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Students learn from volunteer experience

Summer is a great time for our students to do volunteer work in order to meet their service learning requirement. Several students choose to share their time and talent with In Heaven’s Eyes, a Holy Family Parish-based ministry that serves the needy in our community. These students joined with members of the ministry to feed those who are homeless on Wednesday evenings in Jeffersonville. They helped make the food and then distributed it along with clothes and toiletries as part of the ministry’s mobile food pantry.

Senior Austin Grantz, junior Ali Hornung, and sophomore Autumn Grantz were just some of the volunteers. Austin helped out on seven different evenings and said he wanted to help others, especially via In Heaven’s Eyes because he respects the adults involved, including former Providence parent Mr. Dan Schoenfelder.

“I look up to him,” Austin said. “And I just like giving back. It makes me more grateful for what I have at home.”

Ali said she particularly liked delivery furniture to those in need even if it was heavy because she was able to meet the people receiving the items.

Autumn said she got involved with helping In Heaven’s Eyes several years ago because her friends talked about how much they got out of it. She continues to serve because she knows it helps those in need and enjoys meeting those she is helping.

“Just getting to talk to the people was a humbling experience,” Autumn said. “It makes me not complain because I have so much.”
Autumn, Ali, and Austin said they plan to continue to serve with In Heaven’s Eyes throughout the school year.

“I do want to keep helping out this ministry because it is a very helpful one that cares about everyone,” Ali said.

More School News:

Sophomore finishes border-to-border bike ride

Freshman singer has shot at national stage

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Students learn, serve, grow, and pray

Several of our students participated in activities from mission trips to week-long camps, including Hoosier Girls State; Hoosier Boys State; One Bread, One Cup; a U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar and more.

Rising senior Logan Applewhite attended Hoosier Boys State, held at Trine University in northeastern Indiana. He said he enjoyed the week-long camp, which breaks participants into various cities and political parties to simulate the election and government process. Logan was elected to county prosecuting attorney and city councilman but had to choose between them. He chose the role of prosecuting attorney and successfully prosecuted his cases. Overall, he enjoyed the experience.

“I had a great time interacting with guys from all across the state,” Logan said. “My favorite part was how so many guys could come together and form close connections in just a few days. Everybody was very friendly and willing to have a great time. I would highly recommend attending Hoosier Boys State.”

Rising senior Elle O’Bannon enjoyed her experience at Hoosier Girls State, especially the friendships that developed among the participants. She also liked learning about the governmental process and successfully ran for senator, which “was an amazing experience,” especially writing bills and resolutions and voting on them.

“The most interesting thing about the experience was to see how civil everyone acted, whether in defeat or debate, everyone kept a level head and truly just wanted to see a change for the better,” Elle said. “I learned a lot about how the government worked. It’s similar to many cogs working together to get an end result.”

For Elle her experience was made more meaningful since her late grandfather, Frank O’Bannon, served as Indiana governor from 1997 to 2003.

“I understood the pressure he must have been under and his motivation for doing it all,” Ell said. “He wanted to see a change and wasn’t going to wait around for it to happen.”

Rising senior Claire Reyes also enjoyed her time at HGS and like Elle, got the most out of the friendships she made.

“The people are incredibly supportive and kind, and there is absolutely no way you won’t make friends,” Claire said. “I met tons of different girls, and even though we were all so unique, we were still united by our patriotism and our desire to improve our country. The atmosphere is almost unreal! It’s peaceful yet so fun and also organized but with a little chaos. There’s constant cheering and encouragements. The days are also super busy, but there is always time to bond with your fellow delegates.”

Claire ran for three positions, losing two and winning one, as Federalist city chairman. She learned a lot from the election process, beginning with mustering the courage to run for a major position. Her roommate encouraged her to run for state superintendent of public instruction, and she was able to overcome her fear to run for such an important position. In the end, she said, she was happy she lost that position because her experience “wouldn’t have been the same if I was elected as the superintendent,” she said.

“I also learned so much about our government and how all the elections work,” Claire said. “It is way more complicated than I expected. You have to go through so many city, county, and party processes to even get to the positions that are well known. It takes time to understand them, but once you actually go through it all, it finally clicks and it makes sense! Besides learning about government processes at the state level, I learned so much about our veterans, the flag, and leadership. The American Legion Auxiliary and HGS make it a priority that we respect the flag at all times and always commemorate our veterans. Everything they pass down to us, we hope to pass down to our communities.”

As much as she learned, spending a week with participants and counselors who were so kind and welcoming made all the difference, she said.

“I loved being able to walk anywhere and somehow make another friend or two,” Claire said. “It makes me feel very blessed to have met such wonderful women and have spent a whole week with them. The counselors are no exception. They made sure we were taken care of and always having fun. One of my closest friends there was one of the counselors. I could say a million things about how great the people at HGS were. It does make me sad that it’s over, but I know I have friends all over Indiana to support me.”

