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.
"If you tap into what made you happy as a kid, it probably will make you happy now." Clare Crespo '86
As a young child, Episcopal graduate Clare Crespo loved playing with food, creating worlds and making shoebox dioramas. She also enjoyed cooking Louisiana cuisine with her dad and grandmother. As an adult, Crespo is still doing all of these things with enthusiasm and joy and she has even made a successful career out of her passion.
According to Clare’s website, she is a fantasist. She says that means that people hire her to put fantasy into their spaces, with her art adding an element of warmth, magic and heart. “I want my stuff to make people smile,” she says from her studio in California.
One look at Clare’s bright, creative work and you can’t help but smile. Clare’s creations include everything from crocheted oysters and poboys to dioramas that tell the story of fine jewelry and even a necklace-wearing, stuffed coyote. Clare’s first cookbook, The Secret Life of Food, launched her into the public eye. The book features creations such as an aquarium made of Jell-O and flip flops crafted from potatoes and string beans. The food is presented in artistic, imaginative settings and not a traditional kitchen. “I’m not a chef,” says Clare. “I just used food as my art supply. I’m an artist always.” The Secret Life of Food was a hit. National television talk show hosts took notice of Clare’s unique approach to food preparation and she began making appearances across the country. “These experiences opened up a lot of wild jobs for me,” she says, reflecting on opportunities to work with national brands, such as Duncan Hines and Breyers.
After this initial success, Clare was ready to tackle something a little smaller – the cupcake. Before cupcakes were cool, Clare was making these treats in a way that fooled the taste buds. She made cupcakes that looked like hamburgers, sushi and even cottages in a fairy garden. Her second cookbook, Hey, There Cupcake! was a successful second act to the first. Next up, a children’s television show.
Clare had dreamed of creating her own children’s program since finishing graduate school at the California Institute of the Arts. After several networks tried to change her original idea, she took the project on herself. The YummyFun Kooking Show ultimately came together in a grassroots effort in which her husband built the set, her friend served as the stylist and her neighbors all chipped in. “It was so fun, so sweet and so many kids loved it,” says Clare. “It was a pure project from my heart.” Episodes of the show are available here, on YouTube and at museum gift shops across the country. Even with such tremendous success, a family of her own and a supportive network in California, Clare’s compass still points home.
Clare grew up in Baton Rouge. She remembers baking Christmas cookies with family and she remains passionate about Louisiana food and culture. She still returns home as often as possible. This love for Louisiana and attachment to home can be seen and tasted in many of Clare’s pieces. “It’s hard to leave Louisiana,” she says. “It’s so specific, so comfortable and unlike anywhere else. Often my creations tap back to roots.” Her yearly calendar, Hurray Today, always features a nod to Mardi Gras and dates such as the New Orleans Jazz Fest are prominently featured. Her cookbooks also include family recipes, such as her grandmother’s Milky Way cake or red velvet cake.
“If you believe in it and you breathe into that dream, it can come true,” says Clare.
Clare enjoys connecting with others and encouraging them to follow their dreams, no matter how unconventional they may seem. She remembers telling her story to a Girl Scout troop years ago. “That can be a job?” she remembers the wide-eyed crowd asking. Whether it’s a troop or a museum workshop, Clare’s message is always the same. “Listen to your voice because that’s what’s going to guide you,” she says. Clare says while her own journey has been fun and immensely satisfying, there have also been challenges. “It’s hard because there’s no path, no mentors,” she says. “You’re just forging ahead blindly.” This commitment to a dream and the confidence required to make that dream a reality just come natural to Clare and she hopes the next generation of artists can do the same.
It’s good to know that artists like Clare Crespo are sharing their creativity and magic with others. Congratulations on your success, Clare. Episcopal is proud to have played a role.
