Service Learning in Ninth Grade
Episcopal’s mission is to prepare graduates for college and for purposeful lives. The recent ninth grade retreat highlights the commitment to making this mission a reality. Each August members of the freshman class spend a Friday volunteering with local organizations. “It’s important for us to have students realize that service to others is one of the things that we view as important,” says Father Skully.
Students begin retreat day at one of five locations throughout Baton Rouge. This year students volunteered at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Melrose Elementary School, the Knock Knock Children’s Museum, Front Yard Bikes and the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired. Students assisted with everything from sorting food and cleaning up, to setting up for an event and painting.
“I want our students to be exposed to people who saw opportunities and made things happen,” says Father Skully. At each volunteer site, Father Skully ensures that an organization representative speaks with students about the organization’s mission and purpose. At the food bank students learned about the reality of Baton Rouge food shortages, the need for volunteers and the importance of food donations. At Front Yard Bikes students learned how the organization began because the founder saw a need and addressed it. Interaction with the representatives helps make the volunteer experience much more meaningful for students. The hope is that students feel empowered to serve others and to address the needs of their community.
The need to act and make a difference is a key component of the Episcopal experience. The National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) believes that one of the principal qualities of an Episcopal school, is that the institutions work for social justice through community service and service learning. Through service learning, students connect what they learn in class to real world issues, then explore and work toward solutions, all while reflecting meaningfully on their experiences and efforts.
Focus on Friendship in Sixth Grade
Problem solving and building new friendships outside of the classroom are hallmarks of the annual sixth grade retreat. “Friendship Retreat gives 6th graders an opportunity to begin forging an identity as a group,” says English teacher Martha Guarisco. Guarisco and her fellow teachers will make the day even more exciting this year by setting everything to a Harry Potter theme. (It’s hard to say who loves the book series more, the students or the teachers.) The excitement of the day helps students make friendships and develop the peer support system that will be there for them during the Middle School transition years. “Sixth grade retreat is a chance for students to get to know each other,” says math teacher Nancy Callaway. “They get to enjoy each other’s company in a very relaxed atmosphere.” Such an experience is also good for the teachers. “I think the retreat gives teachers a chance early in the year to see the students in a relaxed, non-academic setting, which is usually fun and enlightening,” says science teacher Stacy Hill. “This is a fun day away from campus that allows us to come together as a sixth grade community,” says social studies teacher Virginia Day.
This year’s sixth grade retreat is slated for Friday, September 13th.
Learning about Leadership in Fifth Grade
“I call on you to imagine what it looks like to be a leader of Lower School.” Bridget Henderson
Episcopal fifth graders recently participated in a retreat day of their own. Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson advised students that the day would focus on their new role as Lower School leaders. Students self-organized and led group activities. The ten year olds also discussed meaningful topics such as altruism, supporting each other and serving as a role model for their younger Lower School counterparts. “The fifth grade year at Episcopal is special because fifth graders are the leaders of the Lower School,” says Henderson. “We wanted to provide a chance for the students to bond as a class and to prepare themselves for the leadership opportunities ahead.”
The retreat culminated with the traditional fifth grade sweatshirt ceremony in the Chapel. Together, students sang songs reflecting a commitment to servant leadership and gratitude. Amid the Louisiana heat and humidity, students then donned Class of 2027 sweatshirts. By design, the sleeves were too long and the hems fell well below the waist so that they can be worn for multiple years. Father Skully advised the students that the sweatshirts represent their unity as one class working together toward the common goal of completing their education. While the shirts appear large now, the students will quickly grow and one day those sleeves that fell below the hand will barely reach the wrist. As this transformation accelerates, hopefully the students will remember the lessons on leadership and compassion that were imparted to them on fifth grade retreat day.
Episcopal offers numerous retreat opportunities to help students develop a sense of community. The bonds created as a result of these experiences can last a lifetime and will be remembered long after they leave Woodland Ridge Boulevard.
Do you have a favorite retreat memory? Share it in the comments below.
