The college admissions journey looks a lot different this year. In fact, the current pandemic has essentially upended the entire process for how schools select potential students. While the headlines and the news present a daunting picture when it comes to this year’s process, College Counseling Director Justin Fenske says there are still aspects of the process upon which students can count.
1. College visits.
“Campuses now are not representative of what school is really like,” says Fenske. He says with many campuses transitioning in and out of distance learning and numerous health and safety protocols in place, today’s college experience is much different than it was before the pandemic. While a visit will look different this year, there are still opportunities to learn more about a school. Fenske encourages students to “take part in virtual visits” or to adjust their visit timeline and wait until after they are accepted to visit a school.
Research remains an important aspect of the college admissions journey. Fenske says this year’s research should include several new components. “Pay attention to how colleges are handling the pandemic,” he says. He advises students to closely watch how colleges are treating their students and how they are responding to student needs. It’s also important to pay attention to the school’s financial status and whether or not programs are being eliminated. Fenske advises students to register for college updates and news alerts to ensure they have the latest information as it is released.
3. Soul searching.
As in the past, students should really consider their future goals. Fenske says it’s especially important now for students to examine what they want out of their college experience and go for precisely that. For example, there is an expectation that nationally more students will elect to attend a school closer to home due to the current situation. Fenske says this means for students who wish to go away for college there may be more opportunities to do so.
Fenske says now is the time for members of the Class of 2021 to work on their college applications. With changes to the admissions process, an application that tells a good story and provides a clear picture of a student’s academic and extracurricular experiences will be even more important for getting the attention of overwhelmed admissions officers.
Members of the College Counseling team, including Fenske, Shandi Fazely and Dr. Alan Newton, are monitoring the ever-changing world of college admissions. Fenske encourages families to reach out to their counselor for assistance or concerns. The team is also offering several opportunities to help students in the process.
Virtual Admissions Visits
This year, college representatives are logging in and participating in the Episcopal visits of the past, virtually. Fenske says because a virtual campus visit is budget friendly, the team expects more schools to connect with Episcopal students this year. For example, an Irish university recently expressed interest in a virtual visit with Episcopal juniors and seniors. Fenske says there are already more than 30 of these visits planned with many more expected.
Coffee with the College Counselors
The College Counseling team is also providing virtual coffee chats with families on a bi-weekly basis. Counselors will discuss topical issues and answer questions from participants. Fenske says this virtual format is actually proving to be popular because of the reduced time commitment it requires of families. See below for upcoming Virtual College Counseling Coffee event dates:
What is Test Optional Admissions?
September 17th at 10 am or 4 pm
Scholarships and Financial Aid
October 1st at 10 or 4 pm
Everyone in the world of college admissions is adapting to the realities of life in 2020. Episcopal students are fortunate to have a team of College Counselors to help them through the process. Students are encouraged to reach out to the counselors as needed to assist them with this important process.
With all of the stress and uncertainty in the world today, there has never been a better time to learn about or practice mindfulness. John Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic, defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Sounds pretty simple, right? But it takes practice. The great thing about mindfulness is that it is always available. You can practice anywhere!
You can practice while brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or taking a walk. Through mindfulness practices, we can learn to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings without getting stuck. We can learn to focus on the here and now instead of ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
So much has been written in the last several years about the benefits of practicing mindfulness in our increasingly busy and stressful world. Mindfulness is said to decrease stress, improve sleep, increase focus, and improve emotional reactivity and relationship satisfaction among others.
Where should you start with cultivating a mindfulness practice? Kabat-Zinn suggests 9 attitudes that should be incorporated into your mindfulness practice:
1. Beginner’s Mind - Be willing to see everything as if for the first time.
2. Non-Judging - Recognize judging thoughts, then keep going.
3. Patience - Accept that things will happen in their own time.
4. Trust - Trust your intuition and honor your own feelings.
5. Non-striving - Instead of focusing on results, see and accept things as they are.
6. Acceptance - Recognize that things are the way they are.
7. Letting Go - Acknowledge your feelings and let them go.
8. Generosity - Bring happiness to others by giving them your full attention.
9. Gratitude - Bring your attention to all the good in your life.
There are countless ways to incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine.
Here are just a few examples:
Six Daily Questions to Ask Yourself While Social Distancing
1. What am I grateful for today?
2. Who am I checking in on, or connecting with, today?
3. What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
4. How am I getting outside today?
5. How am I moving my body today?
6. What beauty am I creating, cultivating, or inviting today
Mindful Parenting Quick Tips
○ Notice your own feelings when you’re in conflict with your child.
