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Team approach helps House of Courage succeed

Seniors Joe Gryboski and Zach Tackett make a good team as co-senior executive delegates for the House of Courage. They tend to bounce ideas off one another and take turns doing tasks that meet their different interests, Joe said. Joe is more analytical and serious, whereas Zach is more laid back and a bit of a jokester, and their different personalities provide a nice balance. Together, they hope to inspire their House to win the Third Quarter Points Race in order to compete in the House Cup later this semester.

Joe has previously served as sophomore and junior delegate to the House and said he likes being a senior House leader because it gives him an opportunity to meet and interact with students from other grades. If he weren’t a leader, he would be more likely to sit with his friends, but being a leader forces him to interact with others. He also is a member of the National Honor Society and was senior captain of the Boys Soccer team and was manager of the Girls Basketball team.

Zach previously served as social event coordinator for the House and said he likes being a senior delegate for the opportunity to help his House and its members. He also is on the Baseball team.

Zach said he is most proud of the Halloween party the House of Courage put on last fall. Members of the House donated candy to give to each student as they entered in the morning and helped decorate the student entrance.

Joe said the Halloween party and other events show how members of their House take part in activities. Recently, several members of the House attended a Thursday morning liturgy in the Chapel and enjoyed donuts afterward.

“It’s a lot of fun seeing different grades come together into a House,” Joe said.

Zach plans to attend Indiana University-Bloomington and hopes to major in mathematics with a minor in economics.

Joe is still weighing his college decision as he waits to hear back from Vanderbilt University, the University of Notre Dame, Washington University in St. Louis, and Johns Hopkins University. The Ohio State University and Purdue University also are in consideration, he said. He plans to study sports medicine or physical therapy because he would “like to help people for a living.”

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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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Freshman earns Eagle Scout, to bike border to border

Freshman Akhil Long has accomplished what only 4 percent of Boy Scouts do – earned his Eagle Scout rank. Akhil, who has been involved in Boy Scouts for five years, completed the steps to earning the highest rank in Boy Scouts, including earning 21 merit badges and organizing a service project. His project was redesigning the St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry at St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

Akhil spent three months planning the project, including raising $900 in donations from friends, family, and the St. Anthony Men’s Club. He also organized a group of volunteers who installed new shelves and painted the walls. The result is something he is proud of, he said.

“I feel like I did a pretty good job on it,” Akhil said.

Akhil said he plans to remain involved in Scouting with Troop 4010 out of St. Anthony because he likes the friends he has made there. It also has given him the opportunity to strengthen his skills and learn new ones. Over Christmas break, he attended National Youth Leadership Training sponsored by the Boys Scouts. He said he learned different ways to improve his leadership skills, how to work in groups, and to improve his teamwork skills.

But Scouting isn’t his only activity. He also is a member of the Track & Field team and will run sprints this season. He also likes to bike and has taken several long bike rides around the area. This summer, he plans to go further than he ever has before —  biking 1,500 miles from Tucson, Ariz., to northern Montana in three weeks with the Indianapolis-based bicycle club deCycles Indiana. The trip is limited to 40 people and includes 25 student-riders. This will be Akhil’s first long-distance cycling trip, and he said he is looking forward to it.

“It’s something not a lot of people can say that they did,” he said.

His mom told him about the trip, which starts in late June, after hearing about it from a neighbor who went. She encouraged him to apply because she knew he liked to bike, he said.

The trip will start in the Arizona desert, with biking limited to mornings and evenings. The second week, the group will bike through the Navaho Reservation and Zion National Park, one of nine national parks along the journey. The third week, the group will cross the Continental Divide and bike through Yellowstone National Park.

Akhil starts training for the trip this week with several of his friends who are going. They will train on their own (rather than with the Indianapolis cycling club) by riding around the area. In bad weather, he will ride a trainer he has at home.

He is undaunted by the prospect of three weeks on a bicycle because it’s an activity he enjoys.

“It has a bit of a challenge to it, and it’s kind of fun,” he said.

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Mrs. Bentley loves to teach, travel

Mrs. Elizabeth Bentley has seen a lot of changes in the classroom since she first became an English teacher in 1979. She started teaching in a school with the open classroom concept, and in the 1990s, she became a co-teacher of a classroom of 60 students. Her classroom now is fitted with an overhead projector and Apple TV, and her students access their textbook on their iPads. What remains the same is her love of her subject and teaching.

