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Providence hosts first Deanery STREAM Day

Earlier this month, fifth grade students from throughout the Deanery enjoyed the first-ever STREAM Day at Providence. The day-long event provided a learning environment that integrated religion into science, technology, engineering, math, and art activities. Students from Holy Family, St. Anthony, St. Joe in Corydon and St. Mary of the Knobs attended one day, and students from Our Lady of Perpetual Helps, Sacred Heart, and St. John Paul II, the next day.

Students design a structure out of plastic Easter eggs and Play-Doh in the engineering unit.

The day started with liturgy, followed by students divided into groups to participate in five 25-minute stations all focused on the theme of Rebirth. Activities included designing a structure out of Easter eggs and Play Doh for engineering, painting a flowerpot to represent the parable of the mustard seed for art, observing chemistry experiments, designing an Easter basket in the computer lab, and a math puzzle relating to Easter.

Mrs. Kerry Gerber, assistant principal/director of studies, led the planning committee for the STREAM activities. She said the committee was pleased with how the students seemed to enjoy the activities, which included working in groups with students from schools other than their own.

Providence students lead Deanery fifth grade students in a math game.

Mrs. Leah (Cissell) Kelly ’05, campus minister, was one of the committee members, and she also was pleased with how the event was received. She especially enjoyed being able to incorporate art and religion into the traditional STEM activities.

“I think Father Mike Keucher (administrator of St. Joseph Church in Shelbyville), who celebrated Mass for us on that first STREAM day, said it best,” she said. “He shared with the students that many of the great artists, scientists, and mathematicians were Catholic themselves. Much of the beautiful art we see today or well-known scientific theories are a result of Catholic people who were faithful to their areas of study. So he suggested that to study all these different disciplines is really to study God, our creator.… I hope that adding religion into the STEM model helped to show the students that everything is only made better when we incorporate God and our faith into it.”

Dr. Mindy (Lankert) Ernstberger ’74 praised the planning committee for its efforts — and the principals in the Deanery who suggested the idea. The STREAM Day is one of several outreach activities to Deanery students. Others include the sixth graders attending a special performance of the winter musical Godspell, the annual children’s show attended by Deanery primary grade students, and a special liturgy and morning donuts for seventh graders held at each of the schools – in addition to sports camps, the STEM Club and STEM Camp.

“What a blessing to see so many people reaching out to our Deanery students,” Dr. Ernstberger said.

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Youth ministry event mixes prayer, service, fun

On Good Friday, many of our students took part in one of two Food Fast/Shantytown experiences held at St. Mary’s of the Knobs and Holy Family. The events were planned by the parishes’ youth ministry and included an overnight experience of prayer, fasting, service and sleeping in cardboard boxes. At St. Mary of the Knobs, which included youth from St. Mary Navilleton and St. John Starlight, students kept a prayer vigil in the church, prayed the outdoor Stations of the Cross, prepared food to deliver to Louisville homeless people, and put candy in Easter eggs for the parish Easter egg hunt. At Holy Family, the youth helped clean the church in preparation for Easter and on Saturday, helped clean the grounds and outbuildings at Mount Saint Francis.

Youth from St. Mary of the Knobs, St. Mary Navilleton, and St. John Starlight built a shantytown from cardboard boxes in order to experience the plight of the homeless.

Junior Sam Kruer, sophomores Brigid Welch and Nadia Brooks, and freshman Maria Popson were among those who took part in the St. Mary of the Knobs event. They helped build the outdoor Shantytown out of cardboard boxes and took part in the prayer and service activities at the church. They took turns in groups of four praying for one hour before the Blessed Sacrament in church, and they rotated in groups of four praying for an hour at the outdoor Stations of the Cross. The youth also donated, prepared the ingredients and assembled more than 200 burritos, wrapped and labeled with a prayerful note, to be delivered the next morning to the homeless. They then rested in the outdoor Shantytown, experiencing the cold conditions many homeless people often face.

The students said it was a challenge to fast, including overcoming the temptation to eat or to be short-tempered as they grew hungrier, but it was a good way to feel solidarity with those who may regularly go without.

Nadia said she was happy to be able to make food for people who might otherwise go hungry. Sleeping in a box outside in the cold was difficult too, but it also made her more aware of others’ needs.
Maria said she enjoyed being able to share the experiences of prayer and service with her friends, even though it was cold outside, and sleeping on cold, hard concrete was difficult.

Brigid said she appreciated being able to pray in adoration after assembling burritos for the homeless because it gave her a chance to reflect on the act of mercy they had just performed. She also enjoyed being able to pray the outdoor stations at night.

“It was super eye opening,” Brigid said. “I was excited to go home to my warm bed afterward, but some people don’t have that.”