○ Learn to pause before responding in anger
○ Listen carefully to a child’s viewpoint even when disagreeing with it.
Apps and Websites with Mindfulness Meditations and Resources:
Meditation Apps for Pandemic Anxiety: Calm, Headspace, Weightless
Other Mindfulness and meditation apps: Aura, Breethe, Buddhify, iMindfulness, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris, Mindfulness Daily
Mindful Parenting by Kristen Race, PhD
Sara LeBlanc is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Before joining the Episcopal community in 2010 as the Lower School Counselor, she was a school based therapist with the Capital Area Human Services District.
If you have ever taken a flight, you have most certainly heard these instructions: “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” The reason for this - If you don’t put on your mask first, you risk losing consciousness and being unable to help anyone else.
With words like “social distancing” and “distance learning” now being part of our daily lives and when we are filling multiple roles that are normally shared, we can find our emotional resources being stretched to their limits. We might feel more sensitive and reactive than usual. We may find our tolerance is low and our tendency to lash out at loved ones more prevalent. In times like these, it’s essential to put on our own “oxygen mask” - to take care of ourselves so we can care for those around us. One way to do this: self-compassion.
The University of Texas at Austin Associate Professor Kristin Neff, PhD has identified three elements of self-compassion:
What are some ways you can practice self-compassion?
These are just a few ideas for practicing self-compassion. Keep in mind - it is called a “practice” because it takes intention and effort, but the benefits are worth it. And remember, we can only care for others if we first care for ourselves.
Contact your division counselor for additional support and resources.
References and Resources:
Mindful. (2017, January 11). “Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness.” Retrieved March 31, 2020 from https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/.
Morin, A. (2020, January 4). “Coping Skills for Dealing with Uncomfortable Emotions.” Retrieved March 31, 2020 from https://www.verywellmind.com/forty-healthy-coping-skills-4586742.
Neff, K. (2020). “What is Self-Compassion?” Retrieved March 31, 2020 from https://self-compassion.org/.
Pollak, S. M. (2019). Self-Compassion for Parents: Nurture Your Child by Caring for Yourself. The Guilford Press.
Suttie, J. (2018, October 24). “Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation is Good for Your Health.” Retrieved March 31, 2020 from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_mindfulness_meditation_is_good_for_your_health.
Jodi Manton has served as the Upper School Counselor since 2015 where she provides academic and social/emotional services to Upper School students and their families. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), and Certified School Counselor. She has a master's degree in education with a concentration in mental health counseling and a Certificate of Education Specialist with a concentration in school counseling from Louisiana State University.
Taking a Break from Distance Learning
Spring Break is arriving at the perfect time for children and families to unwind, relax, and detach from our daily lives. If you don’t have any plans for spring break, and you’re wondering how to use this time to enjoy your family and shake up the repetitiveness, consider the following “staycation” options. Hopefully, these suggestions will encourage family fun and bonding while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Remember that whatever you choose to do is okay. You are not expected to be a travel agent, homeschool teacher, or party planner. Give yourself a break and a pat on the back for continuing to parent, work from home and survive during this local and national crisis. This New York Times article is a reminder that it’s okay if you aren’t renovating your kitchen or refreshing your flower beds. We are all doing our best and that is enough. Engage with your family in a way that feels right for you, but don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Remember to take care of yourself, staying mentally and physically healthy. There is no “right” way to parent in a pandemic.
Many parents are working from home and serving our community as essential personnel. If your family falls in this category, thank you for your amazing service!
Tips for Family Fun
Spring break is also a great time to get outdoors with your family. The mental and physical health benefits of time in nature are numerous. Even in a time of social distancing, there are multiple options for taking advantage of the great outdoors, including the following.
BREC Parks and Recreation System. (n.d.) Refresh with BREC. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from http://www.brec.org/index.cfm/page/playandgrowprosREFRESH
Filucci, S. (2020, March 31). Online Playdates, Game Nights, and Other Ways to Socialize at a Distance. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/online-playdates-game-nights-and-other-ways-to-socialize-at-a-distance?j=7726481&sfmc_sub=170796032&l=2048712_HTML&u=144271724&mid=6409703&jb=230&utm_source=media_nl_20200403&utm_medium=email
Lorenz, T. (2020, April 1). Stop Trying to be Productive. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/style/productivity-coronavirus.html
Temple Health. (2020, March 25). 5 Tips for Staying Connected while Social Distancing. Temple Health. https://www.templehealth.org/about/blog/5-tips-staying-connected-while-social-distancing
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, master’s degree in health sciences- rehabilitation counseling, and is a Certified School Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor.