Episcopal’s KnightVision robotics team is headed to the world championship competition! The team earned a spot in the finals after winning the 2019 Bayou Regional competition, which included 60 high school robotics teams. The Knights were part of the winning alliance, which included Team Chaos and Team Fusion. The championship competition is set for April 17th – 20th in Houston.
Earlier this school year, high school robotics teams received their assignment from organizers at FIRST Robotics. This year’s build theme is DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE. The competition arena is staged with mock rockets and teams are tasked with attaching hatch panels and loading cargo into a cargo ship. Teams had six weeks to build and program a robot that could accomplish these tasks timely and accurately.
KnightVision team members spent considerable time in the Design Studio, building this year’s bot. Team members exhibited impressive mechanical skills and adaptability when faced with a problem. Advisor Dr. Jeff McLean says the team also spent time while at the Rock City competition in Little Rock working on the robot to further boost the performance. The effort paid off and the students are now quite good at delivering the cargo with the robot. In the Bayou Regional, Dr. McLean says the squad faced technical challenges that they were able to quickly work through in order to continue competing. Such an ability to recover from adversity made KnightVision worthy of an alliance with the top two teams in the event.
According to the FIRST Robotics website, a robotics competition combines the “excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology.” Robotics events include all the fanfare of a sporting event with an announcer, team shirts and team banners. The events are a great way for students to build camaraderie and create alliances with students with similar interests. At the Bayou Regional, Episcopal students had the opportunity to compete against local students, as well as students from as far away as the Netherlands. This sense of community and team pride makes robotics a meaningful experience for participants.
There is more to robotics than tinkering and test driving. According to the FIRST Robotics Impact report, FIRST participants are significantly more likely to be interested in science, technology, engineering and math and related careers than a comparison group of students. The FIRST report also includes the following statistics:
In addition, the FIRST report shows that participants display greater improvements in communication, conflict resolution, time management and problem solving.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 8.8 million science, technology, engineering and math jobs in May 2016, representing 6.3% of overall employment. A robotics experience can help students determine if such a career is the right choice and the more than $80 million in scholarships available to students involved in FIRST robotics can make that dream a reality. These scholarships are offered by universities across the country, including LSU, Tulane and University of New Orleans.
Before they launch their career, KnightVision team members are first focusing on that world championship competition. Good luck in Houston! The Episcopal community is cheering you on to victory!
This year’s team is advised by Dr. Jeff McLean and Dr. Xiaoyue Jiang. This year's team sponsors are Leidos, the Honeycutt Family and Turner Industries. Thank you for your support!
Congratulations to the following KnightVision team members:
With a few tweaks and adjustments a small robot with red eyes, twirls and moves through a series of commands. At the helm of this little mechanical being is a group of seventh grade girls with a shared enthusiasm for coding.
Episcopal’s newly established Girls Who Code Club meets every other Monday in G1 during flex. Club members Cameron Augustine, Savanna Baker, Ella Barker, Mason Bruns, Nola Frazier, Kylie Kojis, Lauren McGrath and Rebekah Reid have become friends because of their shared interest. They are supportive of each other as they work collaboratively to determine why the robot is not performing the task as assigned. Even as they go through the process of trial and error, they do not become frustrated or short with their teammates. The girls are intelligent and not intimidated by the advanced coding language or the math skills required to determine a solution. In fact, when a problem arises, they simply grab a large protractor and begin working out the details.
Girls Who Code is a national organization on a mission to close the gender gap that exists in the world of technology. The organization’s website features statistics showing that fewer than 1 in 5 computer science grads are women and if current projections hold true within ten years only 22% of computer scientists will be women. Girls Who Code is working to change these stats. There are student groups in all 50 states and the organization has served 90,000 girls since being established.
“I like building,” says Cameron Augustine. “I enjoy programming,” says Ella Barker.
