Recognizing the achievements of students in and outside of the classroom was the focus of the Red Carpet Awards. Held Thursday, February 14, 2019, the event featured the presentation of 78 Renaissance Star students in grades 5-12. Entering the gymnasium via a red carpet the honorees were presented with trophies and gift cards to mark the occasion.
St. Mary’s Academy recently inducted 20 students into the National Honor Society at a program held in Austin Gymnasium. Students who are inducted into the National Society are required to have a minimum 3.5 GPA. They must also have leadership roles in both school and community, inspire positive behavior in others, serve at least 75 hours (juniors) or 100 hours (seniors) of community service and consistently demonstrate respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, caring and good citizenship. Membership is offered to juniors and seniors who meet the criteria established by the National Association of Secondary School Principals in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service and character. Candidate members are selected through a comprehensive application for admission and once accepted, are expected to uphold the criteria of excellence in all four areas.
In addition to the National Honor Society inductees, fifty-four students were installed in the SMA Honor Society and fourteen were inducted into the Mu Alpha Theta Society. Students must maintain a “B” average to be invited to join the SMA Honor Society while Mu Alpha Theta members must have completed the equivalent of two years of college preparatory mathematics, including algebra and/or geometry, and have completed or are enrolled in a third year of college preparatory mathematics. On the 4-point grading scale, members must have at least a 3.0 math grade point average.
Alexis Cooks, a senior at St. Mary’s Academy, was selected to represent SMA in the Eighth Annual Swirly Scholarship Contest. Chosen for her high energy, passion and respectful nature, Alexis has created new flavor combination to be sold at Pinkberry stores over the next few weeks.
She calls it Cougar Crunch and it consists of original flavor, cheesecake bites, strawberries and waffle cookie. Points are accumulated through purchases. The student with the most points wins a $1,250 scholarship and free Pinkberry for the entire school. The contest runs through the middle of January.
Try out the Cougar Crunch at Pinkberry between now and February 1 to help Alexis and SMA win!Read More
Class of 2019
Early Acceptances – As of January 1, 2019
Alabama A & M University
Alcorn State University
Bethune Cookman University
Clark Atlanta University
Cedar Crest College
Centenary College of Louisiana
Full Sail University
Grambling State University
Jackson State University
Mississippi State University
Mary Baldwin University
Philander Smith College
Prairie View University
Spring Hill College
Southern University A & M
Southeastern Louisiana University
The University of Alabama Huntsville
The University of Southern Mississippi
University of Louisiana Lafayette
University of Holy Cross
University of Memphis
University of Kansas
As part of its continuing efforts to encourage literacy, the St. Mary’s Academy elementary division has partnered with The Kiwanis Club of Pontchartrain (KCP) to implement a new program that incentivizes reading. On Wednesday, January 16, members of the KCP will be on campus to kick off the Books for Bikes program which will run through May. Students in grades 2, 3 and 4 will participate in the initiative and will receive a free book and book report form at the B4B kick off.
When students complete their book reports, they return them to the teachers. Proper grammar and spelling are encouraged. One week prior to the end of the B4B session, KCP members collect the completed book reports, tabulate the results, and then let notify the school.
Each student who completes at least five book reports receives a certificate of participation. Students who complete at least ten book reports also receive a $5 McDonald’s gift card. In each grade, the student who reads the most books wins a new bicycle, bike helmet, and bike lock. Students must complete at least 15 book reports to be eligible to win the bike. In the past, the total completed book reports for the winner ranged from 18 to 68 books.
KCP awards certificates and the bike at an awards ceremony hosted by the school. All students from the competing grades attend the awards ceremony and parents are also encouraged to attend. KCP announces the bike winner at the awards ceremony.Read More
St. Mary’s Academy elementary teachers know all too well the importance of hands-on activities that engage and inspire their students. They combine activities that require movement, talking, and listening, that activate multiple areas of the brain. Studies have shown that the more parts of the brain that students use, the more likely they are to retain information.
Developing the underlying cognitive abilities through an intensive individualized program is the goal of the BrainPower for Reading Program (BPR) at St. Mary’s Academy. Led by Sr. Mary Ellen Schroder, BPR represents the best practices in education, a result of the Sisters of Notre Dame’s 163 years of educational excellence and experience.