Throughout the year, Episcopal teams up with MasteryPrep to hold ACT and SAT boot camps for our Upper School students. The camps typically are held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In a single session, students review test content and learn pacing and time management, essential test-taking techniques, tips for the most important question types, and effective guessing strategies. These camps are very popular with Episcopal students, who rate the camps and the instructors with the highest marks.
MasteryPrep is a college readiness company that specializes in helping schools improve their students’ standardized test scores. MasteryPrep was founded by Baton Rouge native Craig Gehring. The company has supported Episcopal by running our boot camps and supplying materials for other test prep programs.
Please contact Dr. Alan Newton (email@example.com) for more information about upcoming camps.
To read more about Episcopal test prep, click here. To learn more about College Counseling at Episcopal, click here.
Dr. Alan Newton
Dr. Alan Newton hails from Alabama and received his PhD in English from the University of Kansas. At Episcopal, he has taught eighth grade World Geography and History of Religion in addition to his current roles as English teacher, Writing Center Director, and College Counselor. Dr. Newton has taught English and social studies classes and served as a college admissions consultant for more than twenty years, predominantly at college preparatory schools in the United States and South Korea. He is also a published poet and playwright whose play, Whiteout (2001), won a national Kennedy Center award. Outside of school, he enjoys theater, world travel, and playing drums. He is married to Dr. Rebecca Kuhn
“The individual who knows his own aptitudes, and their relative strengths, chooses more intelligently among the world's host of opportunities.” Johnson O’Connor
Today’s students are faced with a myriad of career opportunities, making the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” even more challenging. In addition, today’s technology allows students to envision careers that may not even exist at the moment. For example, artificial intelligence specialist, social media manager and drone pilot are just a few examples of career options that were unheard of decades ago. As students navigate the possibilities, they need all the tools available to determine their career goals.
One of the most well-known aptitude tests, the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB), was created based on the work of researcher Johnson O’Connor. O’Connor found that we are all born with natural abilities that make certain activities easier than others. Think about abilities such as spatial relations visualization, concept organization or verbal memory and how they impact your daily activities. When you learn more about your natural strengths in the assessment areas, you can better understand why you are attracted to certain career fields or volunteer activities.
Episcopal’s College Counseling team has been offering students the Highlands Ability Battery for five years now. The team views the assessment as a way to start a conversation with students who are beginning to consider their future more seriously. “The Highlands Ability Battery provides a deeper understanding of who you are,” says College Counseling Director Justin Fenske. “The results should feel right.” Fenske and College Counselor Shandi Fazely both took the HAB. The two say the results helped them understand how they frame their current roles and how they interact with others. They are pleased to help Episcopal students discover the same.
It’s important to know that the HAB is not a determiner of career options, but rather a tool to learn more about innate abilities. In a research report conducted by Dori Stiles, Ph.D. on behalf of the Highlands Company, the author states that “the more closely aligned a person’s job responsibilities are with his/her natural style, the less time and effort he or she expends. In this way, identifying a natural personal style becomes a self-management tool.” Fazely says the assessment helps students understand more about how they work with others and how they get energy from personal interactions. Combined with other data points, this information can help guide the student’s career exploration process.
Unlike college entrance exams, the Highlands Ability Battery is not academic, and no preparation is needed. Episcopal students are invited to take the HAB once between their sophomore and senior years. The test consists of 19 timed assessments which can be taken online over the course of several weeks. Once the assessments are complete, students debrief with a College Counselor to interpret the results. Fenske and Fazely say those results are often confirming, exciting and validating.
The Highlands Ability Battery will be available online beginning February 18th with the College Counseling debrief sessions scheduled for March 16th. There is a cost of $115 to take the assessment. Students interested in participating should contact their counselor for more information or read more here. To register for the assessment, click here.
January marks the beginning of the college selection journey for Episcopal juniors. The journey they begin this month will culminate next school year with a chapel announcement and a plan for the next phase of their lives.
“This is the time to be getting on college campuses,” says College Counseling Director Justin Fenske. Fenske says students should be exploring and researching the types of universities available. In fact, he says the upcoming Mardi Gras break provides an ideal time for Louisiana students to tour out-of-state colleges since most will be in session. Fenske advises that a campus tour is much more than attending a college game day experience. Students should register for an official information session or tour even if they are fairly certain a particular school is the one for them. “We want students to be intentional in their decision making and they need the information to do that,” says Fenske.