“God lives at Camp Hardtner.”
Episcopal Chaplain Father Kirkland “Skully” Knight spent his first summer at Camp Hardtner in 1985. Father Skully arrived as an unsuspecting teen who was simply tagging along with friends for summer fun. Over the next few years, what he found there totally changed him. In the end he had a new name, the love of his life and an inspiration to serve the Lord as an Episcopal priest.
Camp Hardtner is a 160-acre campground outside of Pollock, Louisiana. It is the only Episcopal summer camp in Louisiana and serves students from all across the state. Campers participate in traditional activities such as swimming, campfires, songs and summer games and they also become part of a close-knit community. “It’s a place where you get to go and just be yourself,” says Father Skully. “It’s just this sort of community and tradition and sense of God’s presence. It’s hard to put your finger on it.”
Father Skully remembers arriving at Camp Hardtner for the first time with limited expectations for what was ahead. He participated in the activities and took part in the daily worship services. At Camp Hardtner, services may take place in the Chapel of the Holy Family or they may take place in more unusual settings, such as the arts and crafts shack with string lights and bright colored drawings all around. Father Skully also became quite familiar with the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer as campers said morning, meal and evening prayers. He interacted with a Church in ways he had not experienced before and truly felt like a valued participant. Just as he was falling in love with Camp Hardtner, he was falling in love with the Episcopal Church.
That first summer at Camp, Kirkland Knight also became Skully Knight. Not long after arriving, a counselor said Kirkland reminded him of a movie character named Skully. The nickname stuck and Father Skully is still known by that name today even though it turned out that the movie character was not named Skully. As much as he had already gained from his Camp Hardtner experience in just one summer, there was still more in store for him at this isolated place in the piney woods.
The second summer, Father Skully again became immersed in the Camp Hardtner experience. His enthusiasm for the Camp atmosphere and the community he encountered had not diminished. He also met a young woman from north Louisiana named Mary Sue and the two quickly became good friends. They would remain friends for years before they finally realized that there was more between them. Now, many summers later the Knights will celebrate 25 years of marriage and two daughters (Emily ’18 and Katie ’21) this year.
Those closely involved with Camp Hardtner say that you either get the Camp spark or you don’t. There is no question that Father Skully certainly has the Camp spark. After attending Camp as a participant, he became a counselor-in-training, a counselor and then a head counselor in subsequent years. Even though he worked as a teacher and a coach for ten years before becoming a priest, he says it was his Camp experience and that spark that allowed him to listen to the voice that was calling him to the priesthood. “I would have never become a priest without meeting priests at Camp Hardtner,” he says. He says seeing the priests as regular people in shorts and t-shirts and playing games with the campers allowed him to imagine himself in that role. Father Skully took on the role of priest when he graduated from The School of Theology at the University of the South - Sewanee in May of 2004. After his ordination to the priesthood a year later at St. Mark’s in Shreveport, Father Skully and Mary Sue left for Camp Hardtner. Fittingly, he celebrated his first Eucharist as an Episcopal priest in Camp Hardtner’s Chapel of the Holy Family.
counselors will have a Camp experience as profound as his own. “It’s an incredible place and it’s changed a lot of people’s lives,” he says. As he reflects on the friends he’s made through his connection to Camp he realizes that many of them have gone on to lead lives in service to others. “Our lives do impact other people’s lives,” he says. “Camp Hardtner helps us become purposeful about that and it’s hard to think of only yourself.”
According to the Camp website, “Camp Hardtner has been the launch pad for a multitude of future priests and active laypersons.” As Father Skully says it can be hard to put your finger on what makes the place so special. He says the facilities are simple and basic. However, the feeling of acceptance and love shared by the counselors and campers is anything but average. Online Camp testimonials describe the experience as “life-transforming” and “some of the happiest moments of my life.” Others call Camp Hardtner their “second home” and their “second family.” Similar to the way a family provides love and support to each other, it seems that the Camp Hardtner community cares for and celebrates each other and their shared connection. These feelings are expressed in daily worship and discussions. They are felt in the campfire songs and the quiet prayers next to a lake.