Sam said he decided to attend because he had heard about the event last year from his friends. He said it was challenging staying up all night, but he was glad he went. He was among the small group of students who stayed the next morning to ride bicycles to deliver the burritos to the homeless, a ministry known as the Burrito Riders, something he had done before.

Taking part in Shantytown was fun because he got to spend time with friends, he said, but he also enjoyed “meeting some of the homeless when we delivered the burritos.”

Holy Family event focuses on fellowship, service

Junior Alli Conrad and sophomores Max Holman and Carlie Miiller were among those who attended the Holy Family event. Alli, Max, and Carlie said they were eager to attend this year’s event after having participated last year. They said the event was a good mix of service and fellowship with friends, allowing them to meet new people and spend time with those they already knew.

Friday evening, the group cleaned the church and the parking lot in preparation for Easter services, and some helped with a project for the ministry In Heaven’s Eyes. Afterward, they took part in various activities and built their Shantytown in the gym. The next morning, they went to Mount St. Francis to patch potholes and cracks in the pavement and cleaned out a barn.

Max said he thought the event was well planned and appreciated the balance between ‘friendship building and work. It’s a really good way to help out and get service and a really good social thing.”
Alli said she had fun doing service for others with her friends and staying overnight in a box, even if doing without food was somewhat challenging.

“I enjoyed sleeping in the boxes the most because it reminds me of camping, and it is very fun to make the boxes,” Alli said. “I learned that I am very lucky to have a house, so I don’t have to sleep in a box every night.”

Carlie said the fasting was not very difficult because she is used to fasting on Fridays, but the experience of sleeping in the Shantytown, even if it was inside this year due to the cold, made her more aware of her blessings.

“I felt more grateful for what I have at my house and for my family,” Carlie said. “I realized everything I should be thankful for.”

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Grad forms nonprofit to help kids of jailed parents

Lee Ann (Knight) Meixell ’91 is an accountant by trade, but her heart is in volunteering with youth. She is a catechist teaching Christian Faith Formation for St. Augustine and Sacred Heart parishes in Jeffersonville and a former volunteer for the Y-NOW Children of Prisoners Program at the Louisville YMCA. She enjoyed her work with Y-NOW so much that she is working with other volunteers to bring a similar program to Southern Indiana. Their efforts have formed the nonprofit organization HEY Inc. (Help Empower Youth) to provide adult mentors to middle-school-aged children of incarcerated parents.

HEY Inc. is still in the formation stages, with the five members of its board of directors, of which Meixell is president, volunteering to develop the organization’s mission and plan its program launch. The board has developed the organization’s bylaws and will soon start a campaign seeking volunteers to become adult mentors, who will work one on one with the youth in the program. Originally the group had sought the donation of office space for a full-time program director but is moving forward without an office location.

Knight, who is a staff accountant for the City of Jeffersonville, said the goal is to have 25 adult volunteer mentors and 25 middle school youth by the fall. As the board begins working to recruit volunteers, some board members will work with area middle schools for referrals of youth whose parents are incarcerated.

Having volunteered in 2010 and 2012 for the Y-NOW program serving children of incarcerated parents in Jefferson County, Ky., Knight has seen how the program helps children find a sense of stability while their parents are jailed. She wanted the same type of program for youth in Southern Indiana and decided to start one herself when she realized there wasn’t one available.

“There is a need,” Meixell said, citing recent data that shows above average incidents for children with incarcerated parent to one day be jailed themselves.

Similar one-on-one mentoring programs exist in Southern Indiana, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, but there isn’t one exclusively for children of incarcerated parents, and that population has its own set of needs, she said.

“These kids think no one knows what they’re going through,” Meixell said. “We want to show them the community is here to support them.”

Mentors will offer support

Just as Meixell did when volunteering with the Y-NOW program, adult mentors will commit to meeting one on one once a week with the youth in the program for one year. They also will attend a monthly meeting that will bring all the youth in the program together for activities and a meal. HEY Inc. will seek volunteers to help plan, provide, and set up the food at those meetings.

Meixell said she used a lot of what she learned as a Y-NOW volunteer as a guide as the board developed its mission. The one-on-one mentoring program helps the youth, who may feel abandoned or experience a lack of trust, to see there are adults who want to be part of their lives and can provide solid support.

HEY Inc. is going a step further than the program in Kentucky because its goal is to have more community involvement. The board hopes to involve local companies and other programs to demonstrate to the youth that the community is a source of support.

“We want them to know the community doesn’t see them as bad kids just because their parent is incarcerated,” Meixell said.

Meixell said she is pleased with the community response the organization has received so far. When she pitched the idea to people in the community, she said, she was pleased with the positive response she received, including from fellow board member Dan Moore, a Jeffersonville attorney and past Providence parent.