“I love the kids,” she said. “They keep you young. For the most part, our kids are really good, and they are just fun to be with.”

Mrs. Bentley previously taught in Illinois, Ohio, and Florida before coming to Providence in the fall of 2011, having moved to Louisville after marrying her husband, Jim. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in language arts from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and started out teaching junior high. She received her master’s degree in education from Ashland College in Ohio and her master’s in English from Governors State University in Chicago, her hometown.

At Providence, she started teaching junior high language arts and Honors English 9 and Honors English 10. She now teaches Honors English 9, Honors English 10, and English 10 and serves as the English Department chairperson.

Mrs. Bentley said teaching students today has its own set of challenges with their ready access to technology. For example, their emails and essays can sometimes be written in the same truncated syntax they use when texting and sending Snapchat messages. But students soon learn the difference, and she said she is pleased to see so many of her sophomores having improved writing skills from freshman year.

“I’ve seen a lot of student growth in writing,” Mrs. Bentley said.

Technology in the classroom does save instructional time, she said, because the students can access research material on their iPad instead of making multiple trips to the library. They can also type their essays on their iPad instead of in the computer lab, and they can readily create projects, movies, and Keynotes presentations on their tablets.

That same access, however, can be a distraction. Not only do teachers have to be vigilant about looking for students’ playing on their devices instead of paying attention to instruction, but the students also have even less desire to read books than in the past.

“They have to be engaged at all times,” she said, adding that the multiple apps alerting them continually of updates and messages also keep them from having free time. “If it was a choice of nothing to do, they might pick up a book,” but with cell phones in their hands, they rarely are disengaged from technology.

So Mrs. Bentley finds multiple ways to get them engaged, from having reading time in her classroom to encouraging them to listen to books on tape. She tries to find shorter novels and ones that will interest them. Then she assigns presentations, acting out of important scenes, and essays to help them use higher level thinking skills.

She also tries new techniques, such as chunk writing, one which the students grasped immediately when she introduced it recently, she said. The technique helps them include quotations and paraphrases in their essay assignments and analyze them, a good preparation for research papers and synthesis essays.

The implementation of BLUE Day sessions has been a positive educational concept, Mrs. Bentley said, and she is really pleased with the results. The PLC sessions with fellow English teachers gives them an avenue to share ideas and improve communication. For students, it provides a scheduled time for them to stop in with questions or to catch up on missed work after an absence.

“The kids like to know they can come in during that time,” she said. “They like having access to their teachers.”

Outside of school, Mrs. Bentley and her husband are working on their goal to visit every continent. Last summer, they traveled to South Africa, France and the Netherlands. Her favorite part of that trip was going on safari and visiting Victoria Falls, the largest curtain of water in the world and one of the seven natural wonders. This summer they will start out in California and then head to Australia and New Zealand. After that trip, the only continent remaining will be Antarctica.

“We love to travel,” she said. “If we’re not traveling, we’re planning our next trip.”

Four juniors named IASP Rising Stars

Four juniors have been named to the Rising Stars of Indiana Class of 2020 by the Indiana Association of School Principals (IASP). Zoe Libs, Maria Popson, Brynna Walthers, and Brigid Welch were nominated based on their academic rank. They each received a congratulatory letter from Rep. Trey Hollingsworth. Here is a Q&A.

Brynna Walthers
Activities/leadership roles: NEXGEN Leadership program, junior executive delegate for the House of Justice, Student Ambassador, SEAC, junior varsity Volleyball team, Green Dot and Pinterest clubs. Also volunteers at St Mary’s Continuing Education nights, New Albany Animal Shelter, Silver Street Soup Kitchen, and New Albany Public Library Children’s Department.
Favorite extracurricular: My favorite is being a part of the NEXGEN Leadership program, where I got a close-up look at how different area businesses work and met successful leaders in our community.
Goals for senior year and beyond? My senior year goals include deciding on a college that best fits my combined interests in law, history, government, and writing as I hope to be an attorney. I also hope to spend as much time with my family and friends as I can before I head off to college.
How do you represent the title of Rising Star? I try to represent the title of Rising Star by setting a good example in all aspects of my life–at school, in my sport, and with my faith.