Camp Hardtner offers a variety of options for campers to experience the joy and connection of unplugging and unwinding as they connect with a supportive community and celebrate the love of God, surrounded by the peace and calm of nature. To learn more about Camp Hardtner, click here.
The summer camp experience can be a meaningful and beneficial experience for campers for numerous reasons. You never know the impact or inspiration your child may discover and how that will transform their entire life.
Happy summer 2019!
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
Baton Rouge’s LINE4LINE program is helping local boys experience this feeling of a fresh cut and so much more. LINE4LINE is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide boys access to books, reading and relatable mentors by offering them free haircuts at the local barbershop. The program began four years ago at O’Neil’s Barber & Beauty Salon at 449 North Acadian Thruway when current Episcopal parent Lucy Perera met O’Neil Curtis, owner of the barbershop. Lucy had heard about barbers across the country offering free haircuts in exchange for reading books and she wanted to replicate the program here. Over the past four years, the idea has grown to include a year-round reading program, a free library, a book club and weekend activities supported by a variety of volunteers.
Every first Monday of the month, the barbershop is open from 4 pm to 7 pm and students receive free haircuts from professional barbers. As the scissors snip, the boys read aloud to the barbers, who are volunteering their time and talent on their day off. “Sometimes the books are so fascinating that the haircut is done and they continue reading to the barber,” says Perera. Perera has also partnered with the organization, Conscious Kid, to develop meaningful book lists and recommendations. Each month there is a theme in the barbershop, ranging from African American music and women’s history to bullying and graphic novels. In addition to the cuts and the stories, a longtime LINE4LINE volunteer supplies healthy food and snacks. LINE4LINE barbers and volunteers have even taken the program into several local public schools.
This school year, Episcopal students have been involved with LINE4LINE in numerous ways. Students spent a Saturday at the shop, painting and preparing the activity rooms where children now read books and participate in projects together. Episcopal students have also served as reading mentors for the children on first Mondays. In a big show of support during Louisiana Literacy Week, the entire Episcopal community donated books for the LINE4LINE library and book exchange. “Our involvement with LINE4LINE this year has been rewarding for both students and faculty,” says Episcopal Chaplain Father Skully Knight. “We are pleased to have been involved with such a meaningful project.”
Lucy and her children, junior Maia and freshman Skyler, moved to Baton Rouge from New Mexico. While in New Mexico, Lucy organized a neighborhood arts program for young people. She brought that same enthusiasm for sharing the arts with her when she relocated to Baton Rouge to work for the LSU Museum of Art, which had a similar program. In addition to art projects, museum volunteers also set up a cozy place for participating children to read. Lucy says the children thoroughly enjoyed the art projects, but the excitement about the opportunity to read a book was simply amazing. After a sizable donation of books was given to support the program, Lucy began to pursue the idea of providing free haircuts to children in exchange for reading a story. Once Lucy met O’Neil Curtis, the LINE4LINE dream became a reality.
“Thank you for letting us look at these books.”
In the few years since the effort began, Lucy says the impact has been tremendous. To check out a book from the shop’s library, children are asked to stamp a check-out card and write a note. Notes such as the one above are frequent as the children are thrilled to have a book. Lucy says having a relatable, male role model also makes reading “cool.” In the barbershop, the boys are confident and supported, which allows them to read aloud without fear of making a mistake. Lucy says because of their time at O’Neil’s some of the boys are no longer struggling in school. For those students who are struggling, LINE4LINE also has volunteer teachers available to help or to even assist parents with ways to help their child develop their reading skills.
The simplicity of the LINE4LINE program is a major strength. The program provides haircuts, mentorship, reading, support and a sense of community. Lucy’s own children even volunteer at the shop and she hopes the experience teaches them the power of taking action. “It doesn’t take much for an individual to do something that can impact others. If you have an idea there are ways to make things happen,” she says. This message is clearly something Maia took to heart as she recently partnered with her fellow students to raise awareness and support for Central American artists. You can read more from Maia here.
