Congratulations to the newest Episcopal graduates! We wish you well in your endeavors. See below for a gallery of images from graduation.
Mason LaFerney, National Merit Finalist
Mason LaFerney’s Writing Center journey began in eleventh grade, as did the ever-growing strength of his passion for writing. Mason admits that one of his reasons for applying to this program was to earn a coveted spot on the cozy couches of Perkins 211. The coffee and snacks also acted as an incentive for his decision. All jokes aside, when turning in his application, Mason hoped to earn the chance to help other writers become more confident in themselves and their work. Mason’s positive and encouraging criticism served him well when tutoring freshmen literacy narratives, his favorite type of writing to work with. He prides himself in being able to calm the often-nervous freshmen, as he remembers vividly how anxiety-inducing walking into the Writing Center for the first time was for him. Mason favors tutoring freshmen because he finds them the most vulnerable of all the high school English students. He claims that “new freshmen are almost always willing to share their work more openly. I find them especially interesting because they are in a way ‘untainted’ by the societal norms or constraints brought on by high school.” One of Mason’s most memorable appointments occurred during his junior year when a student needed help with a paper for English I, due the next day. Mason managed to handle the added stress of the encroaching due date well until the student revealed that he actually hadn’t started his paper yet. With this information only revealed to Mason nearly halfway into the appointment, Mason had to apply his calming techniques to himself! Needless to say, this appointment definitely taught Mason how to deal with difficult tutoring situations.
I met Mason for the first time this year during study hall in the Writing Center. His hilarious recounts of personal stories and overall lighthearted personality will most definitely be missed by Mollie Hyde and me. Mason, I wish you the best of luck at college. I know you will do amazing things up in Boston. Your kind encouragement will certainly be missed by Block 4 study hall and the Writing Center as a whole, but we are sure that you will shine even from 1, 400 miles away!
- By Grace Scott
Alyssa Macaluso, National Merit Finalist
Alyssa Macaluso’s dedication and love for the Writing Center is incomparable. Alyssa found working in the Writing Center as a great way to give back to her community; she describes her experience as “fun, but not forced.” She originally wanted to become a fellow because she loved students having a peer-based resource on campus to help them with their writing, reducing their stress level. Alyssa works hard to make the writers feel comfortable and calm. Every time I have had an interaction with Alyssa, she has always been friendly, willing, and kind. Although I never had a Writing Center appointment with her, I know that these qualities shined through during her appointments with students. She also became a fellow because English is her strong suit. She believes she has a good knowledge of grammar, and she is equally skilled at helping students see the “big picture” in their essays. Alyssa also loves creative pieces, especially personal narratives. She believes that it is important to “Hear other people's stories,” so that the tutor can really get to know the student. She also enjoys literary analyses because they are “clear cut.” Additionally, Alyssa has always “looked up to Writing Fellows.” Fellows always seemed like the coolest people to her, and she strived to be like them. Similarly, I have always looked up to Alyssa.
Poised to graduate, Alyssa has learned a lot from the Writing Center and made many memories. Working with students helps her see other perspectives and think of writing topics in ways she had never thought of. One of her favorite memories in the Center comes from when she, a freshman, was revising a ghost story for Dr. deGravelles’s portfolio project with an older fellow, and a horrible thunderstorm hit the school. As everyone remembers, lightning struck the tree in the quad. However, what only a few people experienced was that right when the lightning struck the tree, she was reading a pivotal point in her story. This alone made her session memorable, and she was eager to come back for more. Fortunately for the entire Episcopal community, Alyssa never stopped coming back to the Writing Center.
