Through a collaboration with her peers, Lower School teachers, and Arts teachers, Episcopal Dance Master Seminar and Senior Thesis student Christine Myer recently got to serve as a dance teacher to 45 first graders. Christine shares that experience as well as a few of the discoveries she’s made as a dancer and researcher that has inspired her to become a vocal proponent of encouraging dance in young children.
I approach around forty-five eager first graders as they wait for my instruction. I begin to lead an age-appropriate warm-up, which precedes teaching choreography to a minute-long song--just enough to get their blood pumping. One kid had just told the room that she hates dancing, another told me he was okay with it, some kids loved it, but most of them did not appear to be beyond thrilled. While these first graders were in the middle of their “healthy selves” unit, I wanted to show them how dance is a perfect example of a healthy habit. The movements within their dance were not overly simplified, but they were not impossible either; they would require practice and motivation, but the goal, in the long run, was to create a sense of pride and confidence among the kids. At such a young age, they are not as prone to the comparison they will soon face in the world, but it is crucial that we establish this self-confidence and healthy esteem in these kids before they try to seek satisfaction from other sources.
Imagine yourself as a teenager, or even tougher-- a tweenager (in-between kid and teenager). You are awkwardly growing into who you are, forming your belief system and developing character traits. You most likely came face to face with true pressure, conflict, and unsureness for the first time during these years. Imagine life back then, but add social media and the internet to the mix. How would you have handled Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and YouTube when you were younger? Wouldn’t it make adolescence even more complicated than it was?
We frequently hear that kids and teenagers are a vulnerable group, but why? Well, their brain development is complex. They face two major developmental tasks over the course of adolescence: forming their identity and making decisions. But both of these tasks, though, rely on brain structures that are not fully developed until after their teenage years, as described by Eugenia Ives. This means that children and teens must navigate their identity and decisions without the development and knowledge that an adult possesses. Instead, kids’ brains are forced to make quick, fight or flight decisions that are not always logical or well-thought-out, especially when it relates to an emotional issue. Therefore, teenagers have a lower capacity of self-regulation, which gives way to peer pressure and risky behaviors among the age group. Adding the fast-paced, spontaneous world of social media to this situation only complicates the teenage brain because it provides teens with an accessible place for their risky behavior. The brain produces dopamine, a feel-good chemical, during technological stimulation, so interactions on social media provoke excitement and instant gratification among users. This is what makes social media addictive. Because it feels so rewarding, it easily influences the vulnerable teenager and is capable of separating them from one another.
With this information, it is crucial that teens are aware of what holds them back, and they should know how to cope with their developing brain. The complexity of a teen’s brain development, especially with the influence of social media, can produce harmful effects including poor body image, low confidence, and overall weak self-esteem. The modern teenager needs a way to stimulate their brain in a healthy manner, in a way that combats the impact that social media has on it. Physical activity successfully does this, and dance, to be specific, has the power to boost self-esteem and help us navigate our life and identity.
When the body exercises, the brain feels stress and releases the same chemicals that are released during interactions on social media. Endorphins are our bodies’ natural pain killers, so they serve as a potent mental health and esteem booster and give exercise its addictive effect.
Here are some more reasons on how dance provides teenagers with more of the simplicity and clarity that they need:
So whenever you think back to when you were a teenager, think of how you coped with stress and compare it to today’s world. Encourage the younger generation to gain satisfaction from more reliable and healthy sources. Social media and the internet help us in our daily lives, but too much dependence on it alters our vision of reality and leads to unnecessary stress, whereas we can find a strong sense of reward and boost of esteem by merely dancing. Like one of the first graders told me after dancing, dance “makes [you] have a big, big, big, big, big smile on [your] face!”
Christine Myer is a senior who has attended Episcopal since Pre-K. She is senior class president and a member of student vestry. As an active student of campus, she is in dance ensemble and is involved in musical theater. Christine is also a writing fellow, student ambassador, and member of National Honors Society. She loves the community and opportunities Episcopal offers through programs like Thesis and the arts.
When new students arrive on campus on orientation day, for tours or for a shadow day, I love to be the student ambassador with a friendly face that is there for them to answer all of their questions and to try and show them the special aspects of the Episcopal community.
It all started with my eighth-grade self, an outsider to Episcopal, who was terrified to show up to orientation day. I had no idea where anything was, who anyone was, and what exactly I had to do. However, when I arrived at school, two student ambassadors greeted me, answered all of my questions, and took me through my first orientation day with ease. They made me feel at home.
I thought to myself as I was going home, “I would love to help new students and families the way they helped me today.” So, when I got the email from Mrs. Manton asking students if they wanted to be a student ambassador, I immediately filled out the application. I saw this as an opportunity to show new and prospective students around our beautiful campus. Taking them through the VPAC hall with the student-made murals, giving them a taste of what the classrooms and teachers have to offer by introducing them to our wonderful teachers, and showing them the athletic facilities that a majority of our students participate in all the while answering questions about student life, workload, my favorite lunch (cheese ravioli), and anything else they think to ask. That is my favorite part of being a student ambassador.
For me, the job of student ambassador is a way for new and prospective students and parents to hear the voice of the students. It is important enough to me that during my free study on Tuesday mornings last year, whenever there was a tour, I would volunteer to be one of the students to lead it instead of getting ahead on school work or taking a much needed nap. I was upbeat and happy to be there at 8:00 in the morning to meet new families and prospective students, which I will say is rare for any teenager, but it happened.
Every student ambassador walks a different path at Episcopal, but we all make up the community here. We represent all of the opportunities students are given here and are able to talk about them because we participate in them. We provide a different voice, the voice of the student, the kids who live the Episcopal life every day, which is why I love being a student ambassador.
Sydney Summerville is a member of the senior class of 2020. She is a student ambassador, a writing fellow, participates in the select choir, and has played basketball and softball all four years of high school. She plans to play softball and major in nursing in college.
Student Ambassadors play a key role in welcoming new students to the Episcopal community. To learn more about the Episcopal admission process, click here or click on a button below.
