Duke TIP Results
Congratulations Episcopal seventh graders! The Class of 2024 had great results in the Duke TIP program this year with 13 State High Scorers and two Grand Winners.
Students who score well have the opportunity to earn recognition as a State High Scorer or Grand Winner honoree. According to Duke TIP information, State High Scorers earned scores in line with half of all college-bound seniors. Grand Winners earned scores equal to or better than 90 percent of college-bound seniors. In addition to recognition, Duke University also offers these students accelerated learning opportunities and resources, such as summer camp sessions.
Middle School Project-Based Learning
Sixth and seventh graders tackled tough issues in this year’s project-based lessons. Sixth grade students learned about the importance of literacy and seventh grade students took a closer look at nutrition and local food deserts. To read more about the eighth grade effort, check out a previous blog post here.
Propagating Succulents for Reading Success
This fall, sixth grade students got their hands dirty as they learned more about how to propagate and care for succulents. LSU Master Gardeners and science teacher Stacy Hill helped students get the soil ratios just right to encourage the little transplants to grow. Throughout the school year, the students monitored the plant’s growth and tracked their observations. However, the project was about much more than gardening.
The sixth grade teaching team, including Hill, Nancy Callaway, Virginia Day and Martha Guarisco, used the lesson to reinforce the importance of reading. As they explored the impact of literacy, students also discussed the impact of not having access to books and reading materials. Students participated in the campus-wide book drive to collect books for area children with limited access to books. Over the course of the year, students also learned about supply costs and profits associated with growing and selling succulents. This spring, the plants were sold with the proceeds earmarked for Baton Rouge literacy efforts. In addition, sixth grade students generated more than $300 from field day concession sales to support the efforts.
Calories, Vitamins and Access to Healthy Foods
Seventh graders took a closer look at nutrition this year. In Coach Rhea’s science class, students learned more about the components of a healthy diet. Students took photos of meals served in the cafeteria and conducted research on daily nutritional guidelines and requirements. In other subjects, students learned how to manage a household income and how to reduce food waste. Eventually, the students explored the concept of food deserts and how health can be impacted by where a person lives.
A food desert is defined as a low income area with limited access to a grocery store. Students had the opportunity to do more than simply talk about the concept in a classroom. The seventh grade team, including Rhea, Marian Castille, Katy Riley and Julie Weaver, arranged for a bus tour of Baton Rouge food deserts hosted by District 10 Councilwoman Tara Wicker. Councilwoman Wicker pointed out areas in her own district where residents have limited access to healthy food options and she discussed the implications of these limited choices. After touring the food deserts, students then had the opportunity to volunteer at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. While there, they also donated the proceeds from the seventh grade field day concession sales to the organization.
Project-based learning in Middle School is coordinated, thoughtful and thorough. As students explore all aspects of a topic, they gain a deeper appreciation for what they are learning and they are inspired to take action. Ultimately, these projects seem to reflect the school’s mission to provide challenging academic and co-curricular programs which prepare graduates for college and for purposeful lives, very well.
Sixth Grade Space Museum was Out of this World
Did you know that the sun is 4.6 billion years old? Did you know that the Milky Way moves 552 kilometers per hour? Did you know that you can make astronaut ice cream using dry ice?
Episcopal sixth graders proved that they know a lot about space during their recent space museum exhibition. Science teacher Stacy Hill challenged students to research a space topic of their choice and create a project showcasing what they learned. The students tackled everything from black holes and nebula to space rovers and the life cycle of stars. The occasion was a great way to end the sixth grade with a big bang.
Middle School Sports
Middle School sports in the spring continues to focus on developing skills, sportsmanship, and allowing students to explore various interests. Roughly 85% of students play in at least one sport in Middle School. Being part of this athletics program will enable students to compete as well as develop their skills and knowledge in game situations. Upon finishing Middle School sports, students will be physically and mentally prepared for more competitive and demanding Upper School athletics program.
Here are some highlights from the year:
College Counselor Jody Kennard is an explorer. How else would you describe a woman from New Jersey who has lived in the jungles of Borneo, worked for Pennsylvania Quakers and learned fundraising tips from a formidable nun who once worked for the CIA?
Jody says she was born knowing that she would leave her New Jersey hometown to attend college away. She is number three of four biological siblings with four additional step-siblings. Early on, Jody had an independent streak and unlike many young siblings who aspire to be like their older siblings, she wanted to do the opposite. Jody’s siblings studied Spanish, so Jody took French. Her siblings went south for college, so Jody went north to the University of Vermont. For good measure, Jody also decided to pursue a double major in French and English, while becoming certified to teach in both subjects, something she says was not common at the time.
Jody attended a private all-girls high school as a teen. By chance, she met Fred Sheldon, who attended the corresponding private all-boys high school, at a joint choir concert. After dating for some time, attending separate universities and being separated while Fred conducted research overseas, the two ultimately married and are still partners in life’s adventures today.