Some people joined the board or offered skills because they knew Meixell from other volunteer experiences. One of those volunteers used to volunteer with Meixell as a Girl Scout leader. She read one of the several news articles published about the fledgling organization and offered to help Meixell develop the budget for the program.

With no funding, Meixell and the board work on launching the program in their spare time. Meixell said she works on it at least an hour a day, and the board members split the tasks, including starting social media pages for the organization, writing press releases, writing a grant for sound equipment for the monthly meetings, researching background checks requirements, and planning a booth for an event in May. Meixell researched information online and filed for the organization’s nonprofit status.

The board has been successful in spreading the word about the launch of the program, and the group hopes that continues as it plans future fundraising activities. The goal is to receive grants and hold fundraisers to support the hiring of a full-time program director. HEY Inc. is looking for more volunteers and for donations, from money to free printing. The organization needs volunteers to make phone calls and to be guest speakers at the future monthly meetings.

And one day, Meixell said, she hopes the organization has enough support that she could become its full-time executive director. She also sees many possibilities for more programming.

“This is just a start,” she said. “Maybe one day we’ll have a similar program for youth with an addicted parent. There’s a lot of potential to grow.”

Answering the call to serve

Meixell said she enjoys working with the middle-school age group. She teaches eighth graders in the Sunday morning CFF program at St. Augustine and has been a catechist for about 15 years, since her daughter, who is now 25, was in third grade. Meixell believes she has a fairly good understanding of middle-schoolers now, which will help with developing programming for HEY Inc.

“They want to be kids, they want to have fun,” she said, noting that she combines teaching with service and other activities to keep their interest. “It’s definitely helped me learn what will work.”

She started working with children as a Girl Scout leader with her daughter and some with her son while he was in Cub Scouts. Once she got involved, she kept answering the call to do more, including following up on a radio ad for Y-NOW volunteers in 2010.

“I’ve always wanted to work with youth after doing Scouts with my children,” Meixell said. “After they got older, I was looking for something else to get involved in. Ever since I did Y-NOW, it’s been on my heart to bring it to Southern Indiana. I just kept hearing, ‘You need to get that going here.’”

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Spring musical has family connection for cast member

The spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar opens next weekend, and the cast and crew are readying for opening night. This is the second time the rock opera, which portrays the final week of Jesus’ life as seen from Judas’ point of view, has been staged at Providence, the first being in 1995. This version has a modern look in an urban setting and extends the story to Jesus’ resurrection.

Meredith (Beeler) Lucas ’96 shares her love of Jesus Christ Superstar with her stepson, Eli.

Many in the cast have been waiting years to perform this show in the Robinson Auditorium, including senior Eli Lucas, who portrays Jesus. Jesus Christ Superstar has a special meaning for him in part because watching the 1973 film starring Ted Neeley has been an annual tradition for him and his stepmother, Meredith (Beeler) Lucas ’96, since he was in grade school. She shared with him her love for show, not only for the film but also memories of her own performance in the

ensemble on the Providence stage her junior year.

Eli loved the music and has wanted the theatre department to reprise its production of the rock opera since his freshman year. When he learned he was cast in the role of Jesus, his stepmother was the first person he called. Meredith pulled out her old VHS copy of the Providence production, and the two watched some of it together.

“Even in the ensemble, she was very animated, just like she is now,” Eli said. “So it was kind of cool to see her out of her element and performing on stage.”

Eli said that as much as he has anticipated being in the show, playing the role of Jesus is intimidating but that his faith has helped him in the portrayal.

“It’s just tapping into your personal relationship with God and Jesus and drawing on that and playing the part to the best of your ability and the best person that God would want you to be,” he said. “That’s when Jesus will shine through.”

Meredith said she is eagerly awaiting seeing Eli and his friends in the 2018 Providence production.

“I had such an incredible experience all those years ago and to be able to see it again on the PHS stage is thrilling,” she said. “This musical is definitely something special. I can’t wait to end my Lenten-Easter experience with it and the powerful message it brings.”

Judas, portrayed by senior Andrew Bittenbender, confronts Jesus, played by senior Eli Lucas.

For senior Andrew Bittenbender, who plays Judas, presenting the show on the Providence stage has been something he has wanted to do since he was an apostle in the summer 2016 Jeffersonville RiverStage production of the show, one directed by Providence’s technical theatre director Ronnie Breedlove. Like Eli, portraying Jesus’ betrayer is challenging. In the biblical accounts, Judas’ motivation for betraying Jesus seems to be only monetary. But in the musical, Judas is Jesus’ right hand man and is deeply concerned that Jesus is leading them all to their death.