The day I got an email from Yale accepting me to their summer pre-college program (YYGS), I felt all sorts of emotions. I was surprised, excited, and anxious all at the same time. I could not believe that I would be spending two weeks of my summer with top students from all over the world at one of my dream schools. In the last two weeks of summer, there I was driving down York Street in New Haven, Connecticut, ready to settle into my new home for the next two weeks: Davenport College, one of the fourteen residential colleges at Yale University. I stepped into the beautifully manicured courtyard of the college and immediately received friendly hellos and warm welcomes. Once the program got started, I attended several lectures, seminars, and simulations. Each day, I got to experience something new and exciting related to biology. I heard a lecture from one of the most famous climate change researchers in the world. I got to see the labs where graduate students were researching new types of cancer treatment. And I even tried writing computer code. In one exercise, my new friends and I exchanged ideas on how to stop an influenza outbreak. In another exercise, my group members and I bounced ideas off one another for our Capstone presentation, a camp-long research presentation; ours was entitled “Save the Bees.” These are only a few of the incredible things I got to experience while attending YYGS.
But these experiences were only the beginning of all that I received from the program. By the time it was over, I had made friends from all over the world. Some of my closest friends were from Kenya, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and South Korea. I still keep in touch with all of them and hope to continue our friendships well into the future. With people coming from so many different places, I was naturally worried about culture clashes. However, I was pleasantly surprised once the program began. I was amazed at how so many diverse people with such different values had gathered together because of their shared passion for biology and medicine. In this group, I did not feel like an American studying the basics of biology; I felt like a part of a global community. We were all curious students who wanted to make a difference in the world. Everyone brought the benefit of their different experiences. While we did celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of the students in the program, we also chose to focus on our similarities. We focused on how we all loved biology and medicine. We focused on cooperating with one another to solve problems, learning new concepts, and thinking about how we could make an impact in our communities.
When I first accepted the invitation to join the summer program, I was initially doing it for the academic opportunity. I did not think I could do any better than to study at Yale. While these opportunities were great, they were superficial features of the program. There was a deeper purpose for the program. I discovered that this opportunity was not about what school I spent two weeks at. The YYGS program is about the people in it, and our collaboration, cooperation, and passion. YYGS was one of the most incredible opportunities that I have been able to experience. The activities I participated in and the people I met were like no other. There truly is nothing that compares, and I am glad to say that I am a YYGS alumna.
Katherine Scarton is a junior in her fifth year at Episcopal. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she is both a math and writing tutor and an active member of Mu Alpha Theta, Science Olympiad, and the Center for Service Learning. She also plays varsity soccer and serves as secretary of the Spanish National Honors Society. Katherine enjoys being such an active member of the Episcopal community and wants to continue exploring the opportunities that Episcopal has to offer.
Mason LaFerney, National Merit Finalist
Mason LaFerney’s Writing Center journey began in eleventh grade, as did the ever-growing strength of his passion for writing. Mason admits that one of his reasons for applying to this program was to earn a coveted spot on the cozy couches of Perkins 211. The coffee and snacks also acted as an incentive for his decision. All jokes aside, when turning in his application, Mason hoped to earn the chance to help other writers become more confident in themselves and their work. Mason’s positive and encouraging criticism served him well when tutoring freshmen literacy narratives, his favorite type of writing to work with. He prides himself in being able to calm the often-nervous freshmen, as he remembers vividly how anxiety-inducing walking into the Writing Center for the first time was for him. Mason favors tutoring freshmen because he finds them the most vulnerable of all the high school English students. He claims that “new freshmen are almost always willing to share their work more openly. I find them especially interesting because they are in a way ‘untainted’ by the societal norms or constraints brought on by high school.” One of Mason’s most memorable appointments occurred during his junior year when a student needed help with a paper for English I, due the next day. Mason managed to handle the added stress of the encroaching due date well until the student revealed that he actually hadn’t started his paper yet. With this information only revealed to Mason nearly halfway into the appointment, Mason had to apply his calming techniques to himself! Needless to say, this appointment definitely taught Mason how to deal with difficult tutoring situations.
I met Mason for the first time this year during study hall in the Writing Center. His hilarious recounts of personal stories and overall lighthearted personality will most definitely be missed by Mollie Hyde and me. Mason, I wish you the best of luck at college. I know you will do amazing things up in Boston. Your kind encouragement will certainly be missed by Block 4 study hall and the Writing Center as a whole, but we are sure that you will shine even from 1, 400 miles away!
- By Grace Scott
Alyssa Macaluso, National Merit Finalist
Alyssa Macaluso’s dedication and love for the Writing Center is incomparable. Alyssa found working in the Writing Center as a great way to give back to her community; she describes her experience as “fun, but not forced.” She originally wanted to become a fellow because she loved students having a peer-based resource on campus to help them with their writing, reducing their stress level. Alyssa works hard to make the writers feel comfortable and calm. Every time I have had an interaction with Alyssa, she has always been friendly, willing, and kind. Although I never had a Writing Center appointment with her, I know that these qualities shined through during her appointments with students. She also became a fellow because English is her strong suit. She believes she has a good knowledge of grammar, and she is equally skilled at helping students see the “big picture” in their essays. Alyssa also loves creative pieces, especially personal narratives. She believes that it is important to “Hear other people's stories,” so that the tutor can really get to know the student. She also enjoys literary analyses because they are “clear cut.” Additionally, Alyssa has always “looked up to Writing Fellows.” Fellows always seemed like the coolest people to her, and she strived to be like them. Similarly, I have always looked up to Alyssa.
Poised to graduate, Alyssa has learned a lot from the Writing Center and made many memories. Working with students helps her see other perspectives and think of writing topics in ways she had never thought of. One of her favorite memories in the Center comes from when she, a freshman, was revising a ghost story for Dr. deGravelles’s portfolio project with an older fellow, and a horrible thunderstorm hit the school. As everyone remembers, lightning struck the tree in the quad. However, what only a few people experienced was that right when the lightning struck the tree, she was reading a pivotal point in her story. This alone made her session memorable, and she was eager to come back for more. Fortunately for the entire Episcopal community, Alyssa never stopped coming back to the Writing Center.
