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
Some of the school’s brightest luminaries were honored during the annual Red Carpet Awards. Held on Tuesday, March 21 in Austin Gymnasium, the awards ceremony featured the entrance of SMA’s Renaissance Stars via a red carpet and the presentation of numerous trophies and gift cards.
Students at St. Marya��s Academy will see Marvela��s first predominately black superhero film thanks to the generosity of actor, singer and songwriter Jussie Smollett. The star of the American drama series Empire offered to provide a free screening of the movie for 425 SMA students including bus transportation.
The screening of the movie featuring actors Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, and Danai Gurira will take place on Friday, March 16th at AMC Elmwood Theaters.
“The generosity that Mr. Smollett has shown speaks volumes about who he is as a person,” said St. Mary’s Academy president Sr. Clare of Assisi Pierre. “We are exceedingly grateful for his kindness and his name will be forever etched in the annuals of our school.”
A wide range of science concepts may be learned through cooking, but the logistics can make it difficult to cook in a classroom.A� Not a problem for kindergarten teacher Theresa Barnhizer who recently taught her preschoolers how to make ice cream usingA�milk, sugar, ice and zip lock bags.
According to experts, making ice cream with preschoolers teaches about how properties of matter can change without having to deal with the potential dangers associated with cooking with a group of children. While an ice cream maker can be an effective tool, making individual portions in a bag is both fun and educational.
Photos courtesy of NOLA.com and the Advocate.com
For the first time since 2001, St. Marya��s Academy is headed to the Final Four. The Cougars cinched a seat in the Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Marsh Madness with a stunning victory over reigning Division III state championship Northlake Christian.A�Now they are just two wins away from hanging another state championship banner in the gym beside the coveted championship won in 1998.
St. Marya��s Academy plays Riverside in Wednesdaya��s semifinal in Alexandria. A win there and they would advance to the championship game to play either St. Thomas Aquinas or rival St. Katharine Drexel Prep in what would most certainly be an a�?all-New Orleans showdown.a�?
St. Marya��s Academy is celebrating Black History Month with a variety of events throughout the month of February. The theme of our celebration is a�?Remembering Our Heritage While Shaping Our Future.a�?
Profiles in Black
February 1-28A� A�
Every morning during announcements, a student will profile a significant event or icon in
Black History Month Quiz Bowl
Thursday, February 22, 2018
In honor of Black History Month we will be hosting a Black History Quiz Bowl. Each grade level is asked to form a team of four people to represent them. Study guides for all students and teachers are available on RenWeb. A�The quiz bowl will take place in the gym on Thursday, February 22 at 1:30PM. The following teams will face off against each other:
5th grade and 6th
7th and 8th
9th and 10th
11th and 12th
HomeroomA� Decorating Contest
Judging on Thursday, February 22, 2018
Every middle and high school homeroom is asked to decorate their classroom by depicting the theme, a�?Remembering Our Heritage While Shaping Our Future.a�? Classroom judging will take place on Thursday, February 22nd at 3:30PM. Winning classes will be notified on Friday, February 23rd during the Black History Talent Showcase.
Prizes: Classes placing first, second and third will receive a trophy. The first place winners will also receive a pizza party and the homeroom teacher will receive a $50 gift card.
- Do Not use any supplies/materials that will damage school property. Examples include, but are not limited to super glue, hot glue, duct tape, electrical tape, and markings directly on the doors or walls.
- Students should arrange a time with the teacher as to the best times to decorate the classroom
- All decorations must be completed by 3:00PM on February 22nd.
Classes will be judged on Originality, Neatness, Creativity and Theme Adherence.
My Black is Beautiful Day
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
On Tuesday, February 20 is proclaimed My Black is Beautiful Day. On this day students may wear the schoola��s My Black is Beautiful Shirt that is available for $10. Every homeroom teacher will receive an envelope and order form for their class. All orders must be placed no later than Friday morning, February 9, 2018.
Black History Talent Showcase
Friday, February 23, 2018
Friday, February 23 is African American Heritage Celebration. Students who pay $1 may dress in African inspired outfits and we will have an extended lunch 11:30-1:15 PM. We will have face painting, vendors and food trucks. At 1:30PM there will be a Talent Showcase in the gymnasium.Read More
St. Mary’s Academy will host its annual Career Day on Friday, January 26, 2018. The day will be an exciting opportunity for students to gain insight and perspectives into a variety of careers while discovering the pathways to success.
Included in the day will be aA�keynote address, interactive breakout sessions and workshops. Additionally, representatives will be on hand to disseminateA� information on summer programs and internships.
“The objective of Career Day is to help our students explore numerous career opportunities and give them the tools to make informed choices about their future,” said SMA academic advisor Tamiko Massey-Haynes who believes that the event also connects the academic program with the essential skills required for various professions. “Getting the knowledge first-hand is like getting a study guide before the test. Nothing beats proper preparation.”Read More
It’s been 71 years since Elaine Romain Vallot graduated from St. Mary’s Academy but time never diminished her desire to give back to her alma mater. That dream recently became a reality, when the 1946 graduate presented the school with a check for $25,000.
Designated to fund multiple merit and need-based scholarships for the students of St. Marya��s Academy, the generous donation was madeA�in memory of former SMA principal Mother Mary Francis Borgia, SSF, who was instrumental in Vallot’s life while a student at St. Marya��s Academy.
“Mother Borgia saw to it that I got my diploma and she didn’t ask for a penny,” said Vallot adding that her family had been experiencing tremendous financial hardship. “When someone extends a hand to help you its important to give back.”
Born in New Orleans in 1930 to John and Leda LeVasseur Romain, Vallot grew up with her five siblings in the 7th ward. She attended elementary school at Valena C. Jones, and then went on to attend St. Marya��s Academy, where she graduated in 1946 at the age of 16. With the help of Mother Mary Francis Borgia, Vallot became a teacher for a small community school near Port Sulfur, LA. There she became acquainted with a couple who later introduced her to William Vallot, a sugar cane farmer from Vermilion Parish. She and William wed in 1952 and settled in a farming community called Grosse Isle, outside of Abbeville, LA, where they have spent the past 64 years. They were blessed with six children, three sons and three daughters. She lost a son to cancer in 1993, and most recently, William was laid to rest. Elaine devoted her life to raising her children and being a strong support to William, as he and the family grew what has become a substantial sugar cane operation. Her sons currently cultivate over 3000 acres of sugar cane annually.
Throughout the years, Vallot regaled her children with stories of her early life, including those of her years as a student at St. Marya��s Academy. Her fondest memory is of Mother Mary Francis Borgia, who helped her by forgiving the tuition debt her family couldna��t pay, thus allowing her to graduate.A� Elaine always vowed that she would someday return the kindness shown to her by Mother Borgia. That promise was fulfilled on December 2, 2017 at the 150th Anniversary Gala, when Vallot and her family presented a gift of $25,000 to SMA president Sr. Clare of Assisi Pierre, SSF.