Conducted three times a week in the elementary division, BPR strengthens foundational cognitive skills such as attention, long and short term memory, auditory and visual processing and logic and reasoning, all required as a foundation for learning.
Growing up in New Orleans, Natalia Veronica developed an appreciation for art and culture at an early age. The daughter of a seamstress and an architect, she spent countless hours at either a sewing machine or drafting table learning how to sketch and fashion garments. Recognizing their daughter’s tremendous gifts, Natalia’s parents encouraged her artistic development.
In 1994, Natalia enrolled as a freshmen at St. Mary’s Academy where she participated in the Journalism Club and created artwork for class events and competitions. Following her graduation in 1997, she moved to Dallas to study fashion design at The Art Institute of Dallas. Upon earning a degree in fashion design, Natalia continued to create artwork and designs and worked for luxury based companies including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Prada.
After a lifetime of sketching and painting, she decided to start exhibiting her artwork in various art shows. “As I began showing my paintings in galleries, I realized I wanted more people to be able to appreciate and attain my work,” said Natalia who also started creating limited edition prints of her original works. “I also wanted to find a way to incorporate my love of fashion design, that is when Natalia Veronica was established.”
All of Natalia’s merchandise is named for a personally significant street or moment. She even designed a hand painted handbag called the “Maryite” as a nod to her alma mater. The collection has been featured in many publications and selected for the Kimbell Museum of Art in Fort Worth, Texas.
A true trendsetter, Natalia designs products for both women and men. She is especially proud to say that her customers come in a mix of ages and genders. “Whether it’s a customer shopping for original art or well-designed merchandise, the customer is drawn to my items because they stand out from other mainstream products,” said Natalia. “I design with the idea that each piece is unique, and all customers can appreciate that concept.”
As the artist and owner of NV, Natalia is her own designer and patternmaker. She chooses fabrics, hand paints select items and cuts all fabrics for construction. Additionally she finishes products once they are constructed by local female contractors, and prints her own limited edition prints. In this way, she can be efficient while maintaining full control over the company.
So far, some favorite pieces she’s made include the Elysian Convertible Bag and the Delery Minibag, both of which are uniquely crated and multi-functional. And she never sells products she wouldn’t want to use herself — like the Maryite Crossbody Bag that she never leaves home without.
Regarding her education at St. Mary’s Academy, Natalia says “SMA gives young women the gift of being able to focus on their own path. I never had to compromise being creative while learning the necessary fundamentals which I also appreciated.”
Customers can expect to see a full assortment of her art-infused merchandise, including handbags, accessories, home décor and stationery goods, at her pop-up shop in the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana recently announced the selection of Dana Marie Douglas as Magistrate Judge for the District, . A 1993 graduate of St. Mary’s Academy, Ms. Douglas has litigated cases in Louisiana state and federal court for almost twenty years, primarily in the areas of commercial, energy, and intellectual property law. While at Loyola Law School, she served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Loyola University Public Interest Law Journal. After graduating law school, Ms. Douglas clerked for the Honorable Ivan L.R. Lemelle, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Ms. Douglas comes from the Liskow & Lewis firm, where she has worked for 17 years, first as an associate and then as a shareholder. She currently serves as the President of the New Orleans Bar Association and is also Past President of the Greater New Orleans Louis A. Martinet Society and a Board Member of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Institute. She additionally served as a Vice-Chair and Commissioner of the New Orleans Civil Service Commission 2000-2013.
Ms. Douglas was the recipient of the distinguished Louisiana State Bar Association President’s Award in 2008 and was twice selected as one of the top 50 “Leaders in Law” in New Orleans. She was also most recently named to New Orleans CityBusiness’ ‘Women of the Year’ 2017.
Black hair has been an integral aspect African-American history from African tribal styles to dreadlocks and the afro. An upcoming exhibit at St. Mary’s Academy will investigate the significant role that black hair has had upon culture and the world.