– By Ellie Sim
Major: Public Policy
Morgan Patty began her career in the Writing Center with the goal of helping her peers enjoy writing. Throughout her three years in the Writing Center, she states that not only has she been able to help students improve their writing, but students have helped her improve her own writing. Seeing an array of students’ pieces, Morgan has learned various techniques that have led to new methods in how she writes. Jumping at the opportunity to help students with creative writing and DBQs, Morgan was always ready to advise students on their papers’ voice, grammar, and punctuation. The Writing Center, Morgan says, has given her many opportunities to befriend a variety of people on campus. It has acted as a “web of connections between younger and older students.” This web was sprung into action during Morgan’s first Writing Center appointment. As a freshman, Morgan walked into the Writing Center nervous for what was to come. Her tutor greeted her into the Center, and the two quickly became close friends. Finally, Morgan wants to leave the Writing Center with one word of advice for incoming fellows: participate in all Writing Center activities, start Waffle Workshops, and most of all, have fun because time flies by in the Writing Center. Morgan, we appreciate your contributions to the Writing Center. You are one of the students that has reached out and created more connections between your peers and the fellows in the Center. We have been so lucky to have your curious and enthusiastic personality in the Center, and we hope that you have enjoyed your time here as much as we have enjoyed having you here.
– By Katherine Scarton
Major: International Affairs and Public Policy/Pre-Med
Ever since his introduction to the Writing Center, Douglas Robins has seen the Center as “cool” — a welcoming community of student tutors tied together by their love of writing. Douglas cannot pick a specific special memory that stands out in his years as a Writing Fellow, simply because there are too many. But what Douglas has enjoyed the most was collaborating with his fellow tutors or writers, as they organized retreats and critiqued each other’s writing. Not only has Douglas enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with being a Writing Fellow, but he also strongly believes in the Writing Center’s philosophy: the purpose of the writing tutoring session is not for a student to get a good grade on an essay but for the student to grow as a writer — to think outside of the box either when brainstorming or otherwise.
Douglas prefers for the writer to come in with a blank page — after all, it holds so much more potential. And, as a Writing Fellow, Douglas strives to harness this untapped power to write and create within every student; he likes to show the person he is tutoring that (s)he can write and produce a “good,” original essay. Any Writing Fellow or tutor can agree that inspiring such “light bulb” moments in a student elicits a most rewarding feeling. However, accomplishing such a feat is no easy task; Douglas asserts that asking the “right” questions can significantly help students think about what they are writing.
When tutoring, Douglas pushes the envelope and facilitates the growth of any student that he tutors. However, Douglas understands that the Writing Center is not a place where those in need of help go for expert opinions: “The Writing Fellow is never an expert, just as much a work-in-progress as the student being tutored.” There is no expectation to know everything about writing as a Writing Fellow, and this is one of the facets of being a member of the Writing Center community that Douglas enjoys the most. Receiving feedback from his peers on his own writing reminds Douglas of the vulnerability that comes with sitting in the tutee’s seat during a writing tutoring session. Douglas has been awarded the honor of acceptance to Princeton University and is eager to find a similar community to that of the Writing Center. Even as he moves on to the world of college education, Douglas will bring his inquisitiveness and writing skills with him into the future. Then, who knows? We might find Douglas published in Arch & Arrow.
– By Alex Nelson
Major: Neuroscience Behavior
I have known Hallie Sternberg a long time – my whole life, to be exact. As cousins, we’ve attended many, many family events (we have a large family); been at each other’s B’nai Mitzvahs; and even gone to Israel together. But I’ve had the privilege of knowing her in a school context, as well – not only from her “dragging” me into a music class, but also in the Writing Center. There, I would always find Hallie eating lunch while sitting in a beanie bag, talking to her friends when I walk in for my tutoring appointments. To her, the Writing Center is a “special thing Episcopal has” and an “important resource” on campus. Hallie fell in love with that resource after a great experience in her freshman year, and, as a tutor, she especially loves tutoring creative pieces. Her love of writing is understandable, given that multiple members of our family have written and published books. And as many authors do, Hallie finds writing methods to emulate while working with other writers and tutees. She “finds it rewarding to help other people grow in writing ability and confidence,” while still being able to grow herself. This is one of the main ways she describes the Writing Center – a place of “collaboration and mutual respect and learning.” Therefore, she says, it is okay if a tutor doesn’t have a lot to say, as the goal is to “help the writer grow – not get a grade.” These wise words, along with her advocacy for the Writing Center during its move to its new location, have shown why Hallie is such a beloved Writing Fellow. And while she may be “proud that its future is stable,” we know that future could not be possible without her commitment and dedication to the Writing Center.
– By Charlie Roth
Louisiana State University Honors College
David Whitehurst first visited the Writing Center as a freshman. At the time, he was the tutee, and he found the session to be very helpful in aiding some of his writing concerns. Appreciating and understanding the effort that it takes to be a Writing Fellow, David realized his passion for helping students just like him right then and there. In addition to having an inclination to help others as others had helped him, David was recommended to apply for the Writing Center. When first joining the Writing Center community, David felt a need to make the students who made appointments with him feel truly welcome, as other Fellows had made him feel through his prior experiences. He wanted to make students feel positive about their writing, even when flawed, by consistently mentioning something positive about their work while also explaining how their writing could be improved. While I was talking to David, he spoke briefly on his favorite experience in the Writing Center when he was challenged to help a 7th-grade class – the same age his mother teaches -- with their short stories. “That was… crazy,” he said, chuckling at the memory. This memory taught David that every session in the Writing Center is different, and that every session had new insight to offer into how he could become a better Writing Fellow. David’s advice to future potential Writing Fellows is to understand the repercussions of their commitment. While Fellows have to give up their free study time on days when they have appointments, the feeling that Fellows like David get from tutoring is one of accomplishment like no other. The sacrifices of free time become insignificant in comparison to the satisfaction of helping a student enhance his or her writing.
– By Savannah York
The Episcopal Writing Center is a special place. Fellows form lifelong bonds. In keeping with tradition, this year’s underclassmen wrote Senior Tributes highlighting the graduating fellows and the impact they’ve had on the program.