“He (Judas) has different ideas and is worried he (Jesus) has gone too far and Rome might crush them,” Andrew said.

Mary Magdalene, portrayed by senior Emme Wade, comforts Jesus.

Senior Emme Wade portrays Mary Magdalene in her first lead role in a musical. She said she is looking forward to showcasing her acting and vocal abilities on stage as she plays a strong female character.

Emme said that she feels her faith has grown stronger as she has rehearsed her role and has come to see Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus in a new light.

“People looked at her scornfully because of her profession, but Jesus didn’t see that,” she said. “It helped me see it doesn’t matter who you are but you can take part in your faith.”

The production will begin with Premiere Night on April 13 at 8:00 p.m. Regular evening performances will be April 14, 19 and 20 at 7:00 p.m. The two matinee performances will be April 15 and 22 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets, order online or call (812) 945-2538 ext. 301.

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Seniors’ video gets attention

Senior Mirashaye Basa simply wanted to promote the March for Our Lives Southern Indiana event in New Albany last month when she and fellow senior Eli Lucas made a video promoting the movement. They created a video that includes images of news reports of school shootings while Eli plays the piano and the two sing a rendition of Angel Down by Lady Gaga. Mirashaya posted it on Twitter and YouTube in hopes that students in Parkland, Fla., who started the March for Our Lives movement would see it and that local students would see it and attend the rally.

Her posts did get a good response, but she also got some unexpected requests from several online media outlets. Mirashaye was featured in an online magazine for young women, a podcast and a local writer’s blog.

“I was really just raising awareness to get people to go to the march because I think it’s a really important thing (addressing gun violence) we should be talking about,” she said.

Mirashaye came up with the idea in her volunteer work for the campaign for U.S. Congressional candidate Liz Watson (Democrat, Ninth District). Her work has included answering phone calls and helping with door-to-door campaigning. When the staff was discussing various issues, including gun violence, the March for Our Lives event was mentioned. Mirashaye thought that a video would be a good way to raise awareness, so she reached out to several of her friends, and Eli was able to commit to helping. They did several takes to get the music and vocals right, and Eli did the editing.

Mirashaye said she was glad to be able to create something that raised awareness not only for the event but for the need for laws to address the issue of gun violence. Now she feels empowered realizing that young people can have a say on various issues.

“It’s a chance for kids to show they really have a voice,” Mirashaye said. “Before this (experience), I felt like there wasn’t a lot I can do. Before you can vote, you don’t feel like your voice matters. After (the) Parkland (shooting), I saw it did.”

Mirashaye is one of several students helping plan how Providence students can participate in the National School Walkout planned for April 20. PHS was on spring break when the first event was held, so our students were unable to participate. The students are brainstorming different ideas, including adoration in the chapel, writing letters to legislators, and a march of some sort. Whatever the final plan, prayer will be part of the experience, she said.

“Prayer is part of our identity (as a school), so it makes us unique in the way we handle things and can approach things through prayer.

Mirashaye began volunteering with Liz Watson’s campaign at the suggestion of Spanish teacher Brad Burden. She had been volunteering only a few weeks before creating the video. She will attend American University in Washington, D.C., and plans to major in political science and possibly social justice. She hopes to one day secure one of the internships with Congress and other federal departments the college offers.

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Act of kindness leads to nonprofit ministry

Matt Andres ’99 and his wife, Barb, have come to see firsthand how God can take one act of obedience and turn it into a greater work. Last year, Barb was inspired to organize her friends to help a friend prepare a nursery for her second child. Then, they did the same for a relative and next a family from their church in need, and Barb and her friends formed The Nursery Project, a non-profit organization helping families in crisis deal with the birth of a child.

The first nursery project the Andreses and their friends worked on was last year for a friend of Barb’s. Her friend had learned when she was pregnant that her second child would have Down syndrome as well as other physical challenges. As her friend tried to grapple with the diagnosis, she couldn’t bring herself to work on the baby’s nursery. When Barb learned her friend was heading to the hospital to deliver, she reached out and asked how much she had done on the nursery, the friend replied, “Nothing.”

Barb said she knew she had to do something to help her friend as she dealt with her child being in the neonatal ICU. She rallied her friends and planned to paint the walls and put up some decorations. But as they contacted the mother’s family and friends, the donations surpassed their expectations. The group of friends and family spent three days transforming the nursery into a beautiful, comfortable space for the baby when he would arrive home.

Then Matt learned of the difficult situation his cousin, Shawn Edelen ’05, and his wife, Alli (Stormes ’08), were going through. In November 2017 Alli gave birth to twins, but one was deceased and the other in critical condition. Shawn’s mom reached out to Barb, who is the First Impressions Minister at Northside Christian Church in New Albany, to see if she would help coordinate the friends and family who wanted to help the family with meals and other acts of comfort while they spent time in the NICU. One of the donations that came in was from a couple at Northside who wanted to help the Edelens finish their nursery, which at that point only contained two used baby beds.