By making the LINE4LINE program a reality, Perera and Curtis are making Baton Rouge a better place. “I feel really lucky to be involved with this,” says Lucy, who remembers teachers and people who had a positive impact on her own life. She hopes that when the boys from LINE4LINE grow up they remember going to the barbershop, reading a book and being a part of a community that cares.
Want to get involved with LINE4LINE?
Here are few ways to be a part of the program.
After a long day on the job, running errands or even just fighting Baton Rouge traffic, many of us can’t wait to return to our home to relax and unwind. Home. It is the place where children take their first steps, where teens pin a corsage on their first date and where families simply enjoy time together. Home represents a larger sense of community. Home is hope. Home can provide strength, stability and self-reliance. But what if owning a home is out of reach?
According to the US Census Bureau, 58.8% of homes in Baton Rouge are owner-occupied. Nationally, that number is 64.4%. This means many local residents don’t have that oasis to call their own. For the past 17 years, Episcopal students and faculty have been working with Habitat for Humanity of Baton Rouge to boost homeownership in the local community and help more families realize the dream of having a place to call their own.
The annual Habitat Youth Build is supported by Episcopal, Catholic High School and St. Joseph’s Academy and sponsored by the Albemarle Foundation. Lynn Clark, Habitat Executive Director, says since 2001 students and faculty have built 19 homes for area residents. “It’s amazing to witness the generosity and hard work of the students, teachers and faculty as they come together to make a difference in the life of a deserving local family,” says Clark.
The annual Habitat build is Episcopal’s largest service learning project every year. Service Learning Center Director Matt Holt says annually more than 100 students contribute hundreds of hours of service to the effort. In addition, numerous faculty and staff members help organize the shifts in advance of the build days and spend time on site chaperoning student activities. Holt says students are not there to observe. Students are donating sweat equity as they install siding, framing and plywood. They also put in windows, cabinetry and landscaping. While the thought of such physical work may intimidate some, Holt says everyone who participates walks away with a sense of accomplishment and pride. “There’s nothing more meaningful than helping someone achieve the dream of homeownership,” says Holt. “It is a pleasure to share this experience with our students.” The significance of building these homes is not lost on the student builders.
“The act of building a house is both physical and metaphorical - we are not only literally raising the walls on a structure that will eventually be a house, but we are also metaphorically creating a new life, a new beginning, for someone,” says senior Alyssa Macaluso, who appreciated the opportunity to be stretched beyond her comfort zone. “I smashed more than my fair share of fingers, bent more than a few nails, but it’s an experience that I hope I have the ability to repeat again. Habitat’s an amazing opportunity, at any point - from raising the walls to putting up siding and painting. In addition, the experience of having a future homeowner work alongside you as the house comes together is both beautiful and precious.”
Aside from lessons on the proper way to frame up a window or how to cut in with a paint brush, Youth Build students are also learning what it means to help their neighbor. “These students learn firsthand about poverty, its effects, and the need for affordable housing,” says Clark. “They are uplifting our community one family at a time.”
“Working for habitat is probably one of the most demanding service projects that the Center for Service Learning sponsors,” says senior Douglas Robins. “To me, however, it is the most rewarding.” Robins recognizes the importance of creating a home for families, where they can come together, relax and escape the stresses of the day. “When we think about what a home is in this way, the work that we are doing with habitat is more than just building a place for people to sleep. We are building a set for a family to live out their lives. Like I said, Habitat is hard work. But what brought me back and what will continue to bring me back is that through building a home, I am not just building a structure, but I am building a future. A future for all the people who will lay their heads on the pillows for this family and for the families who inhabit it for years to come.”