Odgen Honors College at Louisiana State University
Major: Political Science/International Policy
Olivia Grice has always loved to write, so much so that she knew she was destined to be a Writing Fellow. She believed “writing was something I was always a little bit good at,” although her peers would tell you she was much more than a little good at it. She faced challenges in her tutoring, such as tutoring exchange students with their basic English writing, but in the end decided that experiences like these are what made her the Writing Fellow she is today. More importantly, Olivia has been a kind and empathetic Writing Fellow, who tutored writing not for herself but for the community. She loved tutoring creative writing because she “loved to read what students had invented,” and her primary reason for becoming a Writing Fellow was because she had been helping her friends with papers long before she joined the Writing Center. Olivia was “always able to tell when students were uncomfortable with sharing” and when they were self-conscious, and helped them with her empathy, seeking to understand why they might feel as they do towards writing. She was always able to “help students who were different learners adapt to traditional classroom writing.” Humble as always, Olivia talked not of how she has helped the students she tutored but of how those students have shaped her. Olivia feels that the writing she tutored improved her own writing, and that it taught her the meaning of good criticism and how to react to it. Olivia, you have been a model Writing Fellow and a positive impact on anyone who uses that space. The Writing Center is lucky to have had you as a tutor, and we will miss you.
– By Laura Kurtz
Lauren Borthwick Hoff
University of British Columbia
Always striving to “further her knowledge in English” Lauren Borthwick Hoff has been a remarkable asset to the Writing Center community. While her favorite type of writing to tutor is science writing, she also had a strong love helping guide for DBQs. Lauren explains that her passion for tutoring DBQs stems from “being able to watch the writers make connections between different documents” and her love of history. She prides herself in her “ability to provide a comfortable environment and an opportunity where kids can voice their concerns in regards to their papers," something that is always a goal for empathetic Writing Fellows. Her “balance of positive and negative feedback” creates a constructive response for writers to truly grow from.
Lauren discussed an important aspect of the Writing Center that many can vouch for, the close-knit community. She elaborates that being a Writing Fellow has allowed her to connect better to the general Episcopal community. Lauren spent much of her day in the Writing Center, whether she was tutoring, killing time before English class, or using it as “a space to eat lunch." Her engaging personality has made it effortless for students to connect with her, and Lauren even shares a time that a student described her as “a big sister she never had” and gave Lauren her email, as the two could continue to share advice. Finally, Lauren positively reflects on her time in the Writing Center and encourages others to apply as Fellows, stating, “It’s a chance to practice writing and look at other people’s writing which then helps you examine your own." Lauren, thank you for all you have accomplished in the Writing Center, from making each student feel that he or she is in a comforting environment to being such an inimitable role model for other tutors.
– By Landry Litel
Abby Johnson, National Merit Commended Scholar
Southern Methodist University
Before her junior year of high school, Abby Johnson decided to become a Writing Fellow due to her love for English. Abby had always yearned to help other people, and tutoring in the Writing Center provided a perfect opportunity to fulfill her interests. Unlike many students, Abby loves writing literary analyses but does not have a major interest in creative writing. Having taken social studies AP courses in her high school years, Abby loves dealing with document-based questions and continues to enjoy tutoring students for DBQs. In her years as a Writing Fellow, Abby has recognized her strength of being empathetic to others. Many students who come for help in the Writing Center are vulnerable and afraid of showing their work to the tutors, and Abby has done a great job trying to understand and make the writers feel comfortable.
During the breaks, Abby would often spend time in the Writing Center, especially relaxing on the couch after tiring classes. The calm, serene ambiance in the Writing Center comforted her. While Abby had many activities to manage during her junior and senior years of high school, she loved getting to know students, especially when she recognized them after the sessions. Through these tutoring sessions, she formed a connection with the students in various aspects: as a friend, a tutor, and a listener. She was also curious to know what students in other classes are learning and how the courses have changed over time. As an experienced tutor, Abby’s advice to new Writing Fellows is to stay enthusiastic while helping students and think about the benefits of the experience as a tutor as well as a writer. While some students might not pursue writing as a career, they are bound to gain invaluable skills from their experiences in the Writing Center.
– By Arohi Gopal
Mason LaFerney, National Merit Finalist
Community is the word Mason LaFerney uses to describe the Writing Center. More than his passion for writing or his desire to help others, being a part of the community of tutors has been the most rewarding aspect of his past two years as a Writing Fellow. His most important piece of advice for new Writing Fellows is to be confident, because of the credibility your teachers saw in your work to recommend you for the position. Although working with students your same age may be strange at first, Mason says to trust your knowledge and to always be approachable. Mason says he can see growth in his own writing during his time in the Writing Center, because of how fast he can come up with things to say about someone else’s writing. Just as he’s done in tutoring sessions, having to respond to hard questions quickly is a characteristic that will serve him well in the future. As well as being an approachable person, Mason says one of his strengths he’s been able to discover about himself from his interactions at the Writing Center is his ability to get straight to the point. He says he can deliver a message of what the student needs to revise in a way that makes it clear to the student without making him come across as arrogant. In terms of types of writing he has helped, Mason will miss helping the freshman with their literary analyses, because of how raw and refreshing they are to read. Mason has loved his time at the Writing Center but says the community of people who make up such a place have had the biggest impact on his life.
– By Mollie Hyde
Alyssa Macaluso, National Merit Finalist
Well-rounded, charismatic, intelligent, and kind are all words to describe Alyssa Macaluso. Alyssa always had a passion to become a Writing Fellow. She wanted to be a resource for people seeking help with the art of writing. This perfectly shows Alyssa’s general desire to help students and make anyone feel welcomed. In the Writing Center, Alyssa can be found helping a student with a personal narrative, conversing with peers, or offering to help out a struggling underclassman. Outside of the Writing Center, you can find Alyssa participating in an impressive array of clubs and extracurriculars or getting to know a student she has met for the first time. With Alyssa’s inquisitive personality, she can take on any project that is handed to her. She is admired and looked up to by not only other Writing Fellows but by the school body. Her experiences in the Writing Center have made her realize she loves to “hear other people’s stories and get to know a new side of a person.” Alyssa’s spectacular writing knowledge and grammar expertise make her a unique and desired tutor. She has the ability to ease an anxious writer and to help students understand their problems. Alyssa, we appreciate your contributions to the Writing Center, your dedication and charm have made the Writing Center a remarkable resource for all students. You are one of the reasons why the Writing Center is a safe and comfortable place for all. As you say, “The Writing Center is a way to give back to the community. It is a dedication and a contribution to Episcopal.” We have all benefitted from you in the most positive ways, and I cannot thank you enough for your contribution to the Writing Center.