Rising sophomores Katelynn Clemmons and Sarah Boehm participated in One Bread, One Cup, a five-day liturgical leadership conference at St. Meinrad Seminary. The conference for high school youth groups focused community building, leadership development, catechesis, liturgical and spiritual formation, and theological reflection.

This was the first time the girls attended the conference, and both learned a lot from it. Sarah said she initially signed up in order to take part in the Cantor Development course. When she didn’t get into that course, she focused on Prayer in the Life of Jesus Christ, which helped her strengthen her relationship with Jesus, she said. As a member of the prayer group, she learned to write the petitions that members of the group read at their daily liturgy. She also learned to lead the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official set of prayers that help mark the hours of the day and sanctify the day to Jesus.

Katelynn attended at the encouragement of her parish choir director to improve her skills in the Cantor Development program. She was glad to sing in the choir and cantor at daily Mass and improve her skills. She now feels more confident and plans to use what she learned as a cantor at school and her parish.

In addition to daily Mass and praying the Liturgy of the Hours, participants attended formation sessions on their specific topic, spent time in reflection, and participated in fun activities such as a variety show and Ultimate Frisbee. Both girls said they were glad for the opportunity to attend in order to focus on their relationship with Jesus and to build new friendships with other participants in the conference.

“The most rewarding part was meeting new people who I will never forget and learning how to strengthen my relationship with Christ,” Sarah said.

Rising senior Andrew Henderson got a taste of what it would be like to attend college at the U.S. Naval Academy by attending its weeklong Summer Seminar. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience and strengthened his interest in attending.

He took part in some of the grueling physical training exercises, including competing on the endurance course and undergo a series of “sea trials,” he said. He also attended academic workshops on topics from aerospace engineering and nuclear engineering to martial arts.

“These classes showed me what the academic life at the Naval Academy was all about,” Andrew said. “I am interested in attending the academy because of the outstanding physical, mental, and moral development opportunities and challenges that await. I have a strong desire to serve my country and I believe the Naval Academy best prepares me for this path.”

Rising sophomore Amanda Upton and rising junior Beth Wimsatt joined other youth from the New Albany Deanery on a mission trip known as Wolfe Pack to serve in the Appalachian community of Campton, Ky. The group helped local residents with various repairs, including working on roofs, building ramps and stairs, painting, and filing floors. The group also participated in various spiritual activities, from adoration and confession to small group sharing and Lectio Divina. They also took time out to explore the beauty of the area at Natural Bridge State Park, to go rock climbing, and to play outdoor games.

It was Amanda’s first time on trip, and she wanted to go because her brother, Tyler ’19, talked so highly of the experience and she wanted to join him. She found the trip as rewarding as he said it would be.

“The most important thing I got out of the trip was truly realizing that material things aren’t important for happiness,” Amanda said, noting that it was a challenge to adjust to the environment and the culture, however. “The people that we helped didn’t have a lot, but they were all some of the nicest and happiest people I’ve ever met.”

Ultimately, helping others, even when it meant overcoming setbacks and working through difficult situations, was worth it.

“After finishing a project, the feeling of knowing we’d impacted the people in a positive way and helped them was the most rewarding,” Amanda said.

Beth loved her second year for the trip and the opportunity to serve others as much as the first.

“I quickly grew to respect the dignity the people had, even in their situation,” Beth said. “I was able to work on a variety of projects like replace and repaint rotted siding on an old house, put in the ceiling walls and doors in a new home, and rebuild a ramp for someone who is wheelchair-bound. I also cannot forget the many wonderful friends I have met and made just over a six-day camp. These are people that I will know for the rest of my life and always remember. Overall, I have loved my experience at Wolfe Pack and can’t wait for next year.”

Beth also gave of her time in other ways this summer. She was a camp counselor at Camp Marian, a one-week camp for girls grades five through eight hosted by the Sisters of St Benedict in Ferdinand. She previously attended the camp and was a counselor last year. Participants camped outside in tents on the grounds of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, went fishing, canoed on the lake, and more. Beth said she enjoyed teaching the girls the story of St. Benedict and helping them on their faith journey.

“All in all, it was an awesome camp experience,” Beth said.

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Alumni combine service, teaching

It’s not unusual for our alumni to develop a lifelong commitment to service, helped in part by the service learning requirement for all Providence students. Most do so in their free time. Some make it their career. Three young alumni are starting their careers by teaching in special programs that help others.

Julie Payne ’14 will be teaching in a low-income neighborhood in the Washington, D.C., area in the Urban Teachers program while pursuing her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Education, and Sara Gryboski ’15 will be teaching middle school STEM in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the Teach for America program. Ashlyn Edwards ’15 will be taking her teaching skills abroad, spending a year teaching under contract with the French government working in schools throughout France.