Accepting help was difficult for the Edelens, Barb said, but she encouraged them to “let people be Jesus to you.” She asked the couple if they would keep their nursery door shut while friends and family went in and out to work on it. They agreed, and the work began. Barb and Matt led the project, and she created a secret Facebook page to coordinate volunteers to paint and do other work. She was amazed as the number of volunteers grew to 250 people, of family, friends, and friends of those friends and family members. The idea for a ministry began to take root.

“It just kind of grew into this huge thing,” Barb said. “Even then I felt like God was going to use this story to do something else, and I began praying to how to let it be bigger.”

Matt also was surprised at how quickly the number of volunteers grew.

“It was very cool watching it all unfold and watching those friends simply want to help their friends and watching it blow up as people joined,” he said. “It was such a simple way to show God’s love to people.”

Ministry takes shape
After completing the Edelens’ project, a family from Northside needed help with their nursery with their baby expected to be in the NICU for several months. So Barb rallied her friends again at the beginning of 2018. After completing that project, Barb and her friends wanted to turn their occasional help into a ministry. The group met, prayed, worked out a plan, and applied for nonprofit status. The Nursery Project was born.

The Matt Andres family in spring 2017.

The Nursery Project nonprofit is run by Barb and three of her friends. Of the four, three of them work full time, and one is a stay-at-home mom of four children. So their work is done in their spare time. Their husbands pitch in with their experience, including Matt, who is an electrician. When Matt and Barb are both working on a project, they turn to family and friends to babysit their three children, ages 1 to 4.

Matt said it has been incredible seeing God work through the many volunteers involved in The Nursery Project.

“It’s a very neat thing to see happen and to watch people be blessed by it,” he said.

Barb said she is grateful for the witness of faith expressed by people’s willingness to give and to serve a family in need. Some of the volunteers or family and friends of those served by the ministry might not have a relationship with Jesus, so seeing them witness God’s love expressed through the work of all involved with The Nursery Project is a blessing. And it’s brought people of all faiths together to help as well.

“It’s good to see people cross denominations to help,” she said. “It’s just about loving people because Jesus loves us.”

The Nursery Project’s first project after receiving its nonprofit status was for a refugee family from the Congo. The single mother of seven was expecting her eighth child, and the mother and her children were struggling. The ministry, which by then had a Facebook page, called on its supporters. The volunteers spent three days cleaning and transforming the family’s apartment and readying it for the baby’s arrival.

The next project
Megan (Wheatley) Mammolenti ‘08, a classmate of Alli Edelen, was one of the many people who attended “the reveal.” She had joined The Nursery Project page on Facebook after hearing what the group had done for the Edelens. Barb had invited followers of the page to attend, and Mammolenti decided to attend because she was touched by what the group had done for expecting families in crisis.

“I started following their page on Facebook because I thought it was such an amazing thing they were doing for the families,” Mammolenti said. “While watching the videos of the reveals, I just felt so much empathy and happiness. When they did a public invite to the Mukandengo family reveal, I knew I had to go.”

At the reveal, Barb introduced herself because she noticed Mammolenti was expecting. As they talked, Mammolenti shared that her unborn baby was diagnosed with significant heart problems and will require surgery immediately after she is born. Mammolenti and her husband, Scott, will temporarily relocate to Cincinnati for the delivery and expected surgeries by specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for their daughter, Norah, who is due in early May.

When Barb heard her story, she immediately wanted to help. Mammolenti, who already had a nursery set up, wasn’t expecting to get help from The Nursery Project. But the couple is facing financial need with their taking off work, their temporary relocation, and Norah’s anticipated medical bills. So Barb talked with her friends serving on the nonprofit’s board, and they adapted their mission slightly to help the Mammolentis. That project will kick off soon, and the group is working on a video to tell the family’s story.

Like the Edelens, accepting help from others – especially strangers – is difficult, Mammolenti said. But when it was offered with such love, it was easier to accept.

“It’s never been easy for me to ask for help in any situation, but especially this one,” Mammolenti said. “We have been so overwhelmed with the financial aspect of temporarily relocating to deliver and have Norah’s surgery. Every little thing adds up quickly. We are just forever thankful that The Nursery Project reached out to us and offered to help however they possibly could. I think God knew we had a hard time asking for help, and he delivered.”

For more information on The Nursery Project, click here.

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New app easily records, tracks service hours

Students and the organizations and people they serve now have an easy and efficient method for tracking the hours our students volunteer. The application x2VOL offers website and mobile app service hour tracking and service opportunity listings.