A partnership between the school and Southern University at New Orleans Center for African & African American Studies, the Reclaiming Our Heritage: Traditional West African Coiffure exhibit will be held in the library at St. Mary’s Academy November 7 –December 2018. Curated by SUNO assistant professor Connie Abdul-Salaam, the exhibit will educate students, faculty, and others of the historical aspects of traditional West African coiffure from before the slave trade to the unique modern styles we see today worn on women, men, and children.
“Long before Europeans came to the African continent, a lot of time was spent grooming, maintaining, and styling hair for certain occasions such as weddings and other rituals,” said Abdul-Salaam adding that traditional African coiffures also indicated ethnic group, ranking and marital status. “The West African slave trade to the Americas forced Africans to abandon the skills that once gave them a dignified obligation to adorn and beautify themselves, especially their hair.”
The exhibition will present an array of photos, combs, masks, statues and other artifacts and may be viewed between the hours of 9:00AM-12:00PM and by appointment. For more information, please contact Michelle Ochillo at 504-245-0200 ext. 123.Read More
On Saturday, October 6, St. Mary’s Academy hosted Beautiful by Nature at the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center. Open to girls ages 12-18, the event featured a planetarium screening of Flight of the Butterflies, mindfulness and mediation and a floral crown workshop. Attendees also had a three-course luncheon, musical performance by recording artist Yahjah and an inspirational message by event sponsor Jesseca Dupart of Kaleidoscope Hair Products.
St. Mary’s Academy elementary students now have the opportunity to learn the game of tennis plus a whole lot more thanks to A’s & Ace’s, a non-profit founded in New Orleans in 2008. Students in grades 1-4 are given free tennis classes, life skills and academic assistance twice a week during their physical education class period.
According to organizers, tennis is more than “just a game” and is the least important component of A’s & Aces’ tripartite mission. While character developing life-skills and academic support are critical to having successful, productive lives, the sport of tennis also provides the ability to build social, academic and career networks through playing a fun, life-long, global, non-contact, co-ed, team and individual sport.
Founded in 2008 by David Schumacher, a tennis pro, tennis teacher and former women’s tennis coach at Tulane University; and Anna Monhartova, a nationally ranked college player at Tulane, A’s & Ace’s also conducts after school programs, weekend and summer literacy and tennis programs across the city.
St. Mary’s Academy will host young leaders from the Water Environment Federation (WEF) for a special event called Water Palooza on Friday, September 28 from 9am to 2:30pm at St. Mary’s Academy Elementary, 6905 Chef Menteur Blvd, in New Orleans East.
Water Palooza will feature hands-on activities and demonstrations designed to connect the next generation with water, how essential it is to everything, and how we are all responsible for taking care of it.
Organized by WEF’s Students & Young Professionals Committee (SYPC), as part WEFTEC 2018 – WEF’s 91st annual technical exhibition and conference, the event is designed to promote participation, foster networking and knowledge exchange, and encourage involvement in the cause of clean water within the water profession and the local community.
Nearly 300 elementary students from the school will enjoy a program of fun and educational water awareness activities. Activities will include a game about wastewater treatment, learning what you can and cannot flush down a toilet, a hands-on activity about Louisiana’s lines of defense from storm surge, and a demonstration on storm water and infiltration.
It’s been two years since Adrianne (Ajax) Jackson opened the doors to Magnolia Yoga Studio on Basin Street. Driven by the desire “to support growth, healing, and empowerment through the art of yoga and community,” she is the first African-American to open a yoga studio in New Orleans.
Now this dynamic young woman is making history once again by offering students at St. Mary’s Academy the opportunity to benefit from this ancient practice. This year, she is leading classes twice a week at the school, thanks to a partnership between the Magnolia Yoga Studio and funding from SMA alumna Jasmin Bindom.
For 50 minutes, twice a week, Ajax puts students through a series of breathing exercises, stretching and flexibility routines, creative visualization, and movements to improve balance and focus. According to Ajax, there are tremendous benefits that students can derive from yoga
“Yoga can help us tremendously take our health and power back,” said Ajax adding that the practice can also reduce, reverse and completely eliminate a wide range of issues including asthma, stress, insomnia, depression and anxiety. ““I learned that yoga not only treats many of those things but it also prevents them as well.”