Habitat of Baton Rouge has built or rehabbed 353 homes in the local community. At each build site, current and future homeowners work side-by-side with volunteers, with each homeowner completing 255 hours of their own sweat equity. These homeowners purchase their homes with an affordable, no-interest mortgage. In addition, Habitat provides the homeowners financial literacy classes to help them budget and manage their finances so that they can sustain their home for years to come. Clark says all of this is critical for providing more families a safe and stable home. She says families who own their own home flourish, build wealth and break the cycle of poverty. High homeownership rates have also been shown to boost a community’s overall home values, lower crime rates and improve school systems.
Episcopal senior Emily White recognized the impact to the community as she arrived at the build site. “I learned that the row of houses leading up to the one we were working on were all Habitat Houses! That’s awesome,” she says. “I hope the owner of the house enjoys her home and I really want to see the finished product of this project.”
Students and faculty are able to make such an impact in just four weekends. Senior Pierson Luscy says the time spent was well worth it. “Before doing this service, I was looking for a job to attend on my weekends or as much as I could, but after going through the experiences, I dealt with, being great people and enthusiastic attitudes, I am planning on shortly to make Habitat for Humanity apart of my weekly routine” he says. “For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I did something productive.”
Seeing the students’ passion and excitement for helping a neighbor is rewarding for the Episcopal faculty and staff who volunteer their time. “In working with Habitat, I see Episcopal students at their best – compassionate, cooperative, flexible, funny,” says Writing Center Director Dr. Alan Newton. “They’re also handy with a paintbrush or a hammer.” Longtime Habitat supporter Sarah Pulliam agrees. “This is one of the most worthwhile things we do with the kids,” she says reflecting on the sense of accomplishment students and faculty feel after working a shift on site.
After the hammering and painting has stopped later this month, a Baton Rouge mom and her two daughters will have their own home. They will cook in their own kitchen. They will take pride in making the space their own. We are proud of the all of the students and volunteers who supported this effort to make their dream a reality.
Award-winning singer/songwriter Mary McBride will return to Episcopal on March 17th for the Quest for Peace Program’s Quest Fest after having served as the program’s first keynote speaker earlier this year. She will return with bandmates John Kengla, Jon Spurney, Greg Beshers and Mark Stepro for a live performance in the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd. All members of the Episcopal community, including students, families, faculty and staff are invited to attend the event. Quest Fest will celebrate newcomers, country and cultures. Chaplain Charlie has worked with the Louisiana Organization of Refugees and Immigrants (LORI) and Catholic Charities to expand the scope of the event beyond the school. Special guests will include local musicians, dancers and performers.
In January, McBride spent time with Episcopal students and faculty discussing the Quest for Peace theme of finding a place in a displaced world. She shared stories with students of her travels to places like Baton Rouge’s O’Brien House and Detroit’s housing developments. Her travels have even taken her to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Everywhere she goes McBride finds that people connect and relate through a shared love of music. This connection and joy is something McBride and her band celebrate and spread to international displaced populations through their Home Tour Program.
McBride began her professional music career at the age of five and went on her first tour at nine. Since then she has cut records, written lyrics and performed the rock and roll music she loves. She has toured the country performing in traditional settings - clubs, music venues and festivals. However, after realizing that there are audiences of people with no access to live music, she found her purpose and established the Home Tour Program to bring music to those populations.
McBride’s time on Episcopal’s campus was powerful and meaningful. She shared stories of the unexpected sense of optimism and belonging felt among children in an orphanage in Pakistan. She told students about the expressions on the faces of people who were never allowed to sing at home when they heard her band’s melodies and were free to express themselves for the first time. McBride spoke with Episcopal ethics students about how music helps people of different cultures and abilities connect and relate. She even led a songwriting workshop to help inspire students to create their own music. There was hope and responsibility in her message. Now she returns to share that with not only Episcopal, but also the greater south Louisiana community.
This first year of the Quest for Peace Program has been a tremendous success. Student lessons have been enhanced with resources, guest speakers and thought-provoking discussions. Join us as we celebrate this success and look forward to many more years to come.