While there is much discussion on whether girls benefit from a learning environment without boys, this is not a concern for the Episcopal Girls Who Code members. The girls simply love coding and say they would do it whether or not the club was gender-specific. Girls Who Code Advisor Betsy Minton says she resisted creating an all girls club for several years since many of the girls said they would come either way; however, since the advent of this new club there has been a monumental increase in the number and variety of girls that attend both all girls and mixed-gender club events. Regardless of the setting, Girls Who Code members simply enjoy the experience. “It’s just fun,” says Kylie Kojis with enthusiasm. When the tiny robot obeys commands and follows tasks, the fun becomes apparent. There are big smiles among the girls and even a few dance moves. “I’m so proud,” says Cameron after troubleshooting a missed turn.
Opportunities for young girls to develop their coding capabilities are numerous. Several members of the Girls Who Code Club recently participated in the IT Girls event at Baton Rouge Community College. The citywide event provided students the opportunity to learn more about technology and meet other girls with similar interests. The girls are also very involved in the Middle School Robotics team, which is gearing up for the Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit competition on April 6th. Many of these students also find opportunities for coding and robotics outside of school and even during the summer months.
Girls Who Code provides Middle School students a valuable opportunity to learn new skills while developing greater self-confidence and a network of supportive friends. It’s another great example of the variety of opportunities available for students to explore their individual interests. After a recent club huddle, Cameron and Kylie left to attend practice for the upcoming play. At Episcopal, balancing a variety of activities and interests is a hallmark of a well-rounded education.
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!
Books for Babies
Thanks to the efforts of the Episcopal Lower School community, 101 new moms will have books to read to their newborns. Students and families donated more than 1,200 books for the annual Books for Babies book drive. Organizer and first grade teacher Cory Lemoine says 400 more books were collected this year compared to last year. Lemoine and his students presented the books to Baton Rouge General representatives this week. Thank you to everyone who supported this year’s effort!
Coastal Roots Planting Day
Third graders recently teamed up with seniors to begin next year’s Coastal Roots planting project. Students filled the planting cells with soil and cypress or persimmon tree seeds. Next spring, the Upper School Environmental Science class will plant the little trees in Fontainebleau State Park.
Little Knights in the Great Outdoors
Our littlest Knights took advantage of the beautiful spring weather. PreK-3 students looked for lucky clovers in honor of St. Patrick's Day. PreK-4 students went on a nature hike.
Second Grade Travel Agency
Did you know…
Let's Go Fly a Kite
On a perfect spring day, Paw Patrol, My Little Pony and Spider Man could be seen flying over the Episcopal campus. Seniors and kindergarten students scurried about flying a variety of kites for their last official event together as buddies. The day was a great way to wrap up a year of special events.
A singer. A cheerleader. A volleyball player. A cross country runner. Episcopal ESTAAR students do so much more than hundreds of hours of science research, presentations and discoveries. These students are juggling the demands of high school with the excitement, rigor and promise of science exploration.
Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research or ESTAAR formally started during the 2012/2013 school year. Dr. Jewel Reuter and Sarah Pulliam worked together to establish the program and the partnerships needed with LSU. Dean of Academics Dr. Sara Fenske says participating Upper School students are partnered with university professors and have the opportunity for real, hands-on lab work. The students lead their own research project where they seek to determine the answer to a scientific question of their choosing. LSU professor Dr. Kevin McPeak, who has worked with ESTAAR students in his lab, says the program is a great opportunity for high school students to gain hands-on experience in science research. "Gaining exposure to nationally competitive science and engineering research programs can be a daunting task for even the most talented high school students,” he says. “ESTAAR provides this opportunity along with a joint LSU-Episcopal support network to ensure the student maximizes their learning experience.”
The opportunity for university lab time as a high school student is extraordinary. Dr. Fenske says to ensure that students are prepared for this caliber of work, they must enroll in a Scientific Research Methodology and Experimentation course in their junior year. The course covers a range of information including basic lab skills, experimental design, communication skills in science, ethics in scientific research, and how to collect and analyze data. After the first semester of the class, students apply to participate in ESTAAR. They are then matched with professors who work in the students’ field of interest.