For senior Daria Ball, the class came at the most opportune time. “I was very excited to learn that the school would be offering yoga as a class and I signed up right away,” said Ball adding that participation in the class has been both advantageous and rewarding. ”As a senior, there is additional stress to do well in my classes and yoga has helped me focus and find balance.”
Likewise freshmen Savana Frazier also extols the benefits of yoga and looks forward to her classes each week. “I feel great and more positive now that I have started practicing yoga,” said Frazier. “The course is helping me to achieve more internal peace.”
Research suggests that school-based yoga cultivates competencies in mind-body awareness, self-regulation, and physical fitness. Improvements have also been noted in students’ behavior, mental state, health, and performance.
“In a yoga class, one gets this golden opportunity to reflect, reorganize and remember what is really important, who we really are and what we really aspire for ourselves as a collective and as individuals,” said Ajax who is intent on getting yoga to more people. “The ultimate goal is to educate the community on the benefits of yoga and to provide accessibility.”
A partnership between the school and Meditate New Orleans and funded by SMA alumna Jasmin Bindom, the mediation and mindfulness class is one of five new electives offered at St. Mary’s Academy. The 50 minute class meets twice a week and is led by Meditate New Orleans founder and CEO Stephanie Osborne.
“Meditation increases inner peace, focus, creativity, and mental alertness,” said Osborne adding that the practice also confers a host of other benefits. “Meditation also helps people connect with their higher selves by practicing stillness, gratitude, compassion and self-love.”
For 17 year-old SMA senior Bria Sylvester, the class came as a much-needed and welcome surprise. “I tend to get stressed out by a number of things and meditation is helping me to stay calm and focus on one thing at a time,” said Sylvester adding that she also appreciates the instructor’s enthusiasm and kind spirit. “Miss Stephanie is patient, warm and inviting. That’s a personality trait that we have in common.”
Likewise, senior Armani Travis also appreciates the opportunity to take part in the class this semester. “I tend to panic when I have too much on my plate,” said Travis. “I’m learning to calm down, breathe, relax and everything is going to be ok.”
A number of studies have been performed in school settings show improved attention and better grades. Some research has shown benefits for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, school performance, sleep, behavior problems, and eating disorders.
“Investing into young people the gift of silence, self-empowerment and gratitude translates into our future leaders possessing mental clarity, compassion and personal freedom! What a powerful gift!” ~Stephanie Osborne, CEO of Meditate New Orleans
Students at SMA wishing to assume a leadership position at school took part in the 3rd annual Project LEAD workshop today. The workshop featured presentations on effective communication, proper presentation and leadership attributes led by alumnae Kathy Taylor, Alexis Doss and Ayanna Fultz.
A proud graduate of class of 2005, Davenport completed her studies at Southern University of Baton Rouge where she received her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Family and Consumer Science, with a specialty in Child Development.
Currently an Enrollment Service Specialist for Baton Rouge Community College, Davenport is also currently in school working on a Masters of Art in Organizational Leadership.
According to Davenport, she knew at a young age that she had a calling on her life. “I was saved at the age of 8 and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the age 15,” said Davenport. “God put the desire in my heart to help heal people both physically and spiritually.”
Highly regarded as a spiritual guide, Davenport also mentors young ladies in the greater Baton Rouge area. She serves on several youth organizational boards, helping to implement new ideas and programmatic functions in the southern region. Additionally, Davenport is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
In 2014, Davenport was diagnosed with a chronic illness, Lupus, and stage 3 Marginal Zone Lymphoma (MZL) cancer. She has since endured years of chemotherapy. The MZL cancer went into remission only for a year before it came back again in February 2016. With all of God’s grace, she fought against stage 3 cancer …. not once but twice!
A fighter in every sense of the word, Davenport lives by the saying “Never look like what you’re going through! In spite of it all, God is yet good and able!”
She is married to Conrad Davenport and they are the proud parents of baby girl, Carsyn Dear Davenport.Read More
St. Mary’s Academy will begin its first full day of classes on Monday, August 13 but students can catch the Maryite spirit even before starting class. The Weeks of Welcome “WOW,” is a series of events and informative seminars geared specifically to getting new and returning students involved and excited about SMA from day one.