– By Ellie Sim
Major: Public Policy
Morgan Patty began her career in the Writing Center with the goal of helping her peers enjoy writing. Throughout her three years in the Writing Center, she states that not only has she been able to help students improve their writing, but students have helped her improve her own writing. Seeing an array of students’ pieces, Morgan has learned various techniques that have led to new methods in how she writes. Jumping at the opportunity to help students with creative writing and DBQs, Morgan was always ready to advise students on their papers’ voice, grammar, and punctuation. The Writing Center, Morgan says, has given her many opportunities to befriend a variety of people on campus. It has acted as a “web of connections between younger and older students.” This web was sprung into action during Morgan’s first Writing Center appointment. As a freshman, Morgan walked into the Writing Center nervous for what was to come. Her tutor greeted her into the Center, and the two quickly became close friends. Finally, Morgan wants to leave the Writing Center with one word of advice for incoming fellows: participate in all Writing Center activities, start Waffle Workshops, and most of all, have fun because time flies by in the Writing Center. Morgan, we appreciate your contributions to the Writing Center. You are one of the students that has reached out and created more connections between your peers and the fellows in the Center. We have been so lucky to have your curious and enthusiastic personality in the Center, and we hope that you have enjoyed your time here as much as we have enjoyed having you here.
– By Katherine Scarton
Major: International Affairs and Public Policy/Pre-Med
Ever since his introduction to the Writing Center, Douglas Robins has seen the Center as “cool” — a welcoming community of student tutors tied together by their love of writing. Douglas cannot pick a specific special memory that stands out in his years as a Writing Fellow, simply because there are too many. But what Douglas has enjoyed the most was collaborating with his fellow tutors or writers, as they organized retreats and critiqued each other’s writing. Not only has Douglas enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with being a Writing Fellow, but he also strongly believes in the Writing Center’s philosophy: the purpose of the writing tutoring session is not for a student to get a good grade on an essay but for the student to grow as a writer — to think outside of the box either when brainstorming or otherwise.
Douglas prefers for the writer to come in with a blank page — after all, it holds so much more potential. And, as a Writing Fellow, Douglas strives to harness this untapped power to write and create within every student; he likes to show the person he is tutoring that (s)he can write and produce a “good,” original essay. Any Writing Fellow or tutor can agree that inspiring such “light bulb” moments in a student elicits a most rewarding feeling. However, accomplishing such a feat is no easy task; Douglas asserts that asking the “right” questions can significantly help students think about what they are writing.
When tutoring, Douglas pushes the envelope and facilitates the growth of any student that he tutors. However, Douglas understands that the Writing Center is not a place where those in need of help go for expert opinions: “The Writing Fellow is never an expert, just as much a work-in-progress as the student being tutored.” There is no expectation to know everything about writing as a Writing Fellow, and this is one of the facets of being a member of the Writing Center community that Douglas enjoys the most. Receiving feedback from his peers on his own writing reminds Douglas of the vulnerability that comes with sitting in the tutee’s seat during a writing tutoring session. Douglas has been awarded the honor of acceptance to Princeton University and is eager to find a similar community to that of the Writing Center. Even as he moves on to the world of college education, Douglas will bring his inquisitiveness and writing skills with him into the future. Then, who knows? We might find Douglas published in Arch & Arrow.
– By Alex Nelson
Major: Neuroscience Behavior
I have known Hallie Sternberg a long time – my whole life, to be exact. As cousins, we’ve attended many, many family events (we have a large family); been at each other’s B’nai Mitzvahs; and even gone to Israel together. But I’ve had the privilege of knowing her in a school context, as well – not only from her “dragging” me into a music class, but also in the Writing Center. There, I would always find Hallie eating lunch while sitting in a beanie bag, talking to her friends when I walk in for my tutoring appointments. To her, the Writing Center is a “special thing Episcopal has” and an “important resource” on campus. Hallie fell in love with that resource after a great experience in her freshman year, and, as a tutor, she especially loves tutoring creative pieces. Her love of writing is understandable, given that multiple members of our family have written and published books. And as many authors do, Hallie finds writing methods to emulate while working with other writers and tutees. She “finds it rewarding to help other people grow in writing ability and confidence,” while still being able to grow herself. This is one of the main ways she describes the Writing Center – a place of “collaboration and mutual respect and learning.” Therefore, she says, it is okay if a tutor doesn’t have a lot to say, as the goal is to “help the writer grow – not get a grade.” These wise words, along with her advocacy for the Writing Center during its move to its new location, have shown why Hallie is such a beloved Writing Fellow. And while she may be “proud that its future is stable,” we know that future could not be possible without her commitment and dedication to the Writing Center.