Once her education was complete, Jody began her career fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher. She taught in public middle schools for several years and loved every minute of it. Thoughts of those first teaching jobs still cause Jody’s face to light up with happiness as she discusses them. However, when Fred began graduate school at Yale University, Jody didn’t immediately find a teaching job in Connecticut. Instead, she took a job as a researcher at Yale Law School. At Yale, as the Secretary of State called daily for the experts in her office, Jody learned just how large the world, once represented on Mrs. Scott’s map, actually is and how knowledge and power are interconnected.
Never one to say no to a new adventure, Jody was happy to join husband Fred in Borneo when he took a leave of absence to conduct research on the birds of Sabah. The two lived in a small, wooden house in the middle of a rice patty for several years. Jody says water buffalo frequented the area near her home and the surroundings were quite primitive. Jody and Fred learned the local language and befriended their native guides. It was an adventure she truly loved.
Back in America, Jody took her first job in fundraising at Yale. She continued fundraising for small colleges across the country as she and Fred moved about for new opportunities. For Jody, each experience was a chance to explore and learn. From Sister Francis de Sales Taggart, the CIA nun, she learned that first impressions aren’t always accurate. After all, Jody says she never would have guessed that this nun had been in North Africa with the Foreign Service during WWII. From interacting with the passionate volunteers and donors at each school, she learned the importance of “working with people that just really care.” Of all the highlights she could share, Jody lights up as she talks about the passion and dedication exhibited by her mission-driven colleagues. She remembers the waves of volunteers who stuffed envelopes or made phone calls because of their belief in the school and their determination to see it succeed. There is admiration and awe in her voice as she describes Sister de Sales’ ability to command attention and inspire donors. There is joy in her expression as she describes her daily phone calls with a passionate older volunteer who couldn’t fathom that others weren’t equally as passionate.
When LSU offered Fred a career opportunity, this Jersey girl’s next adventure began. At this point, Jody and Fred were parents to sons Kenny Sheldon ’07 and Ricky Sheldon ’09. “The only reason we considered coming to Louisiana was because of Episcopal,” says Jody. Episcopal provided the family a welcoming community and Jody joined in, becoming a room mom, grade level rep, lunch room server and annual fund volunteer. In 2005, she joined the Episcopal staff as a fundraiser. Once Kenny began exploring colleges, Jody realized a new passion – helping students find the best college to meet their goals. In 2010, Jody became a full-time college counselor. “That’s been the joy of my life,” she says.
College counseling combines the experiences of Jody’s life into one role. “Even though I’m not teaching I still see these kids every day,” she says. She also gets to help students develop their voice and tell their story through the college essay writing experience. “It’s just so much fun,” she says of the experience that allows her to help students discover who they truly are and what they want to be. Jody enjoys the metamorphosis that occurs when a young freshman appears at her door only to emerge four years later as a confident senior with their dream college chosen. “What really catches me is the uncertainty of it,” she says. “I don’t know where they’re going to apply or get in.”
One certainty is that Jody has had a tremendous impact on her Episcopal colleagues. “Not to be overly dramatic, but the thought of Jody’s absence in the Upper School office is nearly unimaginable,” says Shandi Fazely, who works closely with Jody as a member of the College Counseling team. “Jody’s talent for connecting with students and faculty - all people, really - has inspired my own interactions at times. Jody is fierce and devilishly funny. Her quick wit brings both levity and an endless supply of ideas; and she’ll go to bat, always, for students, friends, ideas, policies, procedures, anything, in which she believes.” Justin Fenske, the director of the College Counseling team, will also greatly miss Jody. “Jody is a trusted ear,” says Justin. “Students put their faith in her and spend hours in her office, but that trust is extended to her colleagues as well. I have spent countless hours talking with Jody as we plan the future of college counseling and discuss individual students. I can’t imagine what it will be like next year without her input.”
It is not just the college counselors who will miss Jody’s presence on campus. “Jody has served as a mentor to me personally and professionally in the years I have known her at Episcopal,” says Michelle Chenevert, Director of Technology. “She is always full of energy and gives attention to detail in everything she does.” Art teacher Kate Trepagnier applauds Jody for her passion and commitment to college counseling and the students she serves. “Jody is able to transform nuanced and complicated problems into a concise strategy that the students grasp and implement,” says Kate. “With her curiosity, humor, and focused energy, Jody is respected by students and faculty.”
Jody enjoys the unknown that comes with the college counseling process and exploring faraway places. She says in life “you make choices and you take risks and if it doesn’t work out, you have to be nimble.” That willingness to try new things and explore new worlds seems a fitting trait for a person charged with helping students chart a new path. While Jody’s path now takes her away from Episcopal, she leaves very much still passionate about her work and the school. Even as this adventure comes to a close, many more await her. Jody and Fred will take off for a stint in Indonesia soon. She will also substitute teach here at Episcopal when she can. No doubt, this explorer will keep charting new territory.
Congratulations, Jody. We wish you well on your next adventure!
Has Jody had an impact on you? Leave her a message in the comments section below.
Caffeine. A widespread addiction that I promised myself I wouldn’t succumb to until college. I rush out my house door while the straw to my tall, flower-covered tumbler filled to the brim with caffeinated iced tea escapes its top. One drink won’t hurt.
I have energy! It’s a whole new me: excited, present, a little on edge, and somehow feeling fully awake at 6:45am. But, I’m late. During the season of Lent, there is an Eucharist service held every Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m. in the Episcopal School chapel. This is where I’m heading. I timidly step through the large, wooden door and walk to the side area to the right of the sanctuary to sit quietly behind six teachers and one student sitting on the chairs and distributed asymmetrically. Father Skully, the school’s chaplain, is standing at the front of this pious group, leading them in worship and recitation of prayers. I’m embarrassed and trying my best to silently blend in.
“Welcome, Ashley. Can I tell everyone why you’re here? I thought it was such a cool idea,” Father Skully asks. Well, it was a solid try to not distract the service. “Yes, of course!”
My goal for the day is to fit as many-and as wide of a range of- activities and classes as I can in one day at Episcopal, where, if you haven’t guessed by now, I attend. When I started at this school my sophomore year, there was one statement that I always seemed to run into. In fact, it’s written in the school’s mission. The school prides itself in that it “nurtures and develops the whole child- spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically -through challenging academic and co-curricular programs.” I wanted to test this by searching for as many opportunities as I could find.
7:45 am - 8:00 am: Office Hours
I head to Ms. Kirschner’s room after Chapel to help organize her bountiful bookshelves. She’s not here, but I start to make it a game of how fast I can stack the same titled books and organize enough for the next group who decides to go help out.
8:00 am - 9:40 am: Block 2
After a quick check in with my normal block 2 class, I excitedly venture to the Academic Commons to observe a SRME class. This stands for Scientific Research Methodology and Experimentation. The class is typically taken junior year and can lead into a summer of more specific research at the LSU science labs and a senior year of the class ESTARR (Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research). I’m met with students who are participating in their own scientific research for the class.
When John tells me the name of his project, How Acoustic Waves Effect the Oscillation Rate of the Belousov Zhabotinsky Reaction, I’m definitely as taken aback as you probably are right now. After observing studies consisting of killing cockroaches and cogon grass, I’m struck with the ability of these students to guide their own projects with just quick answers and guidance from Mr. Dennis along the way.
9:40 am - 9:55 am: Break
It’s time for break and I’m ready. I can’t believe how much I’ve already fit into one day and I’m just getting started! Next up are the English classes.
Sitting at the same long, wooden table where last semester I had an English class based on journalism, I join in on Mrs. Sutcliffe’s podcasts class. The beginning of the class is just Mrs. Sutcliffe going over the instructions for the day, but with a joyful twist. She’s eagerly giving her class the reasons why skills used for creating podcasts can be applicable to their lives outside of school. In her words, “why practicing these things we’re practicing could be valuable.”
Once the class is let out to continue working on their own podcasts, I head to Mrs. Kirschner’s room for the second time in the day. A dim, calm, and comfortable atmosphere meets me in her science fiction class as I listen politely to students read segments of their short stories aloud and then receive valuable and respectful feedback. I’m feeling beyond relaxed and like I may fall into a nap if I don’t have another class to move on to.
Awkwardly sneaking into Mrs. Burton’s class, I sit down in the room filled with the light from the movie screen. I’m not sure what movie they are watching, but it’s something to do with a court trial. After the film is finished, Mrs. Burton greets me pleasantly and asks the class to explain its purpose. It’s a class based on media and culture.
I’m in awe with the wide array of the English classes I did and could have visited and glad I was able to see how productive many different lens can be in teaching the same basic lessons needed for college.
By the time block 4 comes around, I’m feeling the typical drag of the day any high school student may have. It’s time for art class and I couldn’t be happier. My group of three is instructed to begin pasting material on Peyton’s hand to make a paper mache mold of a hand. “This material is what they used to use for casts back in the day,” explains Ms. Kate, “but we’ll use it to design.” My mind is allowed to wander as we focus on pasting. “Ow, it’s actually hurting now that it’s drying,” says Peyton. It’s time to take the mold off, and I’m so relaxed I’m not ready to have to leave. I’m so thankful to be able to have a refresh class.
Lunch is quick and filling. I get the little burst of energy I’m going to need to finish the day off. I also remember in angst that I should start drinking more water before track practice later on.
Before this next part, I should explain how inflexible I am. As a prior gymnast at the age of 10, I typically assume I can still do a cartwheel. That is until I continuously try it and continuously fail each time. I’m usually complaining about my back hurting or how I can’t keep my legs straight. Full disclosure, this isn’t the worst. I can barely even reach my feet when I stretch. I couldn’t imagine what dance class would be like. I may be able to get through it, but I’d definitely be embarrassed at some point. I mean, come on, I also extremely struggle to clap on beat to a song. How would I dance to one? And the most intimidating is that I’m assuming the dancers in the class are all well trained in the art.
To my surprise, the class is high energy, welcoming, and completely non judgemental. The atmosphere even allows me to assess that each student was already a dancer when in reality some had just learned this year. The warm up is fun and involves dance motions and stretches. Yes, I struggle, but I’m not embarrassed. I’m relieved and getting into the rhythm of the class. Before my departure, I get to watch the class practice their dance for the upcoming show. Music is flowing through me as I run with it to get to thesis class.