The WOW festivities will kick off on Tuesday, August 7 with a Family Bash. The picnic-style event will take place from 5:00-8:00pm on the grounds of the school’s campus located at 6905 Chef Menteur Blvd.
Three gourmet food trucks will participate including Cocoa and Cream Mobile Foods and Catering, Kenny’s Cajun & Creole Food Truck and Valerie’s Snow-Balls and Ice Cream. Additionally, the event will feature kiddie train rides, music, parent/student look-alike contest, manicures, pedicures, facials and other goodies by Spoil Me Rott’n Day Spa.
Admission to the event is free and is open to all SMA students and their families, faculty, staff and alumnae of the school. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs, tables and blankets. Food truck items will be sold with costs ranging from $2 to $15. Menu items include chicken and waffles, fish, shrimp, crawfish and oyster po’boys; jerk shrimp tacos, gourmet pretzel burgers, hot sausage po-boys, ya-ka-mein, authentic lamb/beef gyro, hot dogs, ice cream, and snowballs. No outside food and drink will be allowed on campus.
SMA will also host its Welcome Convocation at 8:00AM on Thursday, August 9 in Austin Gymnasium. Signaling the formal beginning of the student academic experience, the Convocation will include messages from the school’s president and principal, keynote address by survivor, evangelist and alumna Anthonise McMorris Davenport and a performance by noted author, educator and alumna Arianne Craig Jolla.
Following the Convocation, students will be treated to a Sister to Sister Dialogue, offering alumnae perspectives on the SMA experience. Rounding out the day will be a Pinning Ceremony for the freshman class, officially signaling their arrival into the high school division.
On Friday, August 10, all students will take part in the Academic B.A.S.H. (Be a Success Here,) featuring seminars on topics such as time management, stress management, testing skills, improving concentration and reading effectively for academic success.
Additional highlights of WOW include a Project LEAD workshop for all students who plan on assuming a leadership role at SMA.
“WOW” is a collaborative, introductory effort to welcome, educate and transition our students to life at St. Mary’s Academy,” says director of Student Affairs Lisa Ross, adding that the events also serve as a vehicle to emphasize expectations, resources and traditions of the school. “Our ultimate goal is to equip all of our students with the necessary resources to navigate the school year with ease and academic success.”
To say that Jasmin Bindom is an amazing young woman is an understatement. Defying what seemed to be insurmountable odds, this dynamic dynamo continues to inspire and astound people every day.
Bindom was a high school junior at St. Mary’s Academy in 2011 when she suddenly became ill. She spent weeks in a burn unit at a local hospital before being diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS). The debilitating disease is caused by a severe reaction to both over the counter and prescription medication, and can be fatal if not properly and promptly diagnosed and treated.
Following many surgeries and painstaking recovery, Bindom is a survivor in every sense of the word. Presently a senior at Dillard University in New Orleans majoring in public health, she also works tirelessly to promote awareness and raise money for Stevens-Johnson syndrome through her Team Jasmin SJS Awareness Walk. Additionally, she also supports St. Mary’s Academy each year by generously giving a $2000 scholarship to a deserving senior.
“I graduated from SMA and wanted to be able to give back to my alma mater,” said Bindom adding that senior year can be especially trying in terms of financial obligations. “A little extra money can go a long way when buying books and other needed materials for college.”
For Deja Crayton, the scholarship was awarded following her submission of a moving essay on SJS to Bindom. “This scholarship afforded me a wonderful opportunity to not only further my education but learn more about Stevens-Johnson syndrome,” said Crayton who will study nursing in the fall at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
“I am so grateful to Ms. Bindom for this most generous award.”
St. Mary’s Academy alumna Dr. Lakia Montegut believes in paying it forward when it comes to helping SMA students succeed. To that end the Class of 2005 graduate recently established the Dr. Lakia Montegut Valedictorian Scholarship and the Dr. Lakia Montegut Future Pharmacist Scholarship benefiting graduates of the school. Both gifts valued at $2000 each, were presented during the Academy’s Awards Ceremony.
“I have always believed to whom much is given, much is required,” said Montegut adding that she owes a huge debt of gratitude to her alma mater. “St. Mary’s Academy taught me professionalism, how to articulate my thoughts through public speaking and how to be a strong woman of faith.”