Campus minister Leah (Cissell) Kelly ’05 said the website is a convenient “one-stop shop” that allows students to log their hours, receive digital verification of service, and track their hours by category. Those features alone are more efficient than the old system, which required students to have a form signed to verify signatures. Mrs. Kelly would then have to input those hours in Skyward, which indicates the total number of hours served, but not the category.

Students simply enter their service hours and the contact information for the organization served. A verification email is generated to the contact person, who can approve, deny or change the hours submitted. The email also offers organizations an opportunity to comment on the students’ performance, something the paper system did not offer.

“Now we get feedback from a lot of those activity contacts,” Mrs. Kelly said.

One new requirement put in place with the new system is the student reflection section. Students must write a short reflection each time he or she submits a service activity, recounting the activity and what the student learned from it. Mrs. Kelly said the reflections offer new insights into what the students are getting out of helping others.

“It’s been really interesting to read their reflections,” she said. “Something as simple as working a fish fry can show them what helping others means. They really are learning something from these experiences.”

The new system also provides access to a service hours transcript, which students can attach to college applications. The x2VOL also partners with Parchment, the school’s official transcript provider, and students can also request an official service transcript.

Another convenient feature is its ease to record recurring events. Instead of requiring multiple signatures on paper, the new system allows students to easily set up recurring events, which are automatically electronically verified after each date.

Mrs. Kelly said some students, especially those who are used to the former recording system, haven’t embraced the new app, but most of the students are grateful to have an electronic, simple system. The new system also offers a listing of service opportunities from which to choose, and non-profit organizations can set up an account and post service opportunities.

Mrs. Kelly herself benefits from the new paperless system, saving her hours of inputting service hours. Now she can spend that time finding “meaningful service activities” for students and “building relationships with area organizations to open opportunities for our students to serve there.

The implementation process is still ongoing, and students and parents are adjusting. Parents can no longer check Skyward to see the total number of service hours posted, but will need their student’s x2VOL password and login information to check the hours. Overall, students, parents and service organizations have welcomed the new program.

“This has been a need for a long time, so I’m so excited,” she said. “It’s going to be a positive change. It helps student focus more on the service itself than on the tracking. And it keeps them more accountable throughout the year.”

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Seniors prepping for two spring musicals

Seniors Kaleb Dunn, left, and Andrew Bittenbender are male cast members for all-girls school Sacred Heart Academy’s spring musical.

Preparing for the spring musical takes months of rehearsals to learn choreography and lyrics. It’s hard work for the entire cast, especially the leads. Seniors Andrew Bittenbender and Kaleb Dunn are committed to putting on a quality spring musical here – and at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville. Andrew is reprising his role of Jean Valjean in SHA’s production of Les Miserables, which debuts this weekend. Kaleb is Javier, Valjean’s nemesis. In the PHS production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew will portray Judas, and Kaleb, Caiaphas.

Andrew played Valjean last year and tried out for the role at SHA after his girlfriend told him the all-girls school was looking for male students to audition. Having played the role previously certainly helps him prepare, especially since he is rehearsing for two shows, but the SHA show is an updated version and some of the lyrics have changed. He also had to learn new staging.

It also helps that neither role has spoken lines to memorize, Andrew said. Les Mis is a sung-through musical, and Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera. The rehearsals are generally at different times, with PHS rehearsals after school for now, and SHA’s in the evening – but just a half hour in between. And the show will be presented over the first two weekends of our spring break, when the Superstar cast is on break.

Andrew and Kaleb rehearse a scene for Les Miserables, which opens this weekend.

Kaleb portrayed the bishop in last year’s Les Mis, so learning the lead role required more work. But the most challenging part was playing a role opposite his personality – in both shows.

“I’m a go-with-the-flow type person, so trying to figure out how to come across perpetually angry was hard,” he said.

But portraying that emotion in Javier does help him prepare for Jesus Christ Superstar in his role as the high priest.

“They’re both authoritative and angry with everyone,” he said.

Kaleb and Andrew said they have enjoyed working with the SHA cast and look forward to the show this weekend. For Kaleb, he likes the chance to meet new people. Here, he’s worked with the cast and gone to class with them throughout high school. But the SHA cast includes actresses from that school and actors from several other schools.

“It’s a pretty interesting group of people that got together for this show,” Kaleb said.

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Alumni police officer receives highest honor

LMPD Patrolman Kevin Pickerrell ’05, second from right, was one of two police officers awarded the Medal of Valor and the Distinguished Life Saving Award at the department’s 2017 Awards Banquet.