– By Julia Frazer
Louisiana State University
The first Writing Center appointment this school year, in the new Writing Center space, was taken by Kylie Madere with full confidence and charisma. I happened to be sitting in the room, gaining insight on Kylie’s strategies for tutoring younger students. Her bright smile and bubbly personality can make anyone feel comfortable in the Writing Center because she “know[s] it can be such an intimidating place and can feel vulnerable as you have to share your writing that is so personal to you.” For me, new to the Writing Center, watching her tutor students encouraged me to be like her, inviting and motivated to “spark inspiration.” Kylie advised me and other fellows to have “communication, confidence, and encouragement” when working with students. Her reasons for becoming a Writing Fellow include the “sense of community” of the Writing Center and her desire to “meet new people.” Kylie always brings a sense of joy to the workplace. Because of the twinkling lights above, Kylie, always with a cup of Starbucks in her hand, finds the atmosphere in the Writing Center “chill” and “a productive place to work.” Whether she is helping freshmen with their literacy narrative or just “chilling” in the space, her experience in the Writing Center has benefited her “communication skills and confidence as a writer.” Kylie, your contributions to the Writing Center exceed what you have benefited from it. Your passion for writing creates a friendly space for all who come and go through the Writing Center. Your impacts are long-lasting and will be remembered by our community.
– By Halle Roman
Taner Morgan, National Merit Commended Scholar
Louisiana State University Honors College
Major: Mass Communications Journalism
A friendly disposition is just as important as writing skills when being a writing tutor. And Taner Morgan has them both. His smiley, kind persona immediately alleviates any anxiety about talking to him, as he is talented at establishing a comfortable conversation. He even considers his way with words to be one of his strongest assets as a Writing Fellow, remarking that “even if there’s a glaring problem with a paper, I can say it in a sweet way.” In a job where one must inspire confidence in others, appearing kind and nonjudgmental is essential.
However, Taner wasn’t always so vulnerable and conversational. He admits that “I used to be very defensive about [my writing],” and thanks the Writing Center for allowing him to become more comfortable with his work. He also credits the Writing Center with helping him improve his own writing through tutoring others. He tries to take something from each session, benefitting not just the student but also himself. He enjoys seeing the different prompts that each student comes in with and what they decide to do with an assignment. “I like when I can see someone else’s creativity flow,” he elaborates.
Taner’s desire to help others is what makes him so remarkable. While there are many other benefits to being a Writing Fellow—service credit, extracurricular activities for one’s resume, or experience for future professions—it is crucial to remember the fundamental principle of the Writing Center: for peers to benefit each other in writing. As Taner says, “[From every session], you can learn something in both helping the next person and in benefitting your own writing… if you look for it.”
– By Andrea Norwood
Caffeine. A widespread addiction that I promised myself I wouldn’t succumb to until college. I rush out my house door while the straw to my tall, flower-covered tumbler filled to the brim with caffeinated iced tea escapes its top. One drink won’t hurt.
I have energy! It’s a whole new me: excited, present, a little on edge, and somehow feeling fully awake at 6:45am. But, I’m late. During the season of Lent, there is an Eucharist service held every Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m. in the Episcopal School chapel. This is where I’m heading. I timidly step through the large, wooden door and walk to the side area to the right of the sanctuary to sit quietly behind six teachers and one student sitting on the chairs and distributed asymmetrically. Father Skully, the school’s chaplain, is standing at the front of this pious group, leading them in worship and recitation of prayers. I’m embarrassed and trying my best to silently blend in.
“Welcome, Ashley. Can I tell everyone why you’re here? I thought it was such a cool idea,” Father Skully asks. Well, it was a solid try to not distract the service. “Yes, of course!”
My goal for the day is to fit as many-and as wide of a range of- activities and classes as I can in one day at Episcopal, where, if you haven’t guessed by now, I attend. When I started at this school my sophomore year, there was one statement that I always seemed to run into. In fact, it’s written in the school’s mission. The school prides itself in that it “nurtures and develops the whole child- spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically -through challenging academic and co-curricular programs.” I wanted to test this by searching for as many opportunities as I could find.
7:45 am - 8:00 am: Office Hours
I head to Ms. Kirschner’s room after Chapel to help organize her bountiful bookshelves. She’s not here, but I start to make it a game of how fast I can stack the same titled books and organize enough for the next group who decides to go help out.
8:00 am - 9:40 am: Block 2
After a quick check in with my normal block 2 class, I excitedly venture to the Academic Commons to observe a SRME class. This stands for Scientific Research Methodology and Experimentation. The class is typically taken junior year and can lead into a summer of more specific research at the LSU science labs and a senior year of the class ESTARR (Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research). I’m met with students who are participating in their own scientific research for the class.
When John tells me the name of his project, How Acoustic Waves Effect the Oscillation Rate of the Belousov Zhabotinsky Reaction, I’m definitely as taken aback as you probably are right now. After observing studies consisting of killing cockroaches and cogon grass, I’m struck with the ability of these students to guide their own projects with just quick answers and guidance from Mr. Dennis along the way.
9:40 am - 9:55 am: Break
It’s time for break and I’m ready. I can’t believe how much I’ve already fit into one day and I’m just getting started! Next up are the English classes.
Sitting at the same long, wooden table where last semester I had an English class based on journalism, I join in on Mrs. Sutcliffe’s podcasts class. The beginning of the class is just Mrs. Sutcliffe going over the instructions for the day, but with a joyful twist. She’s eagerly giving her class the reasons why skills used for creating podcasts can be applicable to their lives outside of school. In her words, “why practicing these things we’re practicing could be valuable.”
Once the class is let out to continue working on their own podcasts, I head to Mrs. Kirschner’s room for the second time in the day. A dim, calm, and comfortable atmosphere meets me in her science fiction class as I listen politely to students read segments of their short stories aloud and then receive valuable and respectful feedback. I’m feeling beyond relaxed and like I may fall into a nap if I don’t have another class to move on to.
Awkwardly sneaking into Mrs. Burton’s class, I sit down in the room filled with the light from the movie screen. I’m not sure what movie they are watching, but it’s something to do with a court trial. After the film is finished, Mrs. Burton greets me pleasantly and asks the class to explain its purpose. It’s a class based on media and culture.
I’m in awe with the wide array of the English classes I did and could have visited and glad I was able to see how productive many different lens can be in teaching the same basic lessons needed for college.
By the time block 4 comes around, I’m feeling the typical drag of the day any high school student may have. It’s time for art class and I couldn’t be happier. My group of three is instructed to begin pasting material on Peyton’s hand to make a paper mache mold of a hand. “This material is what they used to use for casts back in the day,” explains Ms. Kate, “but we’ll use it to design.” My mind is allowed to wander as we focus on pasting. “Ow, it’s actually hurting now that it’s drying,” says Peyton. It’s time to take the mold off, and I’m so relaxed I’m not ready to have to leave. I’m so thankful to be able to have a refresh class.
Lunch is quick and filling. I get the little burst of energy I’m going to need to finish the day off. I also remember in angst that I should start drinking more water before track practice later on.
Before this next part, I should explain how inflexible I am. As a prior gymnast at the age of 10, I typically assume I can still do a cartwheel. That is until I continuously try it and continuously fail each time. I’m usually complaining about my back hurting or how I can’t keep my legs straight. Full disclosure, this isn’t the worst. I can barely even reach my feet when I stretch. I couldn’t imagine what dance class would be like. I may be able to get through it, but I’d definitely be embarrassed at some point. I mean, come on, I also extremely struggle to clap on beat to a song. How would I dance to one? And the most intimidating is that I’m assuming the dancers in the class are all well trained in the art.
To my surprise, the class is high energy, welcoming, and completely non judgemental. The atmosphere even allows me to assess that each student was already a dancer when in reality some had just learned this year. The warm up is fun and involves dance motions and stretches. Yes, I struggle, but I’m not embarrassed. I’m relieved and getting into the rhythm of the class. Before my departure, I get to watch the class practice their dance for the upcoming show. Music is flowing through me as I run with it to get to thesis class.
I would’ve been overjoyed to stay longer in dance, but I am determined to not miss much of thesis. This is the first class since after LAUNCH in which we’re beginning to show our final assignment: creating our own class and leading a class one day. David is teaching today and I can’t wait to see how the dynamic of the class feels.
“SHHH! Everyone silent!” David playfully expresses his annoyance with the class becoming too excited to share the city maps they have made. His class is focused on city planning and for the period each student has created their own layout and is in the process of sharing their ideas before the class votes on their favorites. “Hallie, you can go. And by can, I mean have to.” The class bursts into laughter and the silliness continues, but not without a moment to question the meaning.
“Do you think all of y’alls cities were guided by your values?” Mrs. Sutcliffe asks, and we dive into more discussion.
Speaking of discussion, Mr. Engholm’s ethics class is driven by this very thing. We’re discussing A.I. and robots along with the idea of consciousness. My head is already spinning. Zoe turns to me to fill me in on the movie they had watched parts of, “The Imitation Game”, and by doing so allows me to join in. Before I know it, it’s already been 40 minutes and I have to get to my statistics class.
3:30pm: Track Practice
I participated in cross country this year, but decided to take a break from track and field. Going back for practice scared me. I’d tried to keep up with running, but not to the extent that these amazing athletes do. Thankfully, it was a pre-meet practice, which means a little less of a workout. After the team sit down and cheer, we get to the running. “Oh no, I don’t remember it being this hard!” I laugh to Bethany and Tanya. I get a taste of Coach Jones’ jokes and the joyfulness of the team before I fistbump and say goodbye with a thank you.
In the short time between track practice and robotics club, I remembered there was one part of campus I hadn’t gone to yet. The prayer walk. A hidden beauty that provides tranquil moments of peace and allows for sincere contemplation. I walk softly as I read the signs with Bible verses on them. Then, I sit under the pavilion to stretch because I know I’m going to need it after running!
“Oh, hey Clay!” is my reaction when I see just one student waiting for Robotics to start. Dr. McClean comes in soon after and gives the rundown of how their robot needs to be packaged to be sent off safely. I’m filled with ambition and want to help with something. We begin nailing the big wooden crate. By the time I accidentally spill the nails everywhere, I realize I’m probably more in the way than helping. We finish this task and move to the board where a few other members of the team are looking at parts online to buy in order to fix their robot. I’m easily impressed with the knowledge this room holds and the group’s ability to use their curiosity to create something fun and meaningful memories.
7pm: Little Shop of Horrors
There is no better way to end a day of learning about Episcopal than to celebrate some of its insanely talented individuals. Once again, I’m fascinated by the ability of the school’s students and their hard work to showcase their talents. The songs entertain me while I think more seriously about the deeper message to this humorous play.
I’ve made it through the day. With the help of caffeine, but even more because of the excitement these incredible teachers, students, and classes brought with them. Whether it’s through Chapel services, science experiments, art classes, or athletics, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge truly provides opportunities to “develop the whole child.” Its teachers create a comfortable environment for learning that allows for true discovery. All the child has to do is become involved.
Ashley Solomon has been a student at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since her sophomore year and is an Honors Diploma student. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she participates in cross country, Mock Trial, and is the community service coordinator for the National Honors Society. Her thesis explores the importance of mental health in adolescents and the effects of implementing therapy dogs in a school setting.
There is this early childhood memory that I have from my first time flying on an airplane. Like most events that occur when we are young, I don’t remember every minute detail, but I do remember little blurbs: the rev of the engine taking off, greeting the pilot as I boarded and not to mention that feeling of finally leaving the ground and meeting the air. Perhaps what I remember most clearly is, strangely enough, what I was wearing. I remember that the day before we were due to depart, my father came into the house with a package for my sister and me. In that package were two t-shirts: a Princeton shirt for me and a Columbia shirt for my little sister. The next day, at the New Orleans airport, I remember wearing that shirt to board my first flight.