– By Charlie Roth
Louisiana State University Honors College
David Whitehurst first visited the Writing Center as a freshman. At the time, he was the tutee, and he found the session to be very helpful in aiding some of his writing concerns. Appreciating and understanding the effort that it takes to be a Writing Fellow, David realized his passion for helping students just like him right then and there. In addition to having an inclination to help others as others had helped him, David was recommended to apply for the Writing Center. When first joining the Writing Center community, David felt a need to make the students who made appointments with him feel truly welcome, as other Fellows had made him feel through his prior experiences. He wanted to make students feel positive about their writing, even when flawed, by consistently mentioning something positive about their work while also explaining how their writing could be improved. While I was talking to David, he spoke briefly on his favorite experience in the Writing Center when he was challenged to help a 7th-grade class – the same age his mother teaches -- with their short stories. “That was… crazy,” he said, chuckling at the memory. This memory taught David that every session in the Writing Center is different, and that every session had new insight to offer into how he could become a better Writing Fellow. David’s advice to future potential Writing Fellows is to understand the repercussions of their commitment. While Fellows have to give up their free study time on days when they have appointments, the feeling that Fellows like David get from tutoring is one of accomplishment like no other. The sacrifices of free time become insignificant in comparison to the satisfaction of helping a student enhance his or her writing.
– By Savannah York
The Episcopal Writing Center is a special place. Fellows form lifelong bonds. In keeping with tradition, this year’s underclassmen wrote Senior Tributes highlighting the graduating fellows and the impact they’ve had on the program.
Odgen Honors College at Louisiana State University
Major: Political Science/International Policy
Olivia Grice has always loved to write, so much so that she knew she was destined to be a Writing Fellow. She believed “writing was something I was always a little bit good at,” although her peers would tell you she was much more than a little good at it. She faced challenges in her tutoring, such as tutoring exchange students with their basic English writing, but in the end decided that experiences like these are what made her the Writing Fellow she is today. More importantly, Olivia has been a kind and empathetic Writing Fellow, who tutored writing not for herself but for the community. She loved tutoring creative writing because she “loved to read what students had invented,” and her primary reason for becoming a Writing Fellow was because she had been helping her friends with papers long before she joined the Writing Center. Olivia was “always able to tell when students were uncomfortable with sharing” and when they were self-conscious, and helped them with her empathy, seeking to understand why they might feel as they do towards writing. She was always able to “help students who were different learners adapt to traditional classroom writing.” Humble as always, Olivia talked not of how she has helped the students she tutored but of how those students have shaped her. Olivia feels that the writing she tutored improved her own writing, and that it taught her the meaning of good criticism and how to react to it. Olivia, you have been a model Writing Fellow and a positive impact on anyone who uses that space. The Writing Center is lucky to have had you as a tutor, and we will miss you.
– By Laura Kurtz
Lauren Borthwick Hoff
University of British Columbia
Always striving to “further her knowledge in English” Lauren Borthwick Hoff has been a remarkable asset to the Writing Center community. While her favorite type of writing to tutor is science writing, she also had a strong love helping guide for DBQs. Lauren explains that her passion for tutoring DBQs stems from “being able to watch the writers make connections between different documents” and her love of history. She prides herself in her “ability to provide a comfortable environment and an opportunity where kids can voice their concerns in regards to their papers," something that is always a goal for empathetic Writing Fellows. Her “balance of positive and negative feedback” creates a constructive response for writers to truly grow from.
Lauren discussed an important aspect of the Writing Center that many can vouch for, the close-knit community. She elaborates that being a Writing Fellow has allowed her to connect better to the general Episcopal community. Lauren spent much of her day in the Writing Center, whether she was tutoring, killing time before English class, or using it as “a space to eat lunch." Her engaging personality has made it effortless for students to connect with her, and Lauren even shares a time that a student described her as “a big sister she never had” and gave Lauren her email, as the two could continue to share advice. Finally, Lauren positively reflects on her time in the Writing Center and encourages others to apply as Fellows, stating, “It’s a chance to practice writing and look at other people’s writing which then helps you examine your own." Lauren, thank you for all you have accomplished in the Writing Center, from making each student feel that he or she is in a comforting environment to being such an inimitable role model for other tutors.
– By Landry Litel
Abby Johnson, National Merit Commended Scholar
Southern Methodist University
Before her junior year of high school, Abby Johnson decided to become a Writing Fellow due to her love for English. Abby had always yearned to help other people, and tutoring in the Writing Center provided a perfect opportunity to fulfill her interests. Unlike many students, Abby loves writing literary analyses but does not have a major interest in creative writing. Having taken social studies AP courses in her high school years, Abby loves dealing with document-based questions and continues to enjoy tutoring students for DBQs. In her years as a Writing Fellow, Abby has recognized her strength of being empathetic to others. Many students who come for help in the Writing Center are vulnerable and afraid of showing their work to the tutors, and Abby has done a great job trying to understand and make the writers feel comfortable.
During the breaks, Abby would often spend time in the Writing Center, especially relaxing on the couch after tiring classes. The calm, serene ambiance in the Writing Center comforted her. While Abby had many activities to manage during her junior and senior years of high school, she loved getting to know students, especially when she recognized them after the sessions. Through these tutoring sessions, she formed a connection with the students in various aspects: as a friend, a tutor, and a listener. She was also curious to know what students in other classes are learning and how the courses have changed over time. As an experienced tutor, Abby’s advice to new Writing Fellows is to stay enthusiastic while helping students and think about the benefits of the experience as a tutor as well as a writer. While some students might not pursue writing as a career, they are bound to gain invaluable skills from their experiences in the Writing Center.
– By Arohi Gopal
Mason LaFerney, National Merit Finalist
Community is the word Mason LaFerney uses to describe the Writing Center. More than his passion for writing or his desire to help others, being a part of the community of tutors has been the most rewarding aspect of his past two years as a Writing Fellow. His most important piece of advice for new Writing Fellows is to be confident, because of the credibility your teachers saw in your work to recommend you for the position. Although working with students your same age may be strange at first, Mason says to trust your knowledge and to always be approachable. Mason says he can see growth in his own writing during his time in the Writing Center, because of how fast he can come up with things to say about someone else’s writing. Just as he’s done in tutoring sessions, having to respond to hard questions quickly is a characteristic that will serve him well in the future. As well as being an approachable person, Mason says one of his strengths he’s been able to discover about himself from his interactions at the Writing Center is his ability to get straight to the point. He says he can deliver a message of what the student needs to revise in a way that makes it clear to the student without making him come across as arrogant. In terms of types of writing he has helped, Mason will miss helping the freshman with their literary analyses, because of how raw and refreshing they are to read. Mason has loved his time at the Writing Center but says the community of people who make up such a place have had the biggest impact on his life.