Close your eyes and imagine the way the sunlight streams through the stained glass windows of the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Imagine the rich wood tones of the interior and the hush of expectation that fills the space as your footsteps echo across the floor. Now imagine you are 40 inches tall and five years old.
“There is no greater joy than seeing the younger students in chapel,” says Lower School Religion Teacher Laura Portwood. Recently, Portwood and Episcopal Chaplain Father Skully Knight have implemented a new way for little Knights to become more familiar with the chapel and what occurs inside. The two have been hosting Fridays with Father throughout the month of February for kindergarten students.
Portwood says as the students approach the empty chapel she reminds them that visiting chapel is like visiting a friend’s house. Once the heavy doors part and the small students enter the space, there is a powerful sense of awe and wonder among them. “Even kids get a sense that this place is special,” says Father Skully. He says they may not quite understand why, but they realize immediately that the chapel is different from any other building on campus. Portwood says even the most common experiences, like sitting in a pew are exciting for these students who experience every day as a new adventure. Such enthusiasm and zest for exploration is truly inspiring for the adults. “I love their sense of awe because I still get it myself,” says Father Skully smiling, as he reflects on the sights and sounds of some of his favorite churches, including All Saints Chapel at Sewanee.
On a recent Friday, Mrs. Henderson’s kindergarten class had the opportunity to learn more about the chapel and the objects within. Students listened attentively as Father Skully described the vestments he was wearing, what takes place in the sacristy and even how and why the candles are lit. Students were inquisitive, as only five year olds can be. While the tour was directed at the kindergartners, even the adults in the room learned new terms and traditions. “I really appreciate it when people have questions about church,” says Father Skully.
The goal of Fridays with Father is to help students become more comfortable with the chapel and the chaplain. Portwood says they want students to know from a young age that everyone is welcome and the chapel is their space. Such openness is a hallmark of an Episcopal school and the Episcopal Church. Episcopal schools are intentionally diverse communities. At Episcopal, students and faculty join together at different times, in various locations, and in many ways to encourage all students to dig deep into their individual faith and develop a sense of their own spirituality, all while helping them to develop a love for both God and their neighbor. Lower School students explore faith in daily Morning Meetings and attend chapel every Friday. Middle and Upper School students attend chapel twice a week. In addition, the older students have the opportunity to lead many of the chapel services as members of the Student Vestry. This commitment to spiritual growth can also be seen as students participate in service learning projects throughout the year or as they simply learn to love their neighbor in Frazer Hall.
The Fridays with Father experience has already created a noticeable change among kindergartners. Now as they see Father Skully on campus they enthusiastically wave to him. They are familiar with him and happy to see him. “I want everyone to feel that the chapel is theirs, a place where they belong,” says Father Skully.
Hopefully the students will also retain that sense of awe as they see a sun ray shimmer through a rose window or as they share the space with their classmates, family and friends for years to come.
There is a sense of pride and respect felt when saying the Pledge of Allegiance surrounded by military veterans. Lower School students experienced this on Monday as they participated in a special program honoring those who served. The tone of the program was set when members of the Upper School Select Choir sang the Star Spangled banner. After saying the pledge and the Episcopal Honor Code, Head of School Hugh McIntosh spoke to students about what a veteran looks like. For many of the students, a veteran looks like their grandfather, father or family member. In Episcopal’s case, a veteran also looks like McIntosh, who was an officer in the United States Navy and served in Vietnam.
Middle and Upper School students were also reminded of what it means to be a veteran. Students in Clara Howell’s European History: Europe at War class have spent a semester learning about World War I. After studying the Great War and its impact on the world, the students felt compelled to observe the 100th anniversary of the conflict’s end. Students banded together to handcraft 500 poppy pins to distribute to their fellow classmates and Episcopal faculty and staff as a reminder of the lives lost. “Learning about the poppies and the affect they have around the world is something that truly humbled me, it made me realize how deadly this war was, and the ultimate sacrifice that many people gave to better our world,” says Thomas Besselman. Fellow classmate Mary Francis Sadler agrees. “Making these poppies with my classmates has taught me that a small, simple flower can mean so much to so many people.”