Maria Popson
Activities/leadership roles: Girls Soccer, Girls Basketball, Girls Tennis, Popcorn Players, Spring Musical & other PHS theatre productions, St. Genesius Society, Student Ambassador, SEAC, junior executive delegate for the House of Integrity, lector, Spanish Club, Pinterest Club, one of three executive members and a founder of the Pro-Life Club, and applying to National Honor Society.
Favorite extracurricular: Not necessarily a favorite extracurricular because I enjoy all of them and they each play an unique role in my life; however, the one that most stands out to me at the moment is the Pro-Life Club. This club just got rebooted following this year’s March for Life. I was intrigued when freshman Andrew Singleton approached Brigid Welch, Elyse Kristiansen, and me to help start a Pro-Life Club at Providence. So, we contacted Ms. Monica Vander Woude, held a few short leader meetings among the five of us, and got the club up and running. I’m very excited for this club and its bright future. The potential for this club is beyond my imagination. And what makes it so great, especially this far in, is the great enthusiasm and participation of the members. This great energy fuels the club and inspires the leaders to work hard to keep the club going in the right direction. We are looking to get some students together to go pray outside the abortion clinic in Louisville for 40 Days for Life during Lent. I can’t wait to see what this club has in store for the future.
Goals for senior year and beyond? From a young age, I couldn’t wait to be a part of the Providence community. The past senior classes have set a high bar when coming to initiating participation in the school and at school activities. A huge goal of mine for senior year is to be a leading figure in the senior class to continue the Blue Pride tradition, whether that be in the hallway, in the classroom, on the court, or in the stands. Another goal of mine is to push myself senior year in order to prepare myself for college and beyond. As far as college goes, I’m still unsure of what I want to pursue. Right now, I’m considering some type of engineering because of my interest in science and math.
How do you represent the title of Rising Star? As a Providence student, I am held to a higher academic standard. Academics is definitely a high priority in my life. Although my schedule may be difficult at times, especially when juggling school and extracurriculars, I know it will help prepare me for college and the real world. I try to work hard and give 100 percent effort in every class, on every team, and everything I’m involved with. Of course, none of this would be possible without my great support system of family, friends, teachers, and coaches, and my relationship with God.

Zoe Libs
Activities/leadership roles: Math Team, Spanish Club, Cheerleader, SMK Cheer coach, and math tutor.
Favorite extracurricular: Cheerleading because I get to be involved in every sport at Providence and experience Blue Pride to its fullest as well as compete with my teammates. I also have the opportunity to share the sport with the elementary students at St. Mary’s of the Knobs as their cheer coach.
Goals for senior year and beyond? I plan to maintain my academic standards through my senior year and into college. I’m undecided on my major, but I plan on majoring in accounting, actuarial science, or engineering. I can’t wait to see where my Providence education takes me.
How do you represent the title of Rising Star? I have worked and will continue to work very hard to maintain my high standards in and out of the classroom. I try my best to be a leader and role model on my team as well as to my classmates.

Brigid Welch
Activities/leadership roles: Track & Field, Girls Basketball, Girls Soccer, Student Ambassador, co-president of the Pro-Life Club, and junior executive delegate for the House of Justice.
Favorite extracurricular: My favorite is the Pro-Life Club because I have very strong feelings against abortion. I went on the March for Life this year, which really inspired me and the other presidents (Maria Popson and Elyse Kristiansen) to start this club. Now we are able to spread what we learned on the trip and help the movement against abortion here at Providence.
Goals for senior year and beyond? My goals for senior year are to keep my grades up and enjoy my last year at Providence. Beyond Providence, I hope to attend one of the military academies and pursue an engineering degree.
How do you represent the title of Rising Star? My grades and schoolwork are very important to me. I always try to do my best on everything I turn in. I also like being a leader and helping as many people as I possibly can.

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House of Faith leaders make a good team

Seniors Megan Flanagan and Alex Henderson are used to working together as co-delegates for the House of Faith. Since sophomore year, the two have been sharing the delegate role and find it works well. Now as senior executive delegates, they have the chance to plan activities and motivate their House to get involved. 

Alex said the two have similar leadership styles, and when one has an idea, they discuss it before taking the idea to their faculty leaders. Megan said Alex is strong in her faith and contributes a lot to the House’s spiritual activities, and Megan likes to plan the social activities.

“We bounce ideas off each other to get a really good outcome,” Megan said.

