Remember back to your first semester exams in college. You may still have been reeling from transitioning to adult life, much less acing that Physics 101 class. You likely spent long hours in the library, the coffee shop or your dorm room pouring over notes and textbooks. In addition to pouring over notes, you likely poured many cups of coffee to accompany the highlighters, calculators and laptops that were strewn about. Today’s college freshmen are discovering that the hustle and bustle of wrapping up those first few months away can certainly be overwhelming and stressful. But soon they’ll peer into their mailbox and find a familiar Knights emblem on a box personally addressed to them.
Similar to an old friend or a well-loved, tattered and worn stuffed animal, a care package from home has the power to calm and comfort. The Episcopal care package tradition stretches back at least twelve years with sixth graders handcrafting items for the previous year’s graduating class.
This year, the Class of 2017 is receiving boxes stuffed with mint wreaths, sock snowmen, homemade cookies, notes from Lower School, snowflake paintings and even a prayer for exam times. There was excitement and joy as the Class of 2024 created these tokens of love this week. Students laughed as they stuffed rice into socks for the snowmen and they squealed as they squeezed the slime into a stress ball for pre-exam tensions. They were also confident that their gifts would be well received and even hopeful that items such as the peppermints inside would help the alumni to study and focus.
These care packages take considerable time and effort to plan, prepare, create and mail, and that time is certainly worth it to remind the recent graduates that they are still a part of the Knights family. Hopefully, each box generates a smile as the college freshmen feel the love and support of the Episcopal school community surrounding them. Whether the packages are received in chilly Cedar Rapids, Iowa; sunny San Luis Obispo, California or even in a purple and gold dorm room closer to home, the message is the same. We wish you well. You make us proud.
We are truly a community uKnighted!
The Episcopal community offers a sincere thank you and much gratitude for the beautiful altar given to the Chapel by alumni Rachel ‘89 and David ‘89 Dansky. Mr. Dansky personally handcrafted the piece from unused sections of the Chapel’s existing altar rails, and the result is remarkable.
The altar will be officially blessed and dedicated by the Rt. Rev’d Morris King Thompson, Jr. We know that our students and community will enjoy this tremendous blessing as it is used during Eucharistic services.
Front row: Margaret Penniman Boudreaux – 1976, Mellie Preis Bailey – 1996, Taylor Mims Walker – 2009, Virginia Day – 2008, Kate McDuff – 2008, Carter Smith – 2005. Back row: Julie Pace Mendes – 2001, Julie Weaver – 1983, Amy Weidig Arceneaux – 1987, Emily Monroe Godfrey – 1998, Stephen Anderson – 2002. Not pictured: Jimmy Williams – 1997.
For 12 Episcopal alumni this statement rings very true. This group graduated from Episcopal School of Baton Rouge and later returned as faculty and staff members. Now everyday they get to share their love of the school and its community with future generations. What a legacy!
"It’s kind of surreal sometimes,” says 2001 graduate Julie Pace Mendes who now teaches PreK-4. Mendes says the school is strangely very much the same, yet so different from her time on campus. However, she says while there may be new buildings and more technology, the feelings are still the same. “There is no place like Episcopal.”
Capital Campaign Director and 1996 graduate Mellie Preis Bailey, says the Episcopal student experience was in a word, “transformational”. “I met my husband, my best friends and my whole network at Episcopal.” She says Episcopal is where she learned “how to build relationships, how to meet people and treat people”.
All of the alumni agree that an Episcopal education is so much more than just classroom education. They all point to the sense of community they recognized as a child and feel now as an adult.
Class of 1976 graduate Margaret Penniman Boudreaux says that feeling has existed from the very beginning. Boudreaux, who now teaches fifth grade English remembers fondly the small, close-knit family environment. As a member of the faculty, she wants to impart that on today’s students.
“I believe we teach the future leaders of our community,” says Boudreaux. “I wake up every day happy to teach bright 10 and 11 year olds.”
With this sense of connection and community comes a sense of responsibility.
“I’m very thankful for the education and to be here to give back to a school that’s given me so much,” says 2009 graduate and physical education teacher, Taylor Mims Walker.
“It’s exciting to be helping form the school to go forward for the next generation. I want to leave it better than I found it,” says Stephen Anderson, Class of 2002 graduate, Swim Teach Coach and Math Department Chair.
Julie Weaver ’83 graduate and Middle School Social Studies teacher says while this is now her children’s school, her sense of attachment remains. “I have as much at stake in it as they do.”
For some alumni the connection runs deeper than a shared school experience.
“It’s such a blessing to be here every day. Everyone is nice and supportive. It’s like family,” says Amy Weidig Arceneaux ’87 graduate and third grade teacher.