Edwards graduated in May from Butler University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and French. She applied to the TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France), which is run by Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques. She had heard of the teaching fellowship and followed through after Butler’s director of prestigious scholarships recommended the program to her – and assisted with some of the application.

She had previously spent a semester abroad in 2016 and enjoyed the experience. She also has been a volunteer CASA advocate in Indianapolis for two years, which gave her experience working with children and advocating on their behalf in the court system. The teaching fellowship will give her work experience as well as an opportunity to travel in France and throughout Europe. As she looks forward to heading to France in mid-September, she’s keeping her options open.

“I’m not really sure what to expect yet, so I’m just going to be in the moment and enjoy it as it comes,” Edwards said. “I plan to travel and meet up with friends in different countries during academic breaks and might stay for the summer after and do some traveling as well, but I don’t have any concrete plans yet.”

Gryboski earned her bachelor’s degree in linguistics with a minor in engineering sciences from The Ohio State University. For her, teaching middle school children through TFA is an opportunity to make a positive impact in children’s lives.

“I was really inspired by their mission, which is to work toward excellence and equity for all,” Gryboski said. “I’ve been blessed with a wonderful education, but a lot of children don’t have that opportunity. At TFA, we believe that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not, and I’m so excited to help make an impact and change the education system from within. I’m most looking forward to teaching my passions and helping students achieve their potential.”

She will teach for two years for TFA but doesn’t yet have a goal of teaching for a career, “but I hope I’ll continue to make a change.”

Payne graduated with a bachelor’s in secondary English education from Purdue University in May and was interested in the four-year Urban Teachers program after completing a teaching fellowship with Breakthrough Collaborative San Francisco at SF Day School last summer. That program “allows undergraduates to help prepare middle school students from under-resourced communities for college,” she said. During her last week, she attended a career fair featuring different teaching organizations and graduate school programs, where she learned about the Urban Teachers program.

After returning to Purdue for her final year, she did more research on the program and did a job shadow day in Washington, D.C., last October. She liked the program, applied, and was accepted, and then applied to Johns Hopkins and will earn her master’s in educational studies with concentrations in secondary literacy and special education over the next two years and continue teaching as part of the program for the following two years. Her first year she will receive a living stipend from Urban Teachers, and the following three years she will be paid a full-time teaching salary from the school where she works.

She will be teaching at IDEA Public Charter School in Northeast D.C., likely ninth or 10th grade, and is looking forward to helping youth.

“I became interested in this program because its values and core beliefs focus on creating excellent teachers for the urban education setting,” Payne said. “Working with students in the urban setting, especially students of color and low-income students, became a passion of mine during my time at Purdue and during my time at Breakthrough, so I’m excited that I’ve been given the opportunity to continue working in this setting.”

Even though she grew up in the medium-sized city of New Albany, she is excited for the opportunity to teach in a major metropolitan area, especially after working in San Francisco for a summer.

“Teaching in a major metropolitan area appeals to me because I will be given the chance to work with students from under-resourced communities,” Payne said. “I want to help all types of students understand that they are worthy of a high-quality education, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status, and that they are capable of achieving whatever goals and aspirations they set for themselves.”

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CASA volunteers find PHS connection

By coincidence, three members of the Class of 1981 and one from the Class of 1980 are helping children by working or volunteering for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Floyd and Washington Counties. Lorie (Zoeller) Edwards ’81, is a staff advocate for the organization that currently is under the umbrella of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities. Sue (Crone) Glordan ’81, Maria (Kinder) Triplett ’81, and Ann (Kaiser) Day ’80 are all volunteer advocates.

Maria (Kinder) Triplett ’81, left, and Sue (Crone) Glordan ’81, right, recently realized both are CASA volunteer advocates for Floyd and Washington counties. Classmate Lorie (Zoeller) Edwards ’81, center, is a CASA staff advocate.

To hear their stories, however, it seems that God had a hand in calling them to be part of the agency in order to serve as a voice for abused or neglected children in court. Edwards first became a CASA volunteer in 1988 while in law school in California after doing a class project on the then-fledgling organization. Once she got married and started a family, she no longer had time to volunteer until three years ago when she reconnected with CASA and eventually left her job as a paralegal to work for the agency full time. She said she always enjoyed working with children, and the time was right for a change.

“After 30 years in the legal field, I wanted to get back to my passion for working with kids,” said Edwards, who has a caseload of 60 children in Floyd and Washington counties.

Glordan and Triplett are classmates of Edwards, but their connection had little to do with their initial call to become a CASA volunteer. Three years ago, Glordan was looking for “a new volunteer opportunity that would take me out of my comfort zone a bit” and allow her “to connect with those I was serving on a more personal level,” she said. A Sunday homily from a visiting priest on service and answering God’s call resonated with her, and after Mass, she shared with parishioner Brenda Smith Falkenstein ’78 how it had touched her. Falkenstein, who serves on the St. Elizabeth board, invited her to the human service agency’s open house later that week. There, Glordan learned about CASA and immediately signed up.