Kevin Pickerrell ’05, a patrolman with the Louisville Metro Police Department, knows it wasn’t just by chance that he was in the right place at the right time to save a woman from drowning last summer. God played a role in making sure he was available. And he responded as any trained first responder would, he said, wading into the water to render aid. He never expected any accolades for doing his duty, but he is grateful for the Medal of Valor and Distinguished Life Saving Award he received last week.

“It was really nice to get recognized for something that anybody standing there in uniform would have done,” he said. “It’s really nice to be recognized when we don’t do it for awards.”

He saved her because she was in distress and no one else was available, Pickerrell said. He and his trainee had stopped at Cox Park on the river in Louisville to allow the trainee to write a report. The park is in the Fifth District where Pickerrell patrols but not on his beat, which is slightly to the west of the park and is bordered by Mellwood and Zorn avenues, the river, and Payne Street. He was watching the boats on the river from the front passenger seat when he heard someone yell that a woman was drowning.

The woman was using a flyboard, which uses hydropropulsion via a fire hose connected to the base of a Jet Ski and a wakeboard to fly in the air above the river. As she waited for the wake from several boats to calm down, the hose had filled with water and pulled her under despite her lifejacket.

Pickerrell tried to radio for a river rescue crew from Louisville or Jeffersonville, but no one was in the area. So he radioed that he was going in the water. His trainee looked stricken and reminded Pickerrell that he couldn’t swim, a conversation that the two had had previously and Pickerrell had assured him was unlikely to be a necessary skill. Pickerrell instructed him to stay with his gunbelt, and he ran for the water. A fellow officer who had gone through basic training with Pickerrell had heard the call and by now was already headed for the water.

The woman was only a few feet from shore. As the officers waded into the water, the bottom soon changed from rocks to thick, deep mud, and Pickerrell sank immediately to his waist, and his fellow officer thought they may have hit quicksand. Pickerrell maintained traction by keeping one foot on the rocks so that when the other officer pushed the woman toward him, Pickerrell could grab her and get her to shore. He grabbed her in a bear hug, and the woman, who was conscious but not alert, came to and told Pickerrell she was dying, but he reassured her.

“I told her she wasn’t,” Pickerrell said. “I said, ‘No you’re not. Because if you’re dying, I’m dying with you, and you’re not dying today.’”

When he got to the shore, Pickerrell’s sergeant, who had also heard the call, was there waiting and pulled the woman up by her lifejacket. Pickerrell and his fellow officer emerged covered in mud, and Pickerrell had to drive home for a clean uniform – and with an amazing story to tell his wife, Erin (Hayes) Pickerrell ’05. Soon, Pickerrell was back on his shift. A few days later the story made it to the LMPD Facebook page, and then last week, he received the highest award a police officer can receive, the Medal of Valor, at the police department’s 2017 Awards Banquet.

A love for helping others

Pickerrell said it felt good to be recognized for the good that he does, but the smiles and thanks he gets from helping people on a daily basis are great rewards.

“Nobody calls the police when they’re having a good day,” he said. “Everybody calls the police on their worst day.”

As a patrolman, he is typically the first to respond to the scene and has witnessed homicides, car crashes and even a plane crash. The best part of his job is helping those in distress and getting them out of the dangerous situation, he said.

“I’ve been at some horrific scenes, but to be able to see them smile and get out of the situation that they’re in is the most fulfilling part to me,” Pickerrell said.

As for saving the drowning woman, he believes that he was meant to be at Cox Park that day. The park isn’t on his beat, and he doesn’t go there often. But that day, he felt the need to go there, and he knows God used him and his training because if he hadn’t been there, no other patrols or officers were close enough to hear.

“I’m a Catholic, and God plays a role in my life every day,” he said. “I don’t know if God told us to be there, but somebody directed me that something was going to happen. It was kind of a weird experience (upon later reflection). It all happened so fast.”

The path to policing

Pickerrell is in his seventh year as a police officer and is looking forward to many more years helping others. It’s not a job he planned, but he’s glad he was called to it, he said. He remembers talking to his mom, Mary (Goodman) Pickerrell ’68, after graduating from Providence about where he would go to college, a next step expected of all his family. They discussed culinary school because out of his five siblings, he was the one usually in the kitchen cooking alongside his mom. When he said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to work in a restaurant but preferred to be outside, she immediately responded that she didn’t want him to be a police officer.

So Pickerrell graduated from Sullivan University with a culinary degree and started as a line cook at the former Islamorada Fish Company in Bass Pro in Clarksville. Within a few years, he had worked his way up to general manager only to have the restaurant close. He was unsure where to go next, when a friend told him the Clark County Jail was hiring.

He said he fell in love with corrections and knew he wanted a career in law enforcement. He expected his mom to be upset that he was becoming a police officer, but she has been supportive and even asks her first grade students at St. Anthony of Padua in Clarksville to pray for him.