For those students who have not considered what university they will attend, the College Counseling team offers the following advice on where to begin. “We recommend that students tour LSU, ULL, Tulane and Loyola,” says Fenske. He says these institutions offer completely different experiences and each campus has a unique feel. After these initial tours, students can then begin to explore other state and national options with a better understanding of their preferences.
In addition to exploring and researching schools, Fenske says members of the Class of 2021 should be checking the following items off their lists this semester.
1. Get ACT/SAT ready.
Fenske says by the end of their junior year students should have an ACT or SAT score that they feel reflects their abilities and college goals. He recommends taking the exams two to three times during junior year with the understanding that students will likely take it once more their senior year. Fenske recommends that students plan ahead for which day they’ll take the test before family schedules get booked and the spring rush sets in.
Episcopal offers a range of test prep opportunities. The next SAT Bootcamp is set for Saturday, February 15th. During these sessions, students review writing tips, take timed practice tests and work on SAT lessons. To read more about Episcopal test prep, click here. To read more about testing success, click here.
2. Secure a recommendation commitment.
Later this spring is also the time for juniors to secure teacher recommendations. Students will need to determine which teacher(s) to ask, complete the teacher recommendation worksheet(s) and make the request(s). Each student will need to secure two teacher commitments. While teachers will not write the letters until next school year, Fenske says planning ahead results in a more meaningful message. A solid teacher recommendation letter is an important component of a student’s admission application. Click here to read five tips the College Counseling team provides for creating an application that will get noticed.
3. Establish a presence on the SCOIR platform.
It can be challenging to remember all of the academic and extracurricular accomplishments that occur over the course of four years. To help with this, Episcopal uses the SCOIR application which allows students to track their activities. Fenske recommends that students visit the site now to log in, register their information and become familiar with the app. This will certainly prove valuable when students begin the admission essay writing process later this summer.
4. Get to know your College Counselor.
The College Counseling team consists of Fenske, Shandi Fazely and Dr. Alan Newton. Fenske says now is the time for students and College Counselors to get to know each other. He encourages students to schedule meetings with their counselor now and take full advantage of the resources offered. “The better we know the students, the better advice we can give them,” says Fenske.
On January 15th, the College Counseling team hosted the annual Junior College Night for parents of juniors. The team also met with the junior class to discuss the journey ahead. While Fenske advised students that the success of their search is up to them, he reinforced that the counseling team and the Episcopal faculty are here to help every step of the way.
While it may only be January of 2020, May of 2021 will arrive quickly. Thanks to the support and guidance of the Episcopal community, this year’s juniors will be ready to make the college choice that best helps them reach their potential as leaders of tomorrow.
College Lecture Series
The College Counseling team offers a lecture series to help parents and students navigate the admission process. Common topics include expectations for senior year, financial aid opportunities and trends in higher education. Mark your calendar for the next discussion.
Pursuing the Arts
Wednesday, February 5th
6:30 – 7:30 pm
There will be a panel discussion on art schools and the unique admission journeys they present. Nine members of the Class of 2019 chose to pursue an arts education. Read more about them here.
Upcoming College Admission Events:
SAT Bootcamp Evidence Based Reading and Writing
Saturday, February 15th
9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Upper School Student Center
Highlands Ability Battery Introduction Session
Tuesday, February 18th
Upper School Conference Room
Register to attend here.
SAT Bootcamp Math
Saturday, March 7th
9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Upper School Student Center
Saturday, March 14th
9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Sunday, March 22nd
Events for sophomores and juniors take place across campus
According to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the higher the level of education, the lower the unemployment rate.” Higher levels of education also mean higher earning potential over a lifetime. As a college preparatory school, 100 percent of Episcopal seniors earn admission into a university, with many attending highly selective institutions. Episcopal students are assisted by three full-time college counselors who help them through the entire college admissions journey. This journey can be intense, and it may have parents and students wondering, is there a secret formula for getting accepted into the right university? College Counseling Director Justin Fenske shares the top five qualities that colleges are looking for in an applicant. Keep in mind that these qualities can change depending on the student and the school.
1. Academic Success
When it comes to taking that next step in the educational journey, being able to show that you’ve done well in your high school courses is important. A strong transcript showing academic success and growth is a good indicator to a college admissions officer that the student understands the subject matter and is ready for more advanced college-level course work.