Fast forward fourteen years, I have committed to Princeton University. I wish I could say that the story goes that my family has always dreamed or known that this is where I would end up. But, the story was never that I was going to end up at Princeton. Back on that airplane at age four in that t-shirt, Princeton was by no means my predestined trajectory, but an idea. This t-shirt that my father purchased was a tangible manifestation of a narrative that my parents hoped for me and my sister. It wasn’t a prescription for our future. They wanted to expose us to the idea that it could be possible if we wanted it to be.
Over the last year, the idea of where I wanted to go to college changed every day. Almost like clockwork, I would walk into the kitchen and declare to my family with the utmost confidence that my dream school was (insert school name) University. My family would feign support while knowing with confidence that it would change again the very next day.
This trend continued even through the college trip that we took in the fall where we toured Princeton as well as five other schools with a similar profile. As I walked onto each campus, I fell in love with each for different reasons. This bothered me. I thought that there would be schools that I liked more than others, and I struggled to decide which school to apply for early admission. I had my applications completed for all of these schools and I just had to decide which to pull the trigger on. In fact, Princeton was the last school that I toured and ultimately became my first choice.
After a whirlwind day in New York City, we drove into New Jersey to be ready for our visit at Princeton. Our hotel was right outside of the gates of campus, and even though it was dark outside, I thought it would be intriguing to see this side of the campus. After all, if I decided to matriculate there the campus would be my home during the day and at night time, so I thought it was worth seeing it from this perspective. Driving through the campus at night time left me in awe. There was not a star in the sky on that evening and because of fall break, there were hardly any students either. Even still, the campus sat boldly as if it were not afraid of the dark. With that boldness came this energy. At that very moment I felt the ideas and innovation flowing through its veins, the decorated history sitting in its heart, and most excitingly, the future sitting in its palm wide open waiting for someone to pick up the energy and make a difference with it in the service of humanity. We went back and visited the next day during the day time and the people there were so friendly. As we wandered across the campus, a student stopped me and my family and graciously showed us around. This was not the exception but the norm for the campus. For the first time, in my college search I did not have the intense agenda of an applicant. I felt so much like a student that I even forgot to document my visit with pictures or a visit to the bookstore, a rite of passage on all of my previous tours.
All of this was complemented by what Princeton had to offer me. With a commitment to undergraduates, I will have access to world renowned professors in intimate settings as early as my first year. The Residential College system that resembles something out of a Harry Potter novel piqued my interest and the dedicated alumni who all seem to be devoted to Princeton reminded me of the school spirit here at Episcopal. All of these surface level attributes complemented by the energy from campus that night showed me that this was the school for me.
Even though I am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to attend Princeton next year, I also know that it is not the only school for me. I am in love with all of the schools I applied to for different reasons, and I am at peace knowing that had I matriculated to any other school, I not only would be happy, but I would thrive. Throughout my college search, I let the process work. I did what I needed to do to present my best self and waited for these signs and experiences to become apparent to me. I know that all of the other schools I applied to would provide me the same quality of education and enrichment, but it is crazy to me that fourteen years later, Princeton would become, officially, part of my story.
Douglas Robins is a senior in his sixth year at Episcopal. He is an engaged member of the Episcopal community as a Writing Fellow, Student Vestry member, President of the National Honors Society and a part of the Honors Thesis program. Douglas also is an active member of the performing arts community and enjoys the flexibility of being able to explore his academic interests and his diverse extracurricular interests all in one school day.
One day earlier this fall, Addie came across “The Pulsera Project” online. She approached us about engaging with the project for the AP-WE service aspect of our AP Spanish class. We immediately were interested and thought that the project would be a great service project for the Episcopal community; a project which would help raise awareness and money for some of the prevalent issues in the Central American communities of Nicaragua and Guatemala. However, we had no idea how much teamwork, planning, brainstorming, and problem-solving would go into the execution of the project here on campus. We are greatly appreciative of all who have helped us on every step of the way, especially Dr. Alvarez who has shown us constant support and help. Looking back on the day when Addie came across the project makes us laugh, but it also inspires feelings of pride and excitement. Every day since September we have pushed ourselves in ways which we have never been pushed and have put together a project which is so much more meaningful and full of community than we ever would have imagined. And it has been totally worth it.
To give a little background on the project, El Proyecto Pulsera or the Pulsera project is a non-profit organization that partners with student-led groups around the US to sell Pulseras (AKA bracelets) made by artists in Nicaragua and Guatemala. The project allows for students in the US and families in Central America to become a part of an empowering experience. We chose to make this project more than just “selling” bracelets and more about sharing the values of the project to encourage global citizenship. A few of the values that we decided to focus on are poverty in Latin America, Solidarity v. Charity, the importance of Fair Trade, and awareness of global issues.
Soon after meeting with Mrs. Spencer and Father Skully we knew that we needed to make the project about more than just selling the Pulseras one day at lunch and then sending back the money. We needed to make the project meaningful, not only for us but also for the entire student body and faculty. We did some research on the Pulsera Project website and searched through their list of values and picked out a few of our favorites. We made it our goal to dive into the four values which we felt represented the project and what it stands for. We felt that these values would be beneficial and educational to share with the rest of the student body. On Monday, March 18, we presented to the upper school during our assembly time about each of the values and more about the project in hopes of not only promoting the sale but also sharing our passion about the foundational values with the student body. We also presented to the middle school during their morning meeting on Tuesday, March 19. Our goal was to demonstrate that the bracelets represent the values and the artists’ individual stories; they are not just a bracelet that one could buy anywhere.
Additionally, we wanted to involve all three divisions and turn what was first just going to be a sale, into what we decided to call “Pulsera Weeks.” Leading up to these weeks which are taking place right now on campus, until April 1st, we needed to get teachers and other students excited. We presented at the middle and upper school faculty meetings about the Pulsera Project and its values and proposed three tiers of involvement. The first level was the Pulsera Fan, a teacher who simply wanted to help promote the project verbally or by putting flyers up in their classroom or writing reminders on the board. The second level was the Pulsera Influencer, a teacher who was interested in teaching a short lesson which incorporated the values of the project. We helped the teachers who signed up to be Influencers by sending them suggestions for lessons which we handpicked from the Pulsera Project website. The highest level of involvement was the Pulsera Agent of Change, a teacher who was interested in doing a long term project or was interested in getting involved directly with the project and organization. We had 27 middle and upper school teachers sign up to get involved. We then made our priority to contact these teachers directly about their next steps. As teachers begin to teach their lessons covering a wide range of subjects and values, we are excited to see how the project continues to spread throughout the community.