– By Mollie Hyde
Alyssa Macaluso, National Merit Finalist
Well-rounded, charismatic, intelligent, and kind are all words to describe Alyssa Macaluso. Alyssa always had a passion to become a Writing Fellow. She wanted to be a resource for people seeking help with the art of writing. This perfectly shows Alyssa’s general desire to help students and make anyone feel welcomed. In the Writing Center, Alyssa can be found helping a student with a personal narrative, conversing with peers, or offering to help out a struggling underclassman. Outside of the Writing Center, you can find Alyssa participating in an impressive array of clubs and extracurriculars or getting to know a student she has met for the first time. With Alyssa’s inquisitive personality, she can take on any project that is handed to her. She is admired and looked up to by not only other Writing Fellows but by the school body. Her experiences in the Writing Center have made her realize she loves to “hear other people’s stories and get to know a new side of a person.” Alyssa’s spectacular writing knowledge and grammar expertise make her a unique and desired tutor. She has the ability to ease an anxious writer and to help students understand their problems. Alyssa, we appreciate your contributions to the Writing Center, your dedication and charm have made the Writing Center a remarkable resource for all students. You are one of the reasons why the Writing Center is a safe and comfortable place for all. As you say, “The Writing Center is a way to give back to the community. It is a dedication and a contribution to Episcopal.” We have all benefitted from you in the most positive ways, and I cannot thank you enough for your contribution to the Writing Center.
– By Julia Frazer
Louisiana State University
The first Writing Center appointment this school year, in the new Writing Center space, was taken by Kylie Madere with full confidence and charisma. I happened to be sitting in the room, gaining insight on Kylie’s strategies for tutoring younger students. Her bright smile and bubbly personality can make anyone feel comfortable in the Writing Center because she “know[s] it can be such an intimidating place and can feel vulnerable as you have to share your writing that is so personal to you.” For me, new to the Writing Center, watching her tutor students encouraged me to be like her, inviting and motivated to “spark inspiration.” Kylie advised me and other fellows to have “communication, confidence, and encouragement” when working with students. Her reasons for becoming a Writing Fellow include the “sense of community” of the Writing Center and her desire to “meet new people.” Kylie always brings a sense of joy to the workplace. Because of the twinkling lights above, Kylie, always with a cup of Starbucks in her hand, finds the atmosphere in the Writing Center “chill” and “a productive place to work.” Whether she is helping freshmen with their literacy narrative or just “chilling” in the space, her experience in the Writing Center has benefited her “communication skills and confidence as a writer.” Kylie, your contributions to the Writing Center exceed what you have benefited from it. Your passion for writing creates a friendly space for all who come and go through the Writing Center. Your impacts are long-lasting and will be remembered by our community.
– By Halle Roman
Taner Morgan, National Merit Commended Scholar
Louisiana State University Honors College
Major: Mass Communications Journalism
A friendly disposition is just as important as writing skills when being a writing tutor. And Taner Morgan has them both. His smiley, kind persona immediately alleviates any anxiety about talking to him, as he is talented at establishing a comfortable conversation. He even considers his way with words to be one of his strongest assets as a Writing Fellow, remarking that “even if there’s a glaring problem with a paper, I can say it in a sweet way.” In a job where one must inspire confidence in others, appearing kind and nonjudgmental is essential.
However, Taner wasn’t always so vulnerable and conversational. He admits that “I used to be very defensive about [my writing],” and thanks the Writing Center for allowing him to become more comfortable with his work. He also credits the Writing Center with helping him improve his own writing through tutoring others. He tries to take something from each session, benefitting not just the student but also himself. He enjoys seeing the different prompts that each student comes in with and what they decide to do with an assignment. “I like when I can see someone else’s creativity flow,” he elaborates.
Taner’s desire to help others is what makes him so remarkable. While there are many other benefits to being a Writing Fellow—service credit, extracurricular activities for one’s resume, or experience for future professions—it is crucial to remember the fundamental principle of the Writing Center: for peers to benefit each other in writing. As Taner says, “[From every session], you can learn something in both helping the next person and in benefitting your own writing… if you look for it.”
– By Andrea Norwood
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.
“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.