Now a doctor of pharmacy and an entrepreneur, Montegut herself was the recipient of scholarships to both St. Mary’s Academy and Xavier University. “Those scholarships literally changed my life,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if someone didn’t decide to give back.”
For Kelsie Williams, valedictorian of the SMA Class of 2018, the scholarship award was a much needed and welcome surprise. “Receiving this scholarship shows that all my hard work has been recognized,” said Williams who plans to attend Xavier University in the fall majoring in biology/pre-med. “My ultimate goal is to finish college debt-free and this most generous award moves me one step closer to that goal. I am exceedingly grateful to Dr. Montegut for this gift.”
Likewise Cierra Frazier, a graduate of the Class of 2015 is very appreciative for the scholarship. “I feel truly blessed to be held in such high regard to receive such an honor,” said Frazier, a second year pharmacy student at Xavier University of Louisiana. “I can only imagine my future and will work hard so that I too can be of service to others.”
Thirty-eight seniors from St. Mary’s Academy received diplomas from Sister of the Holy Family Clare of Assisi Pierre, president, and Sister Jennie Jones, principal, in ceremonies marking the 133rd graduation of St. Mary’s Academy on May 17 at Austin Gymnasium. Father Sidney O Speaks, SSJ, parochial vicar of St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church was the principal celebrant and homilist of the Baccalaureate Mass that preceded the graduation ceremonies. Concelebrant of the Mass was Father H. Daniel Green, parochial vicar at Blessed Trinity Parish and director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries.
St. Mary’s Academy alumna Dr. Lakiesha Claude Williams, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at Mississippi Valley State University served as the commencement speaker.
The members of the Class of 2018 have been accepted to more than 60 colleges and universities around the country.
Kelsie Williams, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Max Williams of New Orleans, was valedictorian. Throughout her years at St. Mary’s Academy she has maintained both President’s Honor Roll and Renaissance Star status. Williams, a TOPS Scholar, earned the highest-average awards in religion, mathematics, science, English, French, social studies, computer and physical education. She was a member of several extracurricular activities, including the National Honor Society, SMA Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, flag team and Key Club. She plans to attend either Xavier University or LSU majoring in biology/pre-med.
The salutatorian was Jayla Williams, daughter of Jelinda Gibson-Allen and step daughter of Kwan Allen of New Orleans. Williams, a TOPS scholar, consistently maintained Principal’s Honor Roll and Renaissance Star status throughout her years at SMA. She was an active member of both the National and SMA Honor Societies. Additionally, Williams was a member of the Cougarette Dance Team and SMA Ambassadors. She will attend the University of Southern Mississippi majoring in Kinesiotherapy.
Earning the distinction of honor students were Chali Pickens, Alaina Doss, Kia Batiste, Dachel Roberts, Kylara McGee, Caleigh Gautier, Pilar Hardwell, Haili Duncan, Alayna Williams, Knia Williams, Gioia Russell, and Kelsey Dumas.
Other graduates were Kaya Bastian, T’Yan Bernard, Deja Crayton, Jardyn Daniel, Timia Deal, Edwenia Foster, Herschell Francis, Monteranique Ginn, Kianta’ Hughes, Delicia Johnson, Kiara Jones, Kiera Jones, Ronjonique Joseph, Beautiful Lawson, Trinity McCain, Cyntrell McDonald, Malon McGee, Myra Mitchell, La’Tavia Nelson, Sierra St. Martin, Taylah’ Vining, Ryiana Wade, Kelsie Watson and Paiton Young.
St. Marya��s Academy will host its annual Spring Family Fair Friday March 23, through Sunday, March 25. The event will feature midway rides, games, concessions, food and entertainment throughout the three-day event. Fair hours are Friday: 10:00 AM-2:00PM and 4:00PM-8:00PM; Saturday: 11:00AM-3:00PM and 4:00PM-8:00PM; and Sunday: 1:00PM-6:00PM. The entrance fee is $5.00 with no admittance to the fairgrounds after dark. Armbands good for one session may be purchased onsite for $20.Read More