Once we realized this was going to be an extensive project that involved almost everyone on campus, we knew that we had to do something in the advisories. Thomas thought of the letter writing activity and planned it out. The activity was completed by students on March 21st. The advisory was given a bio of an artist in either Nicaragua or Guatemala. The artist’s bios were translated into English as a supplement to the Spanish bios so that all of the students and advisors could engage in the activity regardless of their fluency in Spanish. However, the students who understood Spanish were encouraged to help write the advisory’s letter in Spanish which provided an opportunity for Episcopal students that speak Spanish to take the lead of the advisory activity. Students then wrote a letter in either English or Spanish to the artist that they recently read about. Student letters ranged from questions to encouragement to life comparisons between the US and Central America. Each letter will be sent to the artist along with a picture of the advisory and advisor. We hope that this advisory activity will help further illustrate the positive aspects of collaboration so that we may get to know the culture and lifestyles of people living in these Central American communities, with the goal of helping them gain the resources they need to live better lives and creating awareness about global issues in schools around the United States.
Both the middle and lower school have been an integral part of the Pulsera Project success at Episcopal. We divided and conquered and Maia and Christine got in touch with Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Henderson about involving the lower and middle school in the sharing of the project’s values and also in the sale. Mrs. Smith mentioned to us that Mrs. St. George, the eighth grade World Geography teacher was interested in incorporating the project somehow in her classes and Mrs. Henderson told us to talk to Mrs. Boudreaux and the fifth grade teachers, since we came to the conclusion that many of the topics from the project may be too mature for lower school students below fifth grade to grasp. We formulated a plan with both Mrs. St. George and Mrs. Boudreaux to involve the lower divisions in the project. With Mrs. St. George’s eighth grade classes, we planned a lesson that taught and created awareness about schooling in Nicaragua and how many families cannot afford to send their children to school because they need to work during the day, or cannot afford the uniforms required for school. We centered the lesson around larger discussion questions which inspire thinking such as whether or not education is a natural right, or if there were any possible solutions to make education more readily available and affordable for these Nicaraguan families. The entire Pulsera Team went and taught the lesson for one block and Mrs. St. George continued the lesson with the rest of her blocks. Additionally, we went and spoke to the fifth graders about the values and the project. We were pleased when a group of fifth grade students came forward after our presentation and showed interest in being part of a fifth grade team of representatives for the Pulsera Project. Our hope is to meet with these students and collaborate with them so they can act as leaders and promoters of the project and its values in the lower school. The fifth grade has already bought 200 Pulseras and will be selling them in their Global Market this April.
The Pulsera sale started Monday the 18th and will continue through April 1. We will have 2 more sales for upper school in front of the clock tower in the quad during lunch on Tuesday, March 26 and Friday, March 29. We will also be having a middle school sale on Tuesday, March 26 in the rain garden during their morning break. Our goal is to inspire members of the student body to spread awareness and help others. Economic aid is just one part of the mutual exchange from The Pulsera Project which also includes the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and life experiences for the benefit of all. On top of the impact abroad, pulsera sales change the lives of students in the U.S. as well, educating them about life in Central America while cultivating student leadership and awareness of global social issues. Each bracelet represents the values of the project and the hard work and creativity that was put into each work of art.
Please consider coming out and purchasing a Pulsera for $5 or asking us a question about any aspect of the project and its values! Thank you for all of your support already. We are looking forward to hopefully selling all of the 600 Pulseras that were sent to us and possibly another entire shipment which we have requested. Our collective support at Episcopal will go towards empowering nearly 200 Central American artists by providing fair trade jobs, housing programs, scholarships, healthcare, and more!
Episcopal African Heritage Club
Congratulations to four members of the Episcopal African Heritage Club! A team of students including Madi Bell, Zykia Howard, Justin Thompson and Serena Thompson recently placed first in the 25th Annual Collegiate Black History Quiz Bowl hosted by the Southern University Ag Center and the College of Agriculture.
River Road Chapter of National Charity League
The Episcopal robotics team had a great showing at the recent Rock City Regional competition in Little Rock. Students did a great job of scouting the competition and making improvements to the robot with each match. The group performed well in qualifying matches and was even chosen by another team to be a part of an alliance in the quarterfinals.
District Literary Rally Winners
Congratulations to Katie Knight! Katie earned second place in the Literary Rally's art competition. Her piece, entitled Hand with Ice Cube, received recognition in Category III 2D Color: Drawing, Print-Making, Photography and Digital Art. The art exhibit is a district only event unique to the Southeast Louisiana District Literary Rally.
Congratulations to the Episcopal District Literary Rally winners!
Students qualifying for District and State and earning a Southeastern Scholarship are:
Ajit Alapati – Principles of Business
Abhay Basireddy – Advanced Math – Pre Calculus
Clay Burton – Calculus I
James Christian – Advanced Math – Functions and Statistics
Eugene Jiang – Algebra II
Celia Kiesel - Civics
Joy Lee – Biology I
Carter McLean – Spanish II
Alex Nelson - Chemistry
Adam Reid - Physics
Bethany Reid – Spanish IV
Justin Thompson – French III
Gracie Veillon – Calculus II
National Essay Contest Winner
Episcopal's gold and blue mock trial teams faced tough competition at the recent regional mock trial event. Congratulations on a great showing! Read more about the event here.
National Classical Etymology Exam
Eight students from Episcopal recently earned recognition on the National Classical Etymology Exam (NCEE). Congratulations to the following students:
The NCEE, which was administered in October by the National Junior Classical League, is based on English vocabulary words that are derived from Latin and Greek with an emphasis on academic and SAT vocabulary words. The contest measures a student’s mastery of Latin and Greek derivatives.
Upper School students recently hosted the sixth annual LAUNCH Day to celebrate learning. The student presentations were entertaining and impressive. Visit the LAUNCH webpage to watch the student presentations.
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.