Megan said she is most proud of the dance their House sponsored after the Fall Homecoming football game because it was well attended by the underclassmen and everyone seemed to have a good time. Alex said she was really proud of the House’s participation in the Spirit of the Season drive at Christmas because many of the students and faculty in the House donated money or time to allow them to get the gifts their sponsor family needed.

Next up, the House of Faith is planning to revive the Silhouette Stations of the Cross during Holy Week. Megan said she wanted to bring back the former House of Faith tradition because she remembers her brothers, Zack ’14 and Aaron ’16, talking about it. Megan added that her brothers are the inspiration for her getting involved in her House because of the things they shared when they were involved. And she hopes to plan House activities that inspire her housemates to share the fun they have with their younger siblings and keep the tradition going.

Alex also wants to set an example that will continue with younger members. She said she enjoys being able to share her faith with underclassmen in their House while also helping them have fun.

“It has been such a humbling experience leading the House of Faith this year because I have seen the work that needs to be put in to create the fun and productive atmosphere that the House system has fostered the past few years,” Alex said. “By leading this House built on faith, I hope that I serve as an example for younger students that it’s important to get involved and to share their faith with others.”

Megan also is a member of SEAC, National Honor Society, and Green Dot. She was a three-year member of the Volleyball team before a surgery sidelined her this year. She said her favorite is SEAC meetings with Dr. Mindy (Lankert) Ernstberger ’74 because she not only is able to have a hand in planning school activities but also she can make a connection with the adults in the administration like Dr. Ernstberger and get to know them better.

Alex is four-year member of Girls Golf, including three years on varsity; a member of the St. Genesius Society, on the executive council for Student Ambassadors, a student leader for Liturgical Music Ministry, a member of Providence Singers and the Popcorn Players, and outside of school, a part of the Youth Ministry Action Team (YMAT) with Catalyst Catholic (formerly known as New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries). She also has been involved with Book Club, Green Dot, Pinterest Club, and the Cheerleading team. She also is a cast member of the spring musical, Freaky Friday, something that means a lot to her because it’s her last show at Providence.

“It has been such an amazing experience to be able to perform for the Deanery schools and to perform in the beautiful Robinson Auditorium the past four years,” Alex said.

Megan plans to attend Indiana University-Bloomington and has received a direct admit to the Kelley School of Business in the entrepreneurship program. She said business ownership runs in her family, from her father owning a Chick fil A in Elizabethtown, Ky., to her brother Aaron starting his own catering business while he’s in culinary school. She and her brothers often talk about going into business together, so she looks forward to studying entrepreneurship in college.

Alex said she hopes to make her college selection in the next few weeks and plans to major in psychology and/or biology with the goal of continuing on to medical school in order to become a physician in neonatology or neurosurgery.

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Freaky Friday is comedy for all ages

“You just don’t understand!” is a common statement teenagers say to their parents – and vice versa. Freaky Friday the Musical by Disney gives one rebellious teenage girl and her stressed-out mom the chance to understand what the other is going through when they accidentally switch bodies for a day.

The musical, which opens Friday in the Robinson Auditorium, is a comedy that shows how Katherine and her daughter Ellie cope with the switch. Senior Regan Elias, who plays Katherine, said she truly enjoys her role because she gets to “play such contrasting parts in the same musical.”

Senior Jenna Kaiser, who portrays Ellie, said she enjoys the “dynamic of switching between the teen and adult,” a feat accomplished by the actresses adjusting their body language. Portraying the switch is harder than it sounds, Regan said.

“You have to take the mind of two different people and different stances and different body language as a whole because you are two very different people,” Regan said. “Going from an uptight mom who is stressed beyond belief to a teenager who hates everything — in a split second – is definitely very challenging.”

Jenna said she found it a little easier to portray each character because she sees herself as somewhere in between the two characters, so she can understand both.

“I can relate to the teenager, but she’s really rebellious, and I’m not,” Jenna said. “I can relate to the mom’s following the rules and doing what’s right, too.”

The comedy ensues as other characters interact with the characters and have no idea the mother and daughter have switched bodies, said sophomore Kieran Kelly, who plays Mike, Katherine’s fiancé. Mike is confused when his fiancé suddenly no longer likes him, and her daughter, who previously couldn’t stand him, is now nice to him.

“It’s odd because they are about to get married,” Kieran said of Mike and Katherine.

Junior Luke Rodski’s character, Adam, is Ellie’s boyfriend, and he undergoes similar confