “ear” for words. It was an occasion fit for a “princess” and even a “queen”! Congratulations to this year’s “vigilant” group of students!
All are Welcome
Episcopal celebrated the Feast of Francis of Assisi with the annual Blessing of the Pets. From hermit crabs and fish, to tiny and large dogs, all animals were welcome.
All Smiles at the Triathlon
First graders wrapped up their Healthy Selves project-based learning unit with the annual triathlon. Students took the plunge in the school pool, pedaled across campus and then sprinted to the finish line.
Follow Your Dreams, PreK-4!
What do you want to be when you grow up? PreK-4 students recently explored this question with a career dress up day. Career choices ranged from a Chef to a Doctor, Astronaut and police officer. Regardless of the path students follow, teachers encouraged them to pursue their dreams. We can’t wait to see where life takes them!
Exploring the Earth in Middle School
Sixth graders recently had the whole world in their hands. Students in Stacy Hill’s science class used merge cubes to look within the earth’s layers and learn more about plate tectonics.
Student Artwork Published
Junior Alex Nelson’s artwork is in the November issue of Albricias, which is the Student Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. The publication features student essays, poetry, articles, photography and art. A significant number of submissions are received for each edition, making this a tremendous honor. To see Alex’s artwork in the journal click here and scroll to page 29. Congratulations, Alex!
Congratulations to Kathryn Knight and Quirino Motaggioni! Both students are being recognized for their art on display at the Kiwanis Pancake Festival this weekend.
Family Favorites Celebrations
There was much to celebrate this week at Lower School and Middle School Morning Meetings. Lower School students cheered for the division’s recent recognition as Baton Rouge Parents Magazine’s Family Favorite Preschool Program and Family Favorite Private Elementary School. Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson was honored for being named the Family Favorite Private Lower School Principal. Across campus, Middle School students were celebrating their own recognition as the Family Favorite Private Middle School. In addition, former Middle School Head Lucy Smith was recognized for being chosen as the Family Favorite Private Middle School Principal.