“I think God’s hand in finding the opportunity was there,” Glordan said.

Triplett signed up in 2017 after reading a newspaper article about the agency’s growing need for volunteers as the number of children in foster care continued to rise due to the opioid crisis. She didn’t know that Glordan was a volunteer until they each ended up representing her CASA child in court on the same day.

Day recently signed up and completed her four weekly training sessions. She heard about the need for CASA volunteers while attending the St. Elizabeth Gala a few years ago. With her youngest in college, she was looking for more volunteer opportunities but wanted to do more research first. She reached out to Glordan as well as CASA volunteer Pamela (Lilly) Kraft ’77 and the Hon. J. Terrence Cody ’67, a Floyd County Circuit Court judge, who each answered her “many questions,” Day said.

Edwards said it’s not unusual for people to be reluctant to volunteer as a CASA advocate.

“A lot of volunteers are scared off by the term abused and neglected kids,” Edwards said. “They say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. It’s too hard. It’s too sad,’ but the majority of these kids are in the system because their parents have made bad decisions, because of drugs or criminal activity, or just not being the parents they need them to be.”

Those who do volunteer become an advocate for the child in the court system. The Department of Child Services often focuses on the parent and reuniting the family, while CASA volunteers work to learn the children’s needs in order to speak up for them in court.

Volunteers typically interact with a child on at least a monthly basis and sometimes visit the child’s teachers and others to help determine the child’s needs. CASA works to match children with adults whose career or life situation may be of particular help to the child. Those with more free time can be assigned several cases, while those with limited time can represent only one child at a time.

“We can use anybody who has just a little bit of free time up to somebody who has a lot of free time,” Edwards said. “It just depends on the person, but we can use anybody who has any amount of time and we’ll make it work somehow.”

The agency is still in need of volunteers and has about 200 children without an advocate.

“Now is an ideal time to get people involved,” Edwards said.

For several years, CASA of Floyd and Washington Counties has been under the auspices of St. Elizabeth, but now it has grown to the point of being able to file for its own nonprofit status and will be hiring more staff. The agency will continue to rely on volunteers, however.

Triplett, Glordan, and Day all find the volunteer work rewarding.

Triplett said she likes “knowing that I am making a difference in a young person’s life during a very difficult and traumatic time.”

Glordan said she especially likes “being a consistent person in their life, listening, spending time with them, [and] encouraging them.”

The grandmother of the child in Glordan’s first case pointed out the importance of having children having multiple people in their lives willing to give their time and their care, and Glordan continues to recall that statement.

“It can be as simple as that,” Glordan said. “You can make an impact just by being present.”

Working with the adults in the children’s lives also is rewarding. Glordan enjoys working with the teachers, social workers, and counselors who are part of the team to help the children heal and grow. She also has found herself empathizing with their parents or guardians, who often “are struggling in ways I never have,” she said, noting “that has been a real growth experience for me. When you truly get to know people and know their life story, it’s easier to have more compassion and less judgement.  CASA is a program where you can really put your faith in action.”

Day, who is working on her first case, is finding it so fulfilling so far. Although such experience isn’t a requirement, she feels more confidence as an advocate thanks to her nursing background and experience in child and adolescent psychology. She credits Providence with first instilling in her “a desire to give back to my community” – and appreciates the connections within the alumni community that helped provide the advice she needed when she was first considering volunteering with CASA.

Edwards is hoping more alumni will do as her classmates and Day have done and seek more information or offer to volunteer.  The agency occasionally offers Meet & Greet sessions, but those interested can reach out directly to Edwards at 502-291-1837 or lorie@floydwashingtoncasa.org.

Even young alumni can help. Edwards’ daughter, Ashlyn ’15, is a volunteer advocate in Indianapolis. She started volunteering two years ago as a sophomore at Butler University studying philosophy and French. Ashlyn will be ending her volunteering in a few months after earning her degree this month and committing to move to France in September to teach under contract with the French government for a year. So Edwards knows that if a college student can find time, other alumni can too.

“I’m appealing to the kindness and compassion of my Providence family to join CASA in helping the children of our community,” Edwards said.

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Students practice being philanthropists

Six of our students participated in the Youth Philanthropy Council sponsored by the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. High school students from the area sit on the council, and their primary duty is to recommend the awarding of grants to organizations that benefit youth. PHS students on this year’s council include seniors Bryce Drury, Charlie O’Bryant, and Alex Henderson, junior Claire Reyes, and sophomores Katie Huff and Ryley Gunther.
Ryley said he enjoyed being on the council. He was on the team that made the presentation to recommend a grant for Miles for Merry Miracles and found it rewarding.

“It was an opportunity for us to learn how to properly award grants to organizations and what those organizations are doing,” Ryley said.