2. Challenging Courses
Students should also be mindful of the courses they choose. Fenske advises students to take courses that show a preference for challenging subject matter while also allowing them to be academically successful. He says students should not simply enroll in a higher-level course to pad their transcript.
3. Extracurricular Passion
You have the right grades in all the right courses, now what? Fenske says colleges want to see a commitment to an extracurricular activity. However, this does not mean the student should participate in every activity offered. Fenske says a deep involvement in a few activities is meaningful on an application. He says students can explore numerous possibilities while still in Middle School and by the time they are a sophomore or junior in Upper School they can devote more time to activities they particularly enjoy. Being able to show a progression in involvement over the years is also a plus. For example, a student may start out helping backstage in a theater production and eventually mature to be a leader in the theater department.
4. Required Test Scores
Yes, testing is certainly still a factor in college admissions. Luckily, Episcopal has a robust testing preparation program. Counselors help students understand the types of test questions, how to study and how to efficiently manage the allotted test time. There are even test boot camps that simulate the testing environment. Students take practice tests and have the opportunity to discuss errors with teachers before taking the actual exam. This sort of test prep is garnering impressive results. Students are earning National Merit recognition for their performance on the PSAT. Student scores are also translating into college admissions and scholarship dollars.
5. Tell Your Story
Fenske says students need to tell their story in their college application, and that story needs to make them stand out among the crowd of other applicants. He advises students to do something interesting that garners recognition beyond school. For example, thousands of students attend a sports or theater camp each year. A unique story would be to create your own camp or serve as a leader at an existing camp. Fenske has also helped students tell the story of juggling a full-time job or extensive personal obligations while maintaining a strong GPA and a commitment to school life. A unique story goes a long way in helping a student garner the attention to earn admission.
The college admissions journey can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Episcopal’s college counseling program is serving students well, with 100 percent of seniors earning acceptance into college, including many highly selective institutions. Fenske says ultimately the counselors want to help students find the best match based on their individual goals and projected career path. Finding that right fit and moving on to the next step in life is extremely rewarding for students, families and even the counselors who have assisted along the way. As the Class of 2020 begins to announce their college decisions it will be exciting to see where the journey takes them. Look for college announcements coming soon and please join us in congratulating these students on completing this important milestone.
Meet the Episcopal College Counselors
Have questions for our College Counselors? Leave a comment or ask a question below.
The final school bell has rung for the 2018-2019 school year and summer is here. These are the days they write songs and poetry about with vacations, sleeping in, second helpings of dessert and time with extended family. However, for some families it can be hard to step away and relax. Upper School Counselor Jodi Manton offers tips to help parents establish a semi-structured summer for themselves and their children.
1. Schedule structured time
Manton says a semi-structured summer means that students still have opportunities for learning and development, but without the regimented school schedule. She says in her own household they strive to have one structured hour in the morning and one structured hour in the afternoon during summer vacation. The structure varies depending on the age of the child and could simply include dedicated reading time. Manton refers to this as DEAR time or Drop Everything and Read Time where everyone in the household reads. Middle and Upper School students received summer reading assignments which could be completed during DEAR time. Lower School families received a Step Up packet prior to leaving for the year. Parents may want to use this as a guide for activities and practice during structured times for younger students.
2. It’s ok to have free time
“It’s ok for them to just be kids sometimes,” says Manton. There is value in free play and free time. During these times of exploration, children experience critical social/emotional growth. As children are given the freedom to make choices in regards to how they spend their time, their creativity and imagination is sparked. They also develop responsible decision-making skills and as they make new friends at camps or other activities they hone their social skills.
3. Be flexible
Manton says families should make decisions based on what is right for their child and their family. “Listen to your gut and trust your instinct,” she says. She says learning should be a joyful experience and summer is a perfect time to celebrate this joy. Parents should also be aware that summer days can get away from you and you may not accomplish everything you hoped for and that is ok. “Tomorrow is a new day,” she says.
4. Foster the family bond
No matter if the family is traveling abroad or planning a staycation, Manton says summer is the time to bond as a family unit. Without the stress of a schedule, families can take time to be together. She says strengthening that family bond now will certainly pay off once the first school bell rings again and homework, class projects and social obligations get underway.
However you spend your summer, we hope you make memories that last a lifetime. Before you know it summer will be gone and school will begin again. Have a great summer Knights!
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.