The students presented information on World War I and read the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae during Upper School Chapel. “Sharing the remembrance of World War One with multiple levels of school brings us together to appreciate not only American veterans but veterans from all over the world,” says Anna Scot Hixon. After sharing the message, students distributed the poppies as a visual reminder for their classmates.
Episcopal alumni also marked Veterans Day. Alumnus Daniel Rieger, ’15 attended a truly historic Armistice Day ceremony in Paris. Rieger is a West Point cadet who is currently attending L’École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, the French national military academy, as part of his training. Episcopal French teacher Julien Prevost says Rieger became passionate about the French language and culture when he participated in the Episcopal French exchange program his sophomore year. Now as a cadet, Rieger has the opportunity to continue exploring French culture. During the Armistice Day ceremony, he was even featured on French television discussing the experience. Click here to watch Rieger.
Members of the military dedicate themselves to a life of service to country and to others. We are proud of the Episcopal families, alumni and staff who have taken up that oath. We thank you for your service.
Happy Veterans Day.
Thank you for your service.
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. — Adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren C. Eiseley
Students and staff members from the Kliptown Youth Program (KYP) in South Africa recently shared this powerful message of connection and service to others, and hope for the future with Episcopal students. KYP was founded in 2007 by a small group of young people dedicated to making a difference in their community by eliminating obstacles to education. KYP offers support for school fees and uniforms and provides access to a range of resources including after school tutoring and technology.
The KYP founders are guided by the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which means “I am what I am because of who we all are.” With this guiding principle, the group has seen tremendous success in just 11 years:
The group’s story has resonated around the world. Kliptown Program Executive Director Thulani Madando was recognized among the CNN Heroes for the group’s commitment and work. KYP Gumboot dancers, who provide audiences a glimpse of the Kliptown culture through their performances, have been invited to perform internationally.
The recent visit to Episcopal and Baton Rouge was made possible by the Reilly family and City Year Baton Rouge, an education-focused nonprofit dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. Junior Rowan Reilly, who has volunteered in South Africa, shared more about his own personal connections to the KYP group with Upper School students during a special Chapel service. KYP students and staff performed Gumboot dances, taught dance students the steps involved and even had lunch with students in Webster Refectory.
“The students were treated to a global experience right here on our campus. The excitement seemed to grow as the morning went along, culminating with a standing ovation for the KYP delegation and a standing room only meeting in the Alumni House,” said Episcopal Chaplain Skully Knight. Upper School students gathered with the students and leaders from KYP to talk about the potential ways in which Episcopal can stay connected with them and their work. Examples discussed included online tutoring and reading work, connecting with other schools in the United States that already work with KYP and even the possibility of traveling to South Africa in the future.
To learn more about the Kliptown Youth Program, click here.
To read more about members of the Gumboot Dance Team click here and here.
Charles deGravelles, or Chaplain Charlie, as he is affectionately known in the Episcopal community, has returned to Woodland Ridge with a mission – to help students of all ages make connections between academics, everyday life and their ability to make a positive difference in the world. He will accomplish this mission by bringing the Quest for Peace class that he once taught in Upper School to every student in every division in interactive and engaging ways.
Watch the video below to hear Chaplain Charlie discuss his vision for the new Quest for Peace Program.
The Quest for Peace Program has tremendous implications for the entire Episcopal community. “Today we sharpen the profile of our school as a leader in education,” said Head of School Hugh McIntosh as he introduced the program. One component of the program, The Quest for Peace Speaker Series, will introduce students to expert speakers with powerful stories and experiences to share regarding the 2018-19 series theme of displacement. For example, local photographer, conservationist and Episcopal alumnus Frank McMains ’92 recently spoke with Upper School Ethics students about environmental concerns facing our region. In the future, Chaplain Charlie hopes to invite local author John Barry who told the story of the Mississippi River flood of 1927 in his book, Rising Tide. Chaplain Charlie will also work with Episcopal faculty and staff to provide resources to enhance classroom lessons. This spring, he plans to bring language students to a citizenship ceremony in downtown Baton Rouge with the hopes of encouraging students to welcome these new U.S. citizens in their native language.