There is this early childhood memory that I have from my first time flying on an airplane. Like most events that occur when we are young, I don’t remember every minute detail, but I do remember little blurbs: the rev of the engine taking off, greeting the pilot as I boarded and not to mention that feeling of finally leaving the ground and meeting the air. Perhaps what I remember most clearly is, strangely enough, what I was wearing. I remember that the day before we were due to depart, my father came into the house with a package for my sister and me. In that package were two t-shirts: a Princeton shirt for me and a Columbia shirt for my little sister. The next day, at the New Orleans airport, I remember wearing that shirt to board my first flight.
Fast forward fourteen years, I have committed to Princeton University. I wish I could say that the story goes that my family has always dreamed or known that this is where I would end up. But, the story was never that I was going to end up at Princeton. Back on that airplane at age four in that t-shirt, Princeton was by no means my predestined trajectory, but an idea. This t-shirt that my father purchased was a tangible manifestation of a narrative that my parents hoped for me and my sister. It wasn’t a prescription for our future. They wanted to expose us to the idea that it could be possible if we wanted it to be.
Over the last year, the idea of where I wanted to go to college changed every day. Almost like clockwork, I would walk into the kitchen and declare to my family with the utmost confidence that my dream school was (insert school name) University. My family would feign support while knowing with confidence that it would change again the very next day.
This trend continued even through the college trip that we took in the fall where we toured Princeton as well as five other schools with a similar profile. As I walked onto each campus, I fell in love with each for different reasons. This bothered me. I thought that there would be schools that I liked more than others, and I struggled to decide which school to apply for early admission. I had my applications completed for all of these schools and I just had to decide which to pull the trigger on. In fact, Princeton was the last school that I toured and ultimately became my first choice.
After a whirlwind day in New York City, we drove into New Jersey to be ready for our visit at Princeton. Our hotel was right outside of the gates of campus, and even though it was dark outside, I thought it would be intriguing to see this side of the campus. After all, if I decided to matriculate there the campus would be my home during the day and at night time, so I thought it was worth seeing it from this perspective. Driving through the campus at night time left me in awe. There was not a star in the sky on that evening and because of fall break, there were hardly any students either. Even still, the campus sat boldly as if it were not afraid of the dark. With that boldness came this energy. At that very moment I felt the ideas and innovation flowing through its veins, the decorated history sitting in its heart, and most excitingly, the future sitting in its palm wide open waiting for someone to pick up the energy and make a difference with it in the service of humanity. We went back and visited the next day during the day time and the people there were so friendly. As we wandered across the campus, a student stopped me and my family and graciously showed us around. This was not the exception but the norm for the campus. For the first time, in my college search I did not have the intense agenda of an applicant. I felt so much like a student that I even forgot to document my visit with pictures or a visit to the bookstore, a rite of passage on all of my previous tours.
All of this was complemented by what Princeton had to offer me. With a commitment to undergraduates, I will have access to world renowned professors in intimate settings as early as my first year. The Residential College system that resembles something out of a Harry Potter novel piqued my interest and the dedicated alumni who all seem to be devoted to Princeton reminded me of the school spirit here at Episcopal. All of these surface level attributes complemented by the energy from campus that night showed me that this was the school for me.
Even though I am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to attend Princeton next year, I also know that it is not the only school for me. I am in love with all of the schools I applied to for different reasons, and I am at peace knowing that had I matriculated to any other school, I not only would be happy, but I would thrive. Throughout my college search, I let the process work. I did what I needed to do to present my best self and waited for these signs and experiences to become apparent to me. I know that all of the other schools I applied to would provide me the same quality of education and enrichment, but it is crazy to me that fourteen years later, Princeton would become, officially, part of my story.
Douglas Robins is a senior in his sixth year at Episcopal. He is an engaged member of the Episcopal community as a Writing Fellow, Student Vestry member, President of the National Honors Society and a part of the Honors Thesis program. Douglas also is an active member of the performing arts community and enjoys the flexibility of being able to explore his academic interests and his diverse extracurricular interests all in one school day.
We are excited to celebrate members of the Class of 2019 as they make their college enrollment decisions. Congratulations!