Three members of the class of 2019 are wrapping up their ESTAAR experience. Clay Burton, Emily Frazer and Abby Johnson all recently presented at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at LSU. The experience requires high school students to stand in a room before a panel of judges comprised of professors, researchers and scientific experts and explain their findings. Such an experience requires a deep understanding of the scientific research process and tremendous confidence. In addition to presenting at the symposium, students also presented their research before their classmates at the annual LAUNCH event. The students were poised and spoke with authority.
Confidence is one of the hidden benefits of participating in the ESTAAR program. Dr. Fenske says while the scientific opportunities are exceptional, the life lessons students walk away with should not be underestimated. “I have gained the experience on a college campus all summer while getting to know and interact with professors and graduate school students,” says ESTAAR student Emily Frazer, who presented the Effect of Temperature on Development and Fertility of Nipponaclerda Biwakonesis Scale on Phragmites Cane. “I loved the confidence that I gained from being pushed out of my comfort zone both in science and in speaking.”
Another tremendous benefit from ESTAAR participation is experiencing scientific research first hand. ESTAAR students are designing experiments, conducting the actual research and analyzing the results. Such hands-on learning helps participants further define what their long term career goals should be. “I have learned what it’s like to have a job as a scientist,” says Clay Burton, who presented Using the Urea-Urease Reaction to Control Polymerization. “This has helped guide me in what I want to pursue in college and in my career.” “I initially wanted to participate in ESTAAR to help determine what type of career I wanted to have in the future,” says Abby Johnson, who presented Sonication-Assisted Self-Assembly of Polystyrene Nanosphere Monolayers. “As someone who has always had a wide range of interests from English and foreign language to sciences like chemistry, I wanted to see if ESTAAR could provide me with some clarity in deciding what careers I would enjoy pursuing in the future.”
Based on the experiences of the 2019 participants and the opportunities gained by previous ESTAAR students, the program certainly places these future scientists on a path toward success.
"I'm helping the world."
Avani Alapati ’15 is currently pursuing a neuroscience major and music minor at Rhodes College in Memphis. While at Episcopal, Avani participated in the ESTAAR program where she studied ways to prevent crop destruction due to a particular worm in Louisiana. The pest causes problems for rice and soy plants, which are key commodities in the region, and Avani spent time in an LSU lab studying affordable ways to eradicate the worm. “It made me love research,” she says. “I felt like I was helping the world, the farmers.”
Avani earned second place in the plant sciences division at the district Intel Science and Engineering Fair for her work and later went on to earn honorable mention at the state level Intel competition. In addition, she won the Veterans Award for Science. By her senior year at Episcopal, Avani knew what she wanted to do in college. “I was always into science and math,” she says. “Because of ESTAAR I was able to do both.” That love for science reasoning, combined with her natural creativity made Rhodes College the perfect fit for Avani. While at Rhodes she has continued her scientific pursuits. Early in her school career she worked as an animal behavior observer at the Memphis Zoo. She has also participated in research involving the potential impacts that environmental enrichment, such as yoga and meditation can have on patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Avani is fearless in her pursuit of information and eager to learn more about the topics that interest her. This passion for science and her ESTAAR experience earned Avani the sole neuroscience fellowship offered by the University of Tennessee Medical School for study at Rhodes. Even as she dons her lab coat and focuses on her research, Avani still finds time to sing. She hopes to use her scientific abilities and her creative strengths to continue helping the world.
"I love science."
It’s safe to say that Estelle Crawford ’17 loves science. As a young girl her home was filled with experiments and projects inspired by a 1001 Science Experiments book that her mom, Liz, still has today.