Alex said she joined the council this year because she was intrigued by the opportunity to learn about local philanthropy projects.

“Not only were we exposed to different local foundations who help people in need, we were also able to connect with students of all ages from schools around the community,” Alex said. “This was my first year on the Youth Philanthropy Council and I’m so glad I was able to participate.”

Claire said she was glad she applied after reading about the opportunity in school announcements.

“I saw it as an opportunity to be involved in the community in addition to just being involved at my parish and in school,” Claire said. “I really liked getting to meet new people. And I liked the process of going through the applications and determining who deserved the grants.”

Claire also recommends that students sign up to participate next year.

“It’s a good opportunity, and you can learn a lot,” Claire said.

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Two seniors earn Eagle Scout rank

Seniors Matthew Nokes and Sam LaMaster recently were named Eagle Scouts by the Boy Scouts of America, the highest rank  in Boy Scouts and one that requires advancement through several ranks, the earning of more than 20 merit badges, and organizing a service project. Both belong to Boy Scout Troop 4010 at St. Anthony Parish and have been in Scouting since first grade.

Sam’s project was to design, build, and install shelving in a gym loft and maintenance building at St. John Paul II School in Sellersburg. He spent 188 hours overall including planning and on-site work. With the help of his grandfather and father, Brian LaMaster ’89, who are skilled at woodworking, he was able to design the shelves, and he then organized several work days to install them with the help of members of his troop and some of his friends.

His father donated the wood for the shelves, having saved it for another project and then didn’t need it. Sam then asked family to contribute money for the rest of the supplies, raising about $100.

Sam said he learned a lot in organizing the project and fulfilling all the requirements for the Eagle Scout rank.

“It felt like a good opportunity for me to use all the skills from my years in Scouting,” Sam said. “I finally had a chance to put all those together and have an application for them. It also proved my leadership skills overall.”

He said he feels a great relief having completed the project and the process to apply for the rank advancement. Often, the Eagle Scout rank is a culminating experience for a Boy Scout, but Sam said he intends to stay involved. He enjoys the troop’s service projects, such as helping at Lanesville Heritage Weekend, and the troop’s adventures. Every other summer, the troop has taken a big trip. He took part in one to Alaska that included mountain climbing and white water rafting in Class 4 rapids and one to northern Minnesota canoeing along the Canadian border, which was the more difficult because it was a survival trip that required them to fish for food.

Matthew also feels a great relief having his Eagle Scout project complete. Although the project required only 130 hours of works time, the process was spread over 18 months because the parameters of the project changed within a few months of his starting on it. Last October, he completed the rebuilding and repairing of the Stations of the Cross trail at Mount Saint Francis. He also built two benches and put down gravel and did some landscaping along the trail.

Matthew had a total of 35 people helping him over 12 work days and raised about $300 from families at St. Anthony Parish. His grandfather also donated wood for the project. Planning all those elements and coordinating all the volunteers was more difficult than he thought it would be, he said. Now that he is finished he feels a great deal of satisfaction, especially since he was able to work on a project where people will pray.

“I was very glad I could do a project that coincided with my faith,” Matthew said. “I’m glad to help Mount Saint Francis because I go there a lot on campouts and for some retreats. It felt good to help them out.”

Coincidentally, another Providence Boys Scout once worked on the same project. Andrew Marking ’11, now head groundskeeper at Quad Cities River Bandits in Davenport, Iowa, replaced all the crosses on the trail for his Eagle Scout project.

Matthew said he has enjoyed being a Boy Scout, especially going on summer trips. His favorite was the survival skills trip to Minnesota.

“It definitely builds your character and life skills,” he said. “It teaches you things you wouldn’t get out of a typical youth program.”

Completing his Eagle Scout rank gives him a great sense of accomplishment and also allows him to look back to see how his past activities and achievements have led up to that final award.

“I feel like I’ve learned so much, and I’m glad I have something to show for it,” Matthew said.

Matthew plans to attend Indiana University Bloomington and is considering several majors, including history and several foreign languages. Sam plans to attend the University of Louisville and major in mechanical engineering.

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Students take part in parish Food Fast

Several students recently participated in a Food Fast at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, organized by the parish’s youth ministry. The students spent a Saturday fasting from food while providing service to a local food pantry, the Falls of the Ohio, and St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities. They also made blankets and burritos to donate to local people who are homeless.

Freshmen Jake Miller and Addison Mills said they were looking forward to the service event and are glad they took part. Jake said he had heard about how fun it was from his brother, Trey, a senior. And Addison said she knew it was going to be a fun day.

“One of my favorite things to do is help people,” Addison said.

The group started by making blankets and burritos to be distributed by the Burrito Riders to people in the area who are homeless. Addison said she liked the activity because she had never made blankets by tying two pieces of cloth together. Jake said he liked knowing he was helping others get their basic needs.