Kevin PIckerrell ’05 with his wife, Erin (Hayes) Pickerrell ’05.

Pickerrell said his faith and the support of his family, especially his wife, help him stay positive and deal with the stress of his job. Although he tries not to let the stress and the things he witnesses affect his home life, some days are tougher than others. On those days, Erin is there with a listening ear and is a willing prayer partner. They’ve prayed more than once for the people he’s encountered on his beat.

“She’s one of a million, that’s for sure,” Pickerrell said. “She’s everything to me, so the stress of the job, when I get home and I get my two kids running to me, it all kinds of fades away, and that’s the reason I’m able to continue doing what I do every day is because of my support staff at home.”

Ryan Pickerrell ’13, left, and Kevin Pickerrell ’05 are now both patrolman with the LMPD.

Brothers in blue

Pickerrell also has another listening ear, one who now understands exactly what he’s going through. His youngest brother, Ryan ’13, was inducted into the LMPD police force last year and recently started on solo runs. Kevin said he and Ryan would talk about his police work in the past, and Kevin could tell Ryan was interested, so he wasn’t surprised when his brother applied. Now that his brother is on the force, Kevin said it reminds him of how he first felt.

“He’ll call so happy and so giddy when he helps somebody,” Kevin Pickerrell said. “I can remember when I first started training. Now it’s kind of routine to me to help somebody do something, but to him, I can hear it in his voice how excited and happy he is to be able to help. Being the older brother, it’s kind of cool that he’s following in my path to join me.”

As for their mom, she has a second police officer in her prayers.

“He got the bug, and now mom has two of us,” Pickerrell said.

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Students pair vocational and Providence educations

Students with an interest in vocational subjects not offered at Providence such as engineering, nursing and culinary arts have an opportunity to take these classes at Prosser Career Education Center in New Albany. Students attend Prosser for half the day, either morning or afternoon, and Providence the remainder of the day.

For students like junior Daryl Hunton, who is studying culinary arts, it’s a chance to solidify college plans. Daryl’s Prosser classes also include restaurant experience. The cooking portion of the course includes preparing meals, including catered events, in the Prosser café. This semester, she has learned to cook on the front line and will soon be baking.

She said it was challenging at first taking classes on two campuses, but she soon adjusted.

“Now it’s easier because I’m only studying for two classes a day,” Daryl said.

Ten students attend Prosser Career Education Center for half a school day studying subjects from aviation to computer science.

Senior Stephen Schroering agrees that it seems intimidating at first, from being on time to his Prosser classes and keeping assignments organized for both schools.

“With how my schedule is set up, I have enough time to make it to my second school (Prosser), and I have fewer classes, so it is easier to organize,” Stephen said. “And for the time that I am at either school, I feel like I am given enough time to learn in each of my classes.”

Stephen takes architectural drafting and design, and he also likes the real world experiences. He has learned to use programs such as AutoCad, Solidworks, and Revit as well as the class’s 3D printer, which helps bring his digital designs to reality.

“It is very rewarding to see something I’ve created being used by others,” he said.

He plans to attend IUPUI and study mechanical engineering, and when he graduates PHS, he will have nine credits toward his college major.

“I already have a head start on what they will be teaching me in the future,” Stephen said.

Senior Ethan Barber also is getting a head start, even though his classes aren’t on the Prosser campus this year. He studied aviation at Prosser his junior year, taking classes from aerodynamics and to the history of flight. He also completed the FAA ground school, which is the first step in getting a pilot’s license.

This year, his Prosser enrollment gave him 10 free flight hours at Clark County Airport, which are worth about $2,000 and help with the 40-hour flight time requirement for a pilot’s license. He already has most of his hours in and expects to earn his license in a few weeks.

Ethan said he wants to become a pilot because his father and grandfather are pilots and own small planes. He also likes the freedom and peacefulness he experiences while in the air and hopes to become a professional pilot.

“It’s a perspective most people don’t get to see,” Ethan said. “And I get to go places people wouldn’t normally get to.”

His family’s plane can take the pilot and a passenger to regional destinations for a day trip, and his family has taken his grandfather’s plane on longer trips for vacation.

Ethan is considering flight programs at Indiana State and Eastern Kentucky universities. Or he may take business classes at Indiana University Southeast and take flight classes at Clark County Airport.
Other students in the flight program at Prosser include seniors Phillip Stoner and Frank Caylor, who are taking ground school classes this semester. Other students taking classes at Prosser include juniors Sam Hudlin (computer science/programming), Kaleb McCubbins (fire and rescue), Dylan Seals (welding technology), and Christian Weathers (automotive technology), and seniors Nathan Smith (diesel service and technology) and Jansen Tate (criminal justice).

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