Estelle says initially the ESTAAR science research course was a struggle as she trudged through experiments with no real results. Then it happened. After the trial and error, she got results. “This is science. This is working. This is what is happening,” she remembers saying. Just like lighting a Bunsen burner, Estelle’s former love of science was once again sparked. As an ESTAAR participant, she spent hours in the LSU lab assisting Dr. McPeak and his team on water purification research. Those hours and her passion paid off in a big way. As Estelle interviewed with universities for admissions, they were impressed with her time in the lab. College admissions officers reminded her on numerous occasions to discuss ESTAAR and her lab experience in her interviews with department staff. “I didn’t realize the exposure was a big deal,” says Estelle. “It prepared me for classes. I was ready.” Estelle was ultimately accepted to Birmingham Southern. She earned the Rushton Scholarship, which covered tuition and expenses. “ESTAAR was a huge part of that,” she says.
“I learned so many things about myself,” Estelle says of the ESTAAR experience. She remembers initially being intimidated to walk across a college campus. However, she developed the confidence to take that walk, enter the lab and speak with her professors. Now at Birmingham Southern she is pursuing a major in biology and a minor in psychology with the hopes of earning a PhD.
Preparing Future Science Stars
As of this May, 22 Episcopal students will have completed the ESTAAR program, including recent graduate Scott Wicker ’18. Wicker presented Non-Traditional Heating Methods for Petrochemical Manufacturing last year at the LSU regional symposium. As a result of his work and his presentation, he qualified to present at the 56th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. He was only one of 230 high school students who qualified. In addition, Scott won first place in his category at the Region VII Science Fair and third place at the State Science Fair.
Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research is a tremendous opportunity for students to distinguish themselves in high school, college and beyond. Many of these students are pursuing degrees in science and some have already begun a science-related career. Regardless of their long term goals, all of them have developed the confidence and problem-solving abilities to make a difference in our world.
Read More about ESTAAR
ESTAAR students have been published for their contributions to scientific research. Connor Pellerin ’17 was a part of a paper published by the University of North Carolina Press regarding research on coastal habitats. Click here to see the paper.
You can learn more about Connor and last year's ESTAAR participant, Scott Wicker '18, by reading Head of School Hugh McIntosh's Academic Points blog post here.
We are excited to celebrate members of the Class of 2019 as they make their college enrollment decisions. Congratulations!
Four Upper School Episcopal students recently attended the Annual Louisiana Junior Classical League Convention. The students were coached and lead by Episocopal’s JCL sponsor and Latin/Spanish teacher, Micheal Posey.
The Upper Latin certamen team (think quiz-bowl for the Classically-minded) was captained by 10th grader, Abhay Basireddy and included fellow, 10th grader, Madi Bell. Certamen teams usually field teams of four players. Even against those odds, Basireddy and Bell placed 3rd in the state for Upper Latin Certamen. Episcopal’s small delegation also placed 3rd in the Ludi Spirit Contest during Friday’s opening assembly.
At the LJCL Convention, students participated in academic, creative and graphic arts contests as well as seminars, workshops, a Roman banquet, dance and karaoke. The students also captured the following individual awards:
Abhay Basireddy: Latin III
1st place: Latin Derivatives
1st place: Latin Grammar
1st place: Latin Mottoes, Phrases and Abbreviations
1st place: Latin Reading Comprehension
2nd place: Latin Vocabulary
3rd place: Upper Level Certamen
4th place: Roman Life and Customs
5th place: Latin III: Latin Sight Reading
5th place: Marathon (Olympika)
7th place: Academic Sweepstakes (all levels!)
Madi Bell: Latin IV
3rd place: Upper Level Certamen
4th place: Latin vocabulary
4th place: Latin Reading Comprehension
5th place: Latin Grammar
5th place: Academic Decathlon
Justin Dynes: Latin III
3rd place: Latin Grammar
2nd place: Latin Reading Comprehension
Arya Patel: Latin III
1st place: Map (Creative)
2nd place: Ink (Creative)
3rd place: Latin Vocabulary
3rd place: Latin Reading Comprehension
3rd place: Latin Derivatives