“It felt great to give people such necessary things for life that they rarely get: food and warmth,” Jake said.

The group then picked up trash at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, helped reorganize a food pantry, and cleaned up a few rooms at St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities. Trey said they stayed so busy it was easy to forget they hadn’t eaten all day.

Both said they enjoy taking part in the service activities organized by their parish youth ministry and look forward to the next one.

“Every time I see a service project with my youth ministry I try my hardest to be able and make it there,” Addison said. “I’ve done a bunch of things like Summer Daze and working at the soup kitchen, and I always get such a positive experience out of it that makes my heart happy.”

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Medical mission trips a driving force for ’07 grad

Elizabeth Ansert ’07, in the middle/back row, has taken two medical mission trips as a podiatric medicine student and is planning two more.

Elizabeth Ansert ’07 is in her last semester at the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine in Miami Shores, Fla., but she already has experience providing medical care to those who need it most. She has participated in two medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic, and she is planning two upcoming trips, one to Guyana in South America and one to Uganda in Africa. To help others experience serving the most needy on medical mission trips, she was co-founder of an annual fundraiser that offers scholarships to college students wanting to go. Her efforts earned her the Student Medical Missionary of the Year award from Jose’s Hands, a nonprofit organization that introduces first-year medical school students to medical mission trips. 

Ansert went on her first medical mission trip as a med school freshman. Her mother, a nurse, had always talked about going on one but had never gone herself. So when Ansert got an email promoting an upcoming trip, she knew she had to go. She joined five of her classmates and helped provide general medical care to those in need in the Dominican Republic and found inspiration to return again, the second time as a team leader.

“It was interesting seeing the way people were living and the way they were so grateful for just basic medical care,” she said. “It was such a spiritual and emotional experience for me that I found this passion for, so it’s something I try to do once a year, and I also want other people to experience it.”

During her sophomore year at Barry, she and two classmates founded Party for a Cause, which raises money to cover some of the expenses for students’ medical mission trips. The first year, the event raised about $1,500. Last year, the event raised $5,000 and helped 13 students. This year, the event raised more than $6,000 and should help nearly 20 students.

Initially, the money received helped Barry students with medical mission trip expenses, but Ansert has been helping develop the Podiatry Medical Missions Association to promote the scholarship to podiatric medical students around the country.

For her upcoming medical mission trips, Ansert wanted to be part of a podiatric care team. So she found a way to help plan them by serving as an executive board member of the nonprofit organization Podiatry Overseas. She is helping to organize trips to Guyana and Uganda. Planning such trips includes overcoming several challenges, including gaining permission from the destination country and the U.S. government, obtaining travel visas, and getting the necessary medical supplies and equipment to the site. If the trip to Guyana is approved, the medical mission team primarily will provide podiatric surgery during its late April trip. For the trip to Uganda in June, Ansert will lead the medical mission’s podiatry clinic for one of the two weeks.

She also will help prepare those going on their first medical mission trip to help them understand the dual aspects of serving others in need and providing medical care. Training others is just as rewarding as participating in the trip itself, Ansert said. She discovered her love of teaching while serving as a teaching assistant as she pursued her master’s degree at IU. At Barry, she is a teaching assistant once again and said she likes to “see people learn the skills sets they need,” especially those preparing for medical mission trips.

Ansert said she is looking forward to the podiatry-focused trips and anticipates the group will provide treatment for everything from congenital deformities to deformities caused by past trauma. 

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “This is going to be the first time that there is a specific podiatric clinic, and a specific place for podiatry, so the one with surgery is even more exciting because we’re getting to make these huge, life-changing impacts on these patients that typically their country may or might not have the services or podiatry in that country, or there might not be the equipment or the funding to get the services they need.”

This final semester certainly is a busy one for Ansert, as she completes her schooling, plans two medical mission trips, and awaits the results of her residency match in mid-March. She has applied in various states, including Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Massachusetts. She will complete three years of residency followed by a one- or two-year fellowship.

Ansert said it’s part of her personality to stay busy.

“I’m naturally a passionate person, so when I find something I like, I run with it,” she said “It’s something my parents instilled in me. They always emphasized working hard and doing something that you love. Between that and having a type A personality, if it’s something I like, I just go for it.”

That approach to life is how Ansert came to study podiatry. She started out as a biology major with a minor in chemistry at Indiana University Bloomington. In 2010, she entered the police academy and joined the IU Police Department, which prompted her to add the majors psychology and criminal justice. After earning her bachelor’s degree in three majors in 2012, she earned her master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

In 2014, she returned to New Albany but found few positions available in forensic psychology. She spent a year and a half as a psychological therapist but found it unrewarding. Ansert began to consider medical school and shadowed physicians in different specialties, including a distant relative who is a local podiatrist. When she saw his work, she was immediately intrigued.