I would’ve been overjoyed to stay longer in dance, but I am determined to not miss much of thesis. This is the first class since after LAUNCH in which we’re beginning to show our final assignment: creating our own class and leading a class one day. David is teaching today and I can’t wait to see how the dynamic of the class feels.
“SHHH! Everyone silent!” David playfully expresses his annoyance with the class becoming too excited to share the city maps they have made. His class is focused on city planning and for the period each student has created their own layout and is in the process of sharing their ideas before the class votes on their favorites. “Hallie, you can go. And by can, I mean have to.” The class bursts into laughter and the silliness continues, but not without a moment to question the meaning.
“Do you think all of y’alls cities were guided by your values?” Mrs. Sutcliffe asks, and we dive into more discussion.
Speaking of discussion, Mr. Engholm’s ethics class is driven by this very thing. We’re discussing A.I. and robots along with the idea of consciousness. My head is already spinning. Zoe turns to me to fill me in on the movie they had watched parts of, “The Imitation Game”, and by doing so allows me to join in. Before I know it, it’s already been 40 minutes and I have to get to my statistics class.
3:30pm: Track Practice
I participated in cross country this year, but decided to take a break from track and field. Going back for practice scared me. I’d tried to keep up with running, but not to the extent that these amazing athletes do. Thankfully, it was a pre-meet practice, which means a little less of a workout. After the team sit down and cheer, we get to the running. “Oh no, I don’t remember it being this hard!” I laugh to Bethany and Tanya. I get a taste of Coach Jones’ jokes and the joyfulness of the team before I fistbump and say goodbye with a thank you.
In the short time between track practice and robotics club, I remembered there was one part of campus I hadn’t gone to yet. The prayer walk. A hidden beauty that provides tranquil moments of peace and allows for sincere contemplation. I walk softly as I read the signs with Bible verses on them. Then, I sit under the pavilion to stretch because I know I’m going to need it after running!
“Oh, hey Clay!” is my reaction when I see just one student waiting for Robotics to start. Dr. McClean comes in soon after and gives the rundown of how their robot needs to be packaged to be sent off safely. I’m filled with ambition and want to help with something. We begin nailing the big wooden crate. By the time I accidentally spill the nails everywhere, I realize I’m probably more in the way than helping. We finish this task and move to the board where a few other members of the team are looking at parts online to buy in order to fix their robot. I’m easily impressed with the knowledge this room holds and the group’s ability to use their curiosity to create something fun and meaningful memories.
7pm: Little Shop of Horrors
There is no better way to end a day of learning about Episcopal than to celebrate some of its insanely talented individuals. Once again, I’m fascinated by the ability of the school’s students and their hard work to showcase their talents. The songs entertain me while I think more seriously about the deeper message to this humorous play.
I’ve made it through the day. With the help of caffeine, but even more because of the excitement these incredible teachers, students, and classes brought with them. Whether it’s through Chapel services, science experiments, art classes, or athletics, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge truly provides opportunities to “develop the whole child.” Its teachers create a comfortable environment for learning that allows for true discovery. All the child has to do is become involved.
Ashley Solomon has been a student at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since her sophomore year and is an Honors Diploma student. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she participates in cross country, Mock Trial, and is the community service coordinator for the National Honors Society. Her thesis explores the importance of mental health in adolescents and the effects of implementing therapy dogs in a school setting.
We all want our children to be “happy”, but what is happiness? This question has been explored by countless universities. In recent years, Yale University founded a course titled “Psychology and the Good Life” and it has become one of their most popular courses. This course explores the keys to happiness and is now available online to the public on Coursera identified as “The Science of Well-Being”. In this course, Professor Laurie Santos links happiness to kindness, social connection, gratitude, mindfulness, and positive health habits such as sleep and nutrition.
As parents, we are often aware of any slight physical changes in our child. We look out for their health and wellness by taking them to the doctor at any sign of illness, for their vaccinations, and we bandage a skinned knee. However, mental health can be a challenge to identify. Focusing on observable behaviors and having daily conversations with our children is critical to understanding their mental well-being. Our young children often wear their emotions on their sleeves and show us through tears or exclamations of excitement how they are feeling. As teens move into middle school, they often become more guarded with their emotions. Adolescents are beginning to pull away from parents and focus more on peer relationships. While this is normal and healthy as they develop their own identity, it’s important to realize they still need parental reassurance, support and nurturance.
How can you identify if your child is in emotional distress? These observable indicators may help you:
Here are some guidelines for starting the conversation with your child about their mental health and well-being:
Episcopal School’s mission statement focuses on developing the “whole child”. We want to partner with you to support your children to grow into successful and happy young adults. This May marks the 70th year that the Mental Health Association of American recognizes “Mental Health Awareness Month” providing an opportunity for us to talk openly about mental health and our children’s happiness. If you have concerns for your child’s mental health, please reach out to your division counselor. We are available to collaborate and provide support.
Yale University Course on “Psychology and the Good Life” https://news.yale.edu/2018/02/20/yales-most-popular-class-ever-be-available-coursera
Coursera offering Yale Course “The Science of Well-Being” https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being
Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/about-us
NBC News Learn Parent Toolkit: https://www.parenttoolkit.com/health-and-wellness/conversation-starter/mental-health/tough-talks-how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-mental-health
Child Mind Institute: https://childmind.org/article/tips-communicating-with-teen/
Alicia Kelly has served as a School Counselor at Episcopal since 2001. As the Middle School Counselor, she has a passion for helping preadolescents reach their potential, academically, emotionally, and spiritually. Alicia holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Masters in Health Sciences - Rehabilitation Counseling, and is a Certified School Counselor.
Imagine a handwritten birthday card from your grandmother with the neat, devoted cursive writing that only grandma can create. Now imagine a birthday card written in the scrawling, proud script of your young child who just learned to connect letters. Handwriting can elicit such emotion and feeling among readers. Now Episcopal third graders are bringing back the art of letter writing. This spring, students participated in a pen pal project with St. James Place residents. Not only are they making meaningful connections, but they are also brushing up on cursive writing.
“My hopes and dreams for this year are to feel more confident in Math and to do well writing in cursive.” Molly
“My hopes and dreams for this year are to do well on Rocket Math and to work hard on my cursive writing.” Wynston
Each August, the third grade teachers have students set goals for themselves. Teacher Lauren Bilskie says every year students express interest and excitement about learning and perfecting cursive writing. “Learning cursive is sort of a rite of passage for our students,” says Bilskie. She says students are eager to learn the way each letter connects and it’s always an exciting day when they learn to link the letters of their own name with curves and loops.
Once students have the method down, Bilskie says they need practice with cursive writing and reading. Finding opportunities to practice cursive can be a challenge with students more accustomed to keyboards and touch screen devices. Fortunately, a national news story highlighting a pen pal program between senior living residents and students at a Dallas Episcopal school recently inspired Bilskie to create a similar program here. Knowing that several students have family members living at St. James Place, Bilskie felt the residents there would be the perfect match for these young writers. When she reached out to officials at St. James, Director of Active Lifestyles, Tanya Dickson, had actually heard about the same story and was ecstatic about the opportunity to connect students and residents.
The pen pal program was such an easy program to establish that Bilskie says she can’t believe they didn’t think of it sooner. Students started their written friendship by writing to a resident in cursive and asking them about their third grade teacher and their favorite school subject. The cursive responses came pouring in. Residents were excited to correspond with the young students with some even writing back with colorful, decorated notes. “This has made cursive so meaningful for all of us,” says Bilskie.
With this year’s success, Bilskie and her fellow teachers hope to organize the program again next year, with a few additions. Bilskie says they plan to start earlier in the year and may organize a trip to St. James Place so that the pen pals can meet in person. In the meantime, the correspondence may continue over the summer with students writing to their new friends about beach trips and camp adventures.
“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” Oprah Winfrey
Nine Episcopal seniors will embark on an adventure this fall in pursuit of their dreams. After countless auditions, miles of traveling and sleepless nights preparing portfolios, these students are attending some of the nation’s top art schools, including Bates College, Berklee College of Music, Drexel University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Louisiana State University, Loyola University, Texas Christian University and Tulane University. College Counseling Director Justin Fenske says Episcopal students have gone on to study art in the past, but this year’s group of nine is the largest in recent memory. “This shows the growth of our programs,” says Fenske. “We’ve always had success but that success is now building upon itself.”
Deciding what you want to be when you grow up and choosing the right college can be daunting for people of all ages. For those passionate about the arts, the process is even more grueling. Once these students determined that they wanted to dedicate their life to a profession in the arts, the college application process began. All of the students applied to multiple schools, with some students submitting 20 or even 30 applications. Art school applications are quite rigorous with audition tapes and portfolios required for each. Then there’s the waiting. After completing their applications, students and families waited anxiously for news. Many received invitations for in-person auditions in multiple states, meaning families logged frequent flier miles along the way. As intimidating and overwhelming as this may sound, these future artists say they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
Future LSU music education and music performance major, Lauren Smith, says the process was tiresome but she enjoyed every minute of it. Lauren has long dreamed of the day she would begin her music journey. Her thesis was on the racial disparity in classical music and how not seeing people who represented her among those in the music she loves impacted her. Now Lauren will have the opportunity to fulfill her dreams and impact the face of classical music. Such a passion inspired her to withstand the grueling application process. “Make sure you love what you’re pursuing,” she advises anyone considering their future.
Ethan Wax, who plans to double major in musical theater and marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University, agrees. “This was one of the most stressful, but rewarding experiences of my life,” he says. Wax says it was rewarding to meet people with the same passion for the arts and to see the different methods used by other performers. Fellow actor Maggie Ewing, who will attend TCU in pursuit of a BFA in theater with an emphasis in acting, says the application experience was an “insane, challenging, rewarding process of self-discovery.” However, she says the experience was worth it. “Have faith in yourself and put all of your efforts into it,” she advises her classmates.
Even as these students were preparing to pursue their dreams, the day-to-day requirements remained. With that in mind, Lauren Reed, who will attend Bates College as a dance major, advises anyone interested in pursuing an art degree to start the process early. “Keep up with school work - school work doesn’t stop because you have to go out of state to audition.” While the requirements of high school do not stop during the college application journey, Fenske says faculty are supportive and ultimately want students to be successful. In fact, Fenske says a major strength of Episcopal is the faculty’s ability to mentor students and help them develop beyond what is typically available in the classroom. “Our faculty members are committed to helping our students excel and they work diligently to make sure there is no limit on what students can achieve,” he says. Fenske points to the creation of the Dance Masters Seminar course and the Theatre Masters Seminar course as examples of how the faculty personalized course offerings to meet the needs of this talented group of students.
The majority of this group of nine seniors have known for some time that art was important to them. “I have to dance,” says future Tulane dance and communications student Mackenzie Bell. “You can do anything you set your mind too,” Bell advises others as she reflects on her decision to pursue her passion. “I knew I liked art, but I never thought about majoring in it,” says Tess Cunningham, who will pursue a BMA in music industry studies – performance track with a minor in business at Loyola University New Orleans College of Media and Arts. Tess says she researched her options and found a way to make a career of doing what she loves. Senior Lara Rende, who will attend Drexel University to obtain a degree in animation, had a slightly different path. Lara was new to the country and not at all sure what degree to pursue. However, she says she followed her gut and decided to study animation. “I created a portfolio in one week,” says Lara with an excited smile. After several sleepless nights and being accepted into Drexel, Lara says the entire experience was worth it.
These nine students have grown through the college application process. Aspiring musical theater performer, Ethan Massengale, who will attend TCU this fall, says the experience brings those in the process to a space of vulnerability. “It is the most exciting, yet nerve-wracking experience,” he says. He encourages others not to give up. “If you really want to do it, it will work out.”
This week’s announcements certainly did not happen overnight. These students and their families have committed years of their lives to seeing this dream come true. Jessica Fletcher, who will attend Berklee College of Music to major in professional music with concentrations in vocal performance, songwriting and music business, advises others to practice every day if they are serious about the field. As for audition day, she had this advice. “Go in there with confidence and look them in the eye. You have what it takes.”
The success of these students is a shining example of Episcopal’s whole child philosophy, which allows students to explore and excel in academics, arts, athletics and spirituality, all on one campus.“The combination of challenging academics and faculty dedicated to providing students art conservatory-level programs is really something special,” says Director of Performing Arts Paige Gagliano. “It has been rewarding to see Episcopal’s whole child mission in action as these students have developed new skills and discovered new talents.”
At Episcopal, 90% of students participate in the arts. The school offers a range of art opportunities including music, visual art, theater and dance. There is truly something for everyone.
Now that these students have completed the college admissions journey, the true adventure of pursuing their dreams begins. We wish you well in life’s adventures. Good luck to each of you.
Fourteen years ago when Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the current eighth graders were just infants, with no understanding of the chaos and destruction taking place around them. In 2016, these same students endured the Baton Rouge flood and now have a more personal understanding of what a natural disaster can do. This semester, the students delved deeper into the topic as they asked themselves the question - What are resident’s energy needs after a natural disaster?
The eighth grade teachers, including Shyamala Alapati, Rebecca Milligan, James Moroney and Kristina St. George, teamed up with Librarian Tiffany Whitehead and Academic Technology Coordinator Betsy Minton for this cross-curricular, project-based lesson. In addition to exploring the topic of energy needs, the team also incorporated the theme of this year’s Quest for Peace Program – Finding a Place in a Displaced World. The teachers found creative ways in which to incorporate the theme into a variety of lessons. In geography class, as students studied the countries of the world they learned about the energy challenges and needs of that country’s citizens. In science class, students learned about the different types of energy and how they are created. The theme of energy was even studied in English, where teacher Rebecca Milligan introduced literature written about hurricanes Harvey, Katrina and Maria. Milligan says the text focused on the challenges and emotions that coincide with displacement in the midst of these natural disasters. While you might think it’s a challenge to teach students about energy in English class, Milligan says it’s rewarding to find text that is relevant and applicable to current events, while still teaching students the required academic components.
The eighth grade team invited guest speakers with personal and powerful connections to natural disasters to speak with students. Middle School Spanish teacher Giselle Clouatre, who is originally from Puerto Rico, spoke with students about the challenges her own family faced after Hurricane Maria. Her story was real and relatable for the students who are growing up in a state often impacted by hurricanes. “I think seeing a teacher we see almost every day talking about such a horrible experience changed my view on disasters and the lives of the people that experience them,” said Sacha Dernoncourt. “Ms. Clouatre told us about things that happened in her real life, which I think is a lot more helpful when we’re learning because it’s easier to understand and actually comprehend what someone has gone through when you actually know them,” said Haley Wright.
Episcopal graduate and Cajun Army founder, Chris King ’88 discussed the challenges of responding to a natural disaster. He related stories of 11 hour boat rescues and volunteers working tirelessly to organize thousands of meals for displaced residents in the aftermath of the 2016 flood. He challenged students to be the next group of innovators to think of solutions to help citizens fare better in the next natural disaster. What are you going to create? How can you help?
Bringing the Lesson to Life
Students recently had the opportunity to connect everything they’ve learned. While sixth and seventh grade students were testing, eighth grade students were fully immersed in the concepts they had spent so long studying. Students explored multiple ways to create energy. They used potatoes, wind, water and a hand crank to light a tiny LED bulb. Outside of the library, students tried a variety of methods for lighting fire, including magnifying glasses, flint and friction. With each method students saw results, ranging from a wisp of smoke to tiny flames. The reward for their efforts was roasting s’mores over a fire pit. Inside the library, students were tasked with solving a series of disaster-related puzzles to unlock an escape box to gain access to the prize within. As a reminder of the impact a natural disaster can have and to truly reinforce the day’s theme, students watched the documentary Hurricane on the Bayou in St. George’s classroom. All of the activities were engaging and entertaining for students. Milligan says the hope is that the experience helps students make a connection between the impacts a natural disaster can have, such as loss of energy, and how citizens can be displaced as a result.
This is Project-Based Learning in Middle School.
Most of the Episcopal community is familiar with a project-based learning unit. Students explore all aspects of a topic, they make connections about the topic, investigate and research it and eventually share what they have learned. The projects are cross-curricular and include everything from guest speakers and field trips, to hands-on activities designed to generate excitement and enthusiasm for the topic. This year, Middle School teachers worked toward the goal of organizing such a project and the eighth grade energy and displacement project was a success. “I am so impressed with our 8th grade teachers’ work together to support their students with project work focused on energy,” says Middle School Division Head Lucy Smith. “Our students have had a great opportunity to increase their awareness of and empathy for the energy challenges that arise when natural disasters occur. We hope their work on the project will motivate their ideas and leadership for problem-solving in the future.”
Students were, in fact, inspired to take action as a result of the lesson. After learning more about the challenges of natural disasters, they elected to create natural disaster kits in preparation for future events. St. George says students took on leadership roles, with a disaster kit lead designated in each homeroom. She says the student leaders encouraged their peers to donate items on the disaster kit list and an eighth grader even designed the flyer used to promote the effort. With student donations and the $256 generated from eighth grade field day concession sales, 11 complete disaster kits were created. St. George says the kits will be given to Catholic Charities for deployment during the next disaster.
While the eighth grade field day activity was certainly fun and engaging for students, the lesson had a larger purpose and impact. The teaching team is hopeful that the students make a connection between their classroom lessons and the real life applications – after all, isn’t that what learning is all about?
In the spring, the butterflies are returned to students in North America. During their spring migration, some of the Episcopal butterflies had “landed” at Fulton Elementary School in Fulton, Maryland in the classroom of Louisiana native LeSantra Ledet. Through the power of social media, the two classrooms were able to exchange videos and share about their experiences learning about monarch butterflies. This chance encounter on Facebook gave the students a deeper investment in the project. Human connections like this provide opportunities for our students to learn about children in other schools, states and countries, and help further Episcopal’s mission to “prepare graduates for college and for purposeful lives.”
Back in the PreK garden, students were thrilled at the spring arrival of the monarch butterflies. They documented each step of the life cycle from discovering tiny eggs on their milkweed plants, to watching the butterflies emerge, almost simultaneously, in the biggest sighting of butterflies in the garden’s history.
Students wrapped up the year with a butterfly parade in the VPAC. Families were treated to a song and poem performed by the PreK-4 classes. After the show, students showcased their published book, “Becoming a Butterfly” and hosted an art show and book signing. The metaphor of the caterpillar’s journey to becoming a butterfly is especially fitting for our young learners during this transformational year of school. The mini Knights are ready to “take flight” in Kindergarten as they take the next step in their educational journey at Episcopal.
Julie Mendes, a 2001 graduate of Episcopal, returned to teach Pre-K4 at her alma mater in 2012. She received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in elementary education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching second grade in a Dual Language program in Texas public schools for three years, Julie moved abroad to teach first grade at a bilingual school in Gracias, Lempira Honduras. Julie enjoys teaching alongside some of her former teachers and seeing what life is like on the other side of the desk.
With the stroke of a pen, four Episcopal athletes solidified their plans to continue competing at the college level. Adele Broussard, Brandan Garrido, Todd McInnis and Mary Kathryn Underwood join a long line of Episcopal athletes who elected to continue their athletic career. At a signing day ceremony this week, Athletic Director Randy Richard congratulated the athletes. “What a year it was for Episcopal athletics,” he said. “Today is a day of looking forward to the future.”
Todd McInnis – Mississippi College, Cross Country/Track and Field
As Coach Richard introduced the athletes, he reminisced on their success. For senior Todd McInnis, who plans to participate in cross country and track and field for Mississippi College Honors College in the fall, there has been tremendous success. “Senior members of the boys cross country and track and field teams have earned 12 state championship titles in the last four years,” said Richard. “You guys have never lost.” Todd and his family were all smiles as they discussed the runner’s bright future. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to keep running,” says Todd. He also encouraged others with a passion, to work hard and remain level headed as they search for an opportunity to continue doing what they love. Todd says Mississippi College was the right fit for him because of the school’s Christian values, which are important to him. Coach Claney Duplechin says Todd is one of the hardest workers he has ever coached. “If he’s not a captain I’ll be very surprised.”
Adele Broussard – Louisiana State University, Cross Country
Adele Broussard has had impressive success in the long distances, earning numerous individual state championship titles. Coach Richard commended Adele for the enviable inner strength she possesses in order to run the anchor leg of a relay immediately following a two mile run. With another team state championship recently earned, Adele says this is the perfect way to end her senior year. She looks forward to donning the purple and gold for LSU in the fall along with her former Episcopal classmates. “LSU was the perfect school. The team was very welcoming.” No doubt, Adele will be a welcome addition to her new team. Coach Jones says she is a hard worker, a fierce competitor and a fabulous person.
Mary Kathryn Underwood – Fordham University, Track and Field
At the recent signing day, Mary Kathryn told Coach Richard and the crowd that she knew she had to do everything she could to help her team win at the very beginning of this year’s cold, wet cross country state championship meet. Despite the conditions, the girls were victorious and brought home the title. Now Mary Kathryn heads to her favorite city, New York, to attend Fordham University and continue track and field. “It’s important that I keep running,” she says. “It helps me with school, time management and clears my head.” Coach Jones says Mary Kathryn is tough as nails on the track and one of the nicest people he’s ever been around. Both qualities should serve her well as she looks toward her future.
Brandan Garrido – Birmingham Southern College, Basketball
This dual sport athlete says after a long decision-making process he ultimately went with basketball over football because the sport was his first love. Brandan says he’s had a lot of fun playing sports while in school and he looks forward to continuing that in college. Birmingham Southern was his school of choice because the school felt like a second home and he felt accepted as soon as he got there. Coach Beckman congratulated Brandan and says he’ll never forget how Brandan beat Denham Springs at the buzzer twice in two different years or how happy Brandan was when the team was victorious against Riverside. Brandan certainly has much to be happy about now as he looks to becoming a college athlete this fall.
The Year in Review
State Champs X’s 5!
Boys cross country – State Champs
Girls cross country – State Champs
Boys indoor track and field - State Champs
Boys outdoor track and field – State Champs
Girls outdoor track and field – State Champs
It was a tremendous year for Episcopal runners and track and field athletes with five team state championship titles in one year. Here’s a look at impressive individual results:
Adele Broussard – Individual cross country state champ, 800M, 1600M, 3200M state champ, indoor 1600M state champ
Francie Oliver – Long jump state champ
Trevor Babcock – 800M state champ, indoor 800M state champ
James Christian - Individual cross country state champ, 3200M state champ
Trevor Babcock, Austin Broussard, Todd McInnis, Brandan Garrido - 4 X 400M state champs
Austin Broussard, Greyson Yorek, Logan Leblanc, Trevor Babcock - Indoor 4 X 800 M state champs
David Whitehurst – 1,600M state champ
Episcopal golfers had a great showing at the recent state tournament. The girls finished as the Division II State Runner Up! Riely Heaslip and Caroline Glynn shot a two day score of 324! Riely finished as the third place medalist in the tournament.
Freshman Boyd Owens finished as the Boys Individual State Runner Up with a two day 36 hole score of 145.
Senior Riely Heaslip is certainly ending her last year of Upper School on a high note. In addition to a great tournament finish, she has also been named as the Advocate’s Star of Stars for Girls Golf. This is the second year in a row that Riely has won the award.
Tennis State Champs
Congratulations to the boys tennis team who brought home a state title of their own. One of the contributing factors of the regional and state titles for the team this year was a talented group of doubles teams that occupied three of the four slots in both tournament semi-final rounds. The doubles team of Ethan Gettys and Carter Rigby capped off those teams by finishing as regional champs and state runner up in the boys doubles competition.
Athletes of the Year
At this spring’s sports ceremony the Athletes of the Year were announced. Congratulations to the following athletes who won Episcopal athletics' highest award:
Adele Broussard (Cross Country and Track & Field) – Annslee Laura Phillips Female Athlete of the Year
Brandan Garrido (Football, Basketball, Track & Field) – Michael Babers Male Athlete of the Year
*Alum Bart Phillips '91 was on hand to present the Annslee Laura Phillips Female Athlete of the Year award, named in honor of his sister.
Athletic Hall of Fame Honors
Former Episcopal Coach “Chinkie” Cointment was inducted into the Episcopal Athletic Hall of Fame. Chinkie has been a mainstay in Episcopal athletics since 1979 and helped solidify a strong Middle School athletics program, while also helping to pave the way for girls athletics at Episcopal.
For a look back at action earlier in the year, check out these blog posts.
Fantastic Fall Performances
Winning Winter Sports
Be on the look out for a new Episcopal athletic field house informational piece coming out soon. For more information on the field house, click here.