The Quest for Peace Program is made possible because of the love and passion between two brothers. Chaplain Charlie told Upper School students that although he and his twin brother, Judge John deGravelles, fought like the Bible’s Cain and Abel, the two now have a shared passion for social justice. “It is most fitting that two brothers came together to promote peace,” he said.
Judge deGravelles, and his wife Jan, established, in perpetuity, The Charles N. deGravelles Quest for Peace Endowment Fund in honor of Chaplain Charlie because of their belief in his ministries. “In sermons, in the classroom, and through his own social justice ministries, ‘Chaplain Charlie’ modeled for students the core Christian values of integrity, respect, compassion, forgiveness and peace. Particularly in his Upper School course titled The Quest for Peace, Charlie led students out of the classroom into a wide variety of community settings to explore the complex and interconnected causes and possible solutions for social ills such as addiction, mental illness, educational and economic disparities, family violence and crime. He was convinced that the intelligence, enthusiasm, optimism, and faith of his students could be harnessed to make a real difference in addressing these age-old issues in our community and in the world. In the process, Charlie encouraged students to find and develop their own inner resources to become themselves men and women of peace,” said the deGravelles. The School is very grateful to Jan and Johnny for their generous gift and the opportunity and resources it provides to honor Charlie, and strengthen our offerings.
The Quest for Peace Program is one of hope, love and promise. With a Lower School committed to loving their neighbor, a Middle School working toward everyday kindness and an Upper School that is focused on service, The Quest for Peace Program is the perfect addition to Episcopal.
Welcome back, Chaplain Charlie! As you said in Chapel this week, we truly are off on an adventure. We can’t wait for the journey, and to see where it takes us!
This year’s Lower School theme is such a simple and effective message for people of all ages. Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson says it is a theme of joy, community and belonging – all of which are a part of the foundation of the Episcopal experience.
“Our yearly theme is something that ties us together as one community working toward a common goal,” says Henderson. Even though the school year has only just begun, Love Your Neighbor has already been embraced by everyone from PreK-3 to fifth grade. Check out the video below to hear students discuss what it means to Love Your Neighbor.
In many ways the yearly Lower School themes serve as a starting point for everything from recess conflict resolution to Morning Meeting management. Henderson says the tradition started eight years ago with the first theme - Joy is All Around. Each year a new theme is selected by a group of Lower School faculty who hope students see the theme as a call to action.
Looking around the Episcopal community it is easy to see that the Love Your Neighbor theme is already in action. In Lower School, the responsive classroom approach encourages students to be respectful of themselves and others. Henderson says the approach is important because it fosters a better learning environment in which students can thrive. According to research conducted at the University of Virginia on the responsive classroom approach, students do thrive with “higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions and higher quality instruction.”
The Love Your Neighbor theme also fits well with the Episcopal commitment to service learning. Last school year’s Upper School students performed approximately 800 service learning projects for Baton Rouge neighbors and beyond. Students took part in Habitat for Humanity builds, volunteered at Thrive School, the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, the Shepherd’s Market Food Pantry and even organized a hurricane relief drive for victims of hurricane Harvey in Texas. In Middle School each grade level united together for a common service learning project for the annual Field Day event. Students generated more than $4,000 to support the Water for South Sudan project, Friends of the Animals and Support Our War Heroes.
At the heart of an Episcopal education is a mindset that we are created to “strive for justice and peace among all people and (to) respect the dignity of every human being.” Episcopal schools ensure that all who attend are challenged to build lives of genuine meaning, purpose and service in the world they will inherit. Love Your Neighbor is a great place to start!