“You’re getting to work with your hands, you’re getting to bounce around and do different things, so I thought this is what I might want to do,” she said.

She particularly liked podiatric medicine’s versatility. Unlike most medical specialties, podiatric medicine is not focused on a specific system of the body. It offers a range of care from cardiovascular and neurological to dermatologic and muscular care within the lower extremities of the body. The field also has its own specialties, and Ansert said she is most interested in wound care and forensic podiatry, a subspecialty she discovered her sophomore year. She became so fascinated with it that she started a forensic podiatry club.

Her interest in forensic podiatry no doubt springs from her former interest in police work, and ties all of her college degrees together. With several years of training still ahead, Ansert is leaving her options open. But whatever focus she ultimately chooses, she will continue to help others, whether it’s providing podiatric care in a U.S. medical practice or overseas on a medical mission trip.

“I got that from my family,” she said. “They taught me if you can help somebody, you should do it. My grandparents, parents, they taught me that you always help people whenever you can.”

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Mr. Mathews teaches more than language skills

Mr. Alan Mathews ’88 is one of six finalists for the 2019 St. Mother Theodora Excellence in Education Award from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In his 14th year as Spanish teacher at Providence, he also is the World Languages Department chairperson and the sponsor of the Spanish Club. Mr. Mathews said he is honored to receive the nomination and become a finalist, and he sees the award as validation that his job is a ministry.

“I’m trying to give back,” he said. “It’s good to have someone recognize that we see our job as a vocation.”

Dr. Mindy (Lankert) Ernstberger ’74 said she is grateful for the many ways Mr. Mathews has shared his gifts and talents with Providence, in the classroom and with his many other contributions at school and in the community.

“He is a gifted teacher, one who is known for high academic standards and achievement as well as positive student relationships,” Dr. Ernstberger said. “He is truly dedicated to Catholic education, and we are so fortunate to have Alan working on behalf of Catholic education in the Archdiocese.”

Mr. Mathews said that looking back upon his work history, he can see that he has always been teaching in some capacity although he’s only worked as a teacher the last 13 1/2 years. During his 12 years in the restaurant business, for example, he spent a portion of that time as a manager and trained much of the dining room staff, teaching them how to provide good service and deal with customers.

But he’s also been a lifelong learner, which is how he ended up going from various jobs in sales to become a high school Spanish teacher. His first college degree was a bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in Spanish from Indiana University Southeast. Working in restaurants where a number of the employees were Hispanic gave him a further chance to practice speaking Spanish. He improved his language skills even more while working in Florida as an insurance salesman and meeting with customers, many of whom were Hispanic, in their homes.

In the early 2000s, he was back in Southern Indiana working as a car salesman and because of his fluency in Spanish was often asked to interpret interactions with Hispanic customers with limited or no English-speaking skills. One day a co-worker suggested he become a Spanish teacher because he was so skilled at speaking the language. That suggestion took root, and Mr. Mathews returned to college, this time to the University of Louisville, to earn his bachelor’s degree in Spanish and master of arts in teaching.

He was still working on his master’s when a position for a Spanish teacher here opened, something he sees as “divine intervention,” he said.

“What are the chances a position opened the year I was eligible,” Mr. Mathews said, adding that he completed that master’s degree in December 2006, a few months after he started teaching here.

Mr. Mathews is working on his second master’s degree, this one in Spanish, to maintain his eligibility to teach ACP Spanish. His coursework has greatly expanded his Spanish-speaking skills even more and given him more ideas for his classroom. It also will give him a chance to fulfill his dream of traveling to Spain thanks to a study abroad in Madrid this summer.

Going to Madrid will help him learn even more about Hispanic culture, something he always tries to work into his lesson plans. For example, he helps his students celebrate traditional Hispanic holidays, including Día de Muertos, a Spanish holiday centered around All Saints Day. Being able to incorporate different elements of cultural experiences, from holidays to clothing and rituals, feeds his interest in trivia and history – and keeps teaching Spanish interesting.

“It’s not just nouns and verbs,” he said. “You can talk about geography one day, and music and arts and crafts another day. It’s a whole world of culture.”

Mr. Mathews brings the opportunity to experience Hispanic culture outside the classroom. He is the faculty sponsor of the Spanish Club, one of the largest and most active extra-curricular organizations on campus. Over the years the Spanish Club has held various fundraisers – from bake sales to a 5K run – to raise money to donate to the Hispanic Connection of Southern Indiana, a non-profit organization specializing in family-based immigration with programs in family literacy and preventive health.

The club also focuses on recycling services on campus. Under Mr. Mathews direction, the club worked to bring a permanent recycling dumpster to campus to collect recycled materials and to install recycling canisters in the cafeteria. Initially, recycling services had been a duty of the Recycling Club, initially sponsored by former Spanish teacher Ms. Emily Brown. When she left Providence, Mr. Mathews incorporated recycling into the Spanish Club’s duties because it teaches students to be “responsible stewards of our natural resources,” he said, especially since “so many parts of Latin America are in constant threat of abuse of their natural resources.”

In his free time, Mr. Mathews enjoys outdoor sports, including running. He is training for his fourth Kentucky Derby Festival minimarathon, which he will run this spring. He also is an amateur woodworker and has made two crosses of slate that hang at school, including one in his classroom and a larger one in the Robinson Auditorium lobby. He also has donated several crosses and wooden benches as prizes for the silent auction at the annual PHS Gala. He has shared his interest in woodworking with his students by encouraging the Spanish Club to make and sell ornaments at Christmas as a fundraiser for the Hispanic Connection.

Mr. Mathews and his wife, Jennifer, were married last summer and live in New Albany.

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Peace Corps offers ’15 grad chance to serve, grow

Robbie Gaines ’15 earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Bellarmine University in just three years and was on track to begin the doctoral physical therapy program there. As much as he loved the physical therapy program, he felt a call to enter the Peace Corps, a longtime interest of his. He applied, was accepted, and in July began his 15-month assignment in Botswana, Africa, working in health clinics throughout the country to educate and treat AIDS/HIV patients, primarily with children.

Here is a Q&A about his experiences:

Question: Why did you choose to enter the Peace Corps?
A: I joined the Peace Corps to learn about the world, to learn about myself, and to grow each day with the people around me through the challenges and success of day-to-day life.

Q: What do you enjoy about your work?
A: I thoroughly enjoy working to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana and working with my clinic staff because we are able to truly see how we can have an enormous impact on the lives of everyone in the village. With the HIV/AIDS epidemic, roughly one in four people are HIV positive, which in turn, means that everyone in the village is impacted either directly or indirectly. Because of this, my co-workers, counterparts, and I get to address health issues in a broader, holistic approach to address all the challenges of HIV. These challenges include the stigma of HIV and HIV testing, the ability to discuss health challenges among peers, as well as prevention and maintaining adherence to ARVs (the combination of medication used to lower the viral load of HIV patients).

Q: What do you find challenging? Rewarding?
A: One particularly challenging aspect of my service as a clinic-health specialist in a rural village in Botswana is that every project, or every event, has to include and be approved by most all community leaders, which means that no event or project can be created in an instant. It takes time and takes countless meetings with my counterparts and me to enact a certain change. However, it is exactly this [process] that I am eternally grateful for because it reminds me to slow down and remember the infinite importance of human connection and relationships. In Botswana culture, business as well as life, is much more relaxed and is focused more on human relationships rather than utilizing every second in the day to be efficient in paperwork and other duties.

Q: Your degree was in exercise science, and your work in Botswana is in health and clinics. Are you considering work in the medical field?
A: I am in fact considering work in the medical field. I really enjoy learning more and more about public health and how to ensure that all populations are adequately and lovingly cared for and have the same opportunity to succeed in life. Health is, quite obviously, closely linked with human behaviors, and I would like to see myself continuing to learn about how I can implement culturally appropriate health and youth development programs that give all people the opportunity to realize their potential despite obstacles they face that are out of their control.

Q: How did your schooling prepare you for this work?
A: My previous education at both Providence and Bellarmine University have undoubtedly helped shaped me into the person I am today. Both Providence and Bellarmine taught me that not all education exists in the classroom. The opportunity to partake in community service has helped me understand that in order to understand ourselves as students, we must first begin with what it means to be human — humans with inquisitive minds who are open to change and [with] warm hearts that are ready to guide us to our next adventure. I believe Providence and Bellarmine, through the constant help and guidance of teachers and staff, have fostered a nurturing environment that helps me to seek the next opportunity to grow and learn what it means to me to be human in my own life.

Q: Are you able to travel in your free time?
A: I am able to travel in my free time and weekends, and with this, I am so happy to be in the beautiful country of Botswana. The population of Botswana is around 2 million people, which seems like a decent amount. However, no matter where I travel, I always find someone who knows my name and knows people who talk about me from my own village. I am honestly not sure which I love more – the land and wildlife of the country or the neverending hospitality of the Batswana (the people of Botswana) across the country!

Q: What do you most enjoy about the area?
A:
My village is located in the Central District of Botswana, which is fairly flat and dry. However, every day, I go on a run through my village just before sunset. And each day I have countless children from the village join me and run with me. Seeing the smiles on their faces as we run together every day while enjoying a uniquely beautiful sunset is something that warms my heart each and every day.

There is nothing more satisfying in this world than feeling as if you are right where you are supposed to be in the world. For me, I feel this way when learning about the world from the world itself. Being a Peace Corps volunteer is a challenge that fulfills me, pushes me, and most importantly, assists me in my journey to become the best version of myself. If anyone has ever been interested in joining the Peace Corps, I would say to follow that desire and discover the beautiful places it will take you.

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