Like several other alumni on staff, Arceneaux and fellow Lower School teacher Emily Monroe Godfrey ‘98 are truly a part of the Episcopal legacy. Their mothers taught at Episcopal, they teach at the school and their children also attend Episcopal. (Arceneaux’s father also tutors Episcopal students.) The same is true for 2005 graduate and Director of Choral Activities, Carter Smith whose mother, Lucy Smith, is the Middle School Division Leader. Kate McDuff, a 2008 graduate and the current Development Operations Assistant, is one of six in her family to graduate from Episcopal, which was founded by her grandfather. One of those six is Boudreaux, whose two children also graduated from Episcopal. Weaver also shares the Episcopal connection with her twins who graduated in 2016 and her son who is a current junior.
The Episcopal connection creates a sense of honor and pride among these alumni. They feel blessed to return to Woodland Ridge to share their legacy.
“It’s kind of like coming home for me. It’s a place I love, where I grew up,” says Godfrey, who also says working among the students makes her feel young. Bailey and McDuff agree. “It’s a good feeling. There’s a joy of being back home,” says Bailey. “I feel at peace here,” says McDuff.
For some alumni it is realizing a dream to return home. “I knew if I wanted to be a teacher and be at the best school in Baton Rouge, then I wanted to be here,” says Anderson.
2008 graduate Virginia Day says after spending many summers on campus helping her mom and other educators, she also knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I thought there was a possibility I could end up back here,” she says. And end up back here she did. When she arrived on campus as the new sixth grade social studies teacher, Day was given the keys to the very same classroom where she took sixth grade social studies as a student. While she says it was a little strange at first, she loves the opportunity to share her experience with today’s students. “I’m the person I am today because of this place.”
Being a part of the Episcopal community gives these adults a unique perspective and outlook when working with students.
Mendes says she enjoys telling her Pre-K students that this was her school too. Several others say they can empathize with students as far as workload and expectations. “I’ve been in (their) shoes, walked the sidewalks and locker rooms and worn the uniforms,” says Walker. “I’ve sat where they sat. I know what the junior year gauntlet is like and how I managed it,” says Anderson.
Smith says being an alumni helps you understand the social issues students face. “Even though it’s different from 12 years ago, it gives you credibility,” he says.
For Godfrey and Arceneaux, having been students at the school pushes them to do their best. “I appreciate what a fantastic place it is. It pushes us as educators because you appreciate it and want to provide an equally fantastic experience for the kids,” says Godfrey. “You want it to be the best because you had the best,” says Arceneaux.
For Weaver, the experience helps her relate to the students and the traditions of the school. “There is definitely an Episcopal culture. It’s really helpful when teachers understand that culture,” says Weaver.
The alumni all understand and appreciate the level of education they received and its impact on their life.
Boudreaux sums that that feeling up well. “Episcopal prepared me.”
These alumni could be doing anything, anywhere because of the preparation they received. In fact, Assistant Athletic Director and physical education teacher Jimmy Williams, a 1997 graduate, was a member of the 2005 Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl team. When asked what they’d be doing if not working at Episcopal, everything from member of an opera company or physical therapist to PR/advertising executive or full time painter was mentioned. However, because of their connection and love of the school, the majority of them simply couldn’t imagine life without Episcopal. There is joy and excitement that comes from giving back to the school community and making a difference in the lives of students, the way others did for them. What an incredible testament to the lasting impact Episcopal has on students over the course of a lifetime.
The story of these alumni truly is the ultimate homecoming.
Episcopal he worked 42 hours a week, in addition to maintaining his GPA, to help pay for tuition. After graduation, he took a year off to work in sales before enrolling at LSU where he eventually earned a Business Management degree. Armed with his work ethic and degree he started his own business in his late twenties. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the business failed.
“Everything I do in my life is all about ministry.”
At 30 years old Chris took stock of his life, realizing that trying to control everything was getting him nowhere. After searching for his purpose, he pledged himself to God and the tide turned. This new focus lit a fire for helping others within him that courses through everything he does.
Now Chris uses his life experience and passion to help small business owners succeed. He is the Senior Partner and Founder of Next Level Solutions, a company that provides full service IT, accounting, HR and operations support. “I know what not to do,” says Chris. He adds that his experience allows him to “help people not do the same thing” that undermined his first endeavor. Together, Chris and his partners have more than 60 years of experience in a range of industries. Sharing their real-world lessons is working well and the company is thriving. Chris is thrilled to use his knowledge and skills daily to help others.
With his business ministry a success, he also makes time for personal ministries. He says one of the most powerful efforts he’s been involved with is the Kairos Angola ministry. The Kairos mission seeks to provide God’s special time for those impacted by incarceration. Chris and his team of volunteers devote a four day weekend to sharing their message and connecting with prisoners. “We love on them and tell our stories,” says Chris, who is once again pulling from past experiences to make a difference in the present.
The Kairos ministry is just one of many in which Chris is involved. He also participates in the Emmaus movement, which offers a similar spiritual experience for non-prisoners. He is active in First United Methodist Church, serving as a youth ministry volunteer, on the church council, and on the finance committee. A few years ago Chris also added musician to his growing list of roles. He says he experienced the power of music during a weekend retreat and was inspired to play. So, he picked up the guitar and learned.
Above all else, Chris’ most cherished roles are that of husband and father. His wife Amy is a teacher at Magnolia Woods, after having previously worked as a CPA. Their oldest daughter Hayley is an Episcopal alumna and a junior at LSU. Youngest daughter Mallory is a senior at Episcopal this year.
“I’m blown away with what the good Lord has done with a good intention.”
And then there’s the army of volunteers that Chris organizes. Chris says the Cajun Army was established in response to the 2016 Baton Rouge flood. He remembers Next Level Solutions team members needing help and his strong urge to provide it. After an 11 hour boat rescue and seeing firsthand the extent of the damage, his ministry heart once again went to work.
Having organized mission trips before, Chris knew the hardest challenge would be to find food and shelter for volunteers. He recognized that people would want to help, but they would need a place to connect. Thus, the Cajun Army Facebook page was born. Initially, Chris thought he could manage this army with a few spreadsheets and simple posts. In reality, he never could have imagined the impact and reach of the founders’ idea.
Over the course of their mission, the Cajun Army fed thousands upon thousands of rain-weary residents, ripped out countless sheets of flood-soaked sheet rock and prayed with people who simply needed someone to be there with them. What’s even more amazing is that the Cajun Army accomplished all of this with volunteers and donations. Pallets of corn, pounds of chicken and the “go boxes” to hold 20,000 chicken dinners were all donated. Donated, free of charge. People were so moved by the mission and the ministry that they wanted to help. Chris provided that outlet and the help poured in. It still does - now in Houston in response to Hurricane Harvey.
“There’s a larger force in control than me.”
Chris says he is humbled by the tremendous dedication and compassion of this army of willing souls who readily help their fellow man in times of need. The Cajun Army draws people from all walks of life and all corners of the country and inspires them to pick up a spoon or a shovel and make a difference.
Chris’ time as an Episcopal Knight may not have been what you might think. He reflects on his years in high school as personally challenging as he worked long hours while juggling the rigorous demands of high school. But as with everything else in his life, this struggle contributed to his story.
“I learned what it meant to have high standards,” says Chris of his time on Woodland Ridge. He says his grandpa, dad and the school shared the same standards of how to treat others and how to live with integrity. These values became a guiding force in his life and he says he’s happy to now share them with his daughters and even the Cajun Army whose values remind him of the Episcopal Honor Code.
Husband. Father. Missionary. Volunteer. Businessman. Musician. Runner. (Yes, he runs half marathons when he can squeeze them in!) To say Chris King’s life is full is an understatement. He is living a purposeful life, which is what an Episcopal education strives to instill. While most people would be content with just one of his ministries, he manages them all with energy and grace that inspire those around him.
We thank you, Chris, for setting a high standard for us all to follow, and we salute you for your commitment to help those in need and for creating ways for others to help as well.
2014 Episcopal Valedictorian
Former Class President, football trainer and tennis player
Current B.S.E. of Biomedical Engineering, Candidate
Class of 2018
For Megan, preeclampsia research happened organically because of the connection she formed with the leading professor, who shared real life experiences and made the topic relevant to her students. This motivated Megan, who then embraced the topic, which naturally fits with her ultimate goal of becoming a physician.
Megan always liked science and problem solving. She says Episcopal prepared her for further studies because of the emphasis on critical thinking and independence that teaches you to synthesize thoughts on your own. Looking back at her time here, Megan says tackling the 18 month Episcopal thesis program prepared her for anything. Because of that thesis experience, she never shied away from a few months of research or a semester long project at Tulane. Stephen Anderson, Megan’s thesis advisor and Episcopal’s Math Department Chair, says he’s not surprised to see Megan already making her mark. “Megan’s desire to make a difference in the world was obvious then when I was advising her Honors Thesis on homelessness four years ago. I am thrilled to see her continuing to pursue her passion to make a positive difference in the world.”
Now that she’s approaching college graduation in the spring, Megan has the following advice to offer today’s Upper School students:
If you are coming into high school and know that you are passionate about something, go for it. If it is not available to you, then be the person who makes it available.
Be involved. Do as much as possible.
Push yourself. Episcopal teachers are more than willing to help and they are experts in their field who are passionate about what they do and how they can help you.
Megan offers her sincere thanks to everyone at Episcopal who helped her along the way. She says because of the school’s focus on independent growth and learning she immediately knew how to be responsible for the lab and her own experiments. When asked about a favorite memory as a Knight, Megan recalls her junior year when she was tasked with planning prom. That year, prom was to be held outdoors and Megan worried about having a rain plan. The advice she received was to pray for no rain. She remembers how that simple guidance paid off and the rain didn’t begin until the event was over.
It is that sense of faith, fearlessness and passion that Episcopal instills in students, whether they are aware of it or not. Now, as Megan nears graduation this spring, four years after beginning her college journey, she eagerly looks forward to the next chapter. Her plans include applying to medical school, where she’ll continue to hone the skills and traits imparted to her while still on Woodland Ridge.
No doubt, she will make an impact in whatever she does. We wish you all the best Megan. Your alma mater is proud!
Are you an Episcopal alumni? We’d love to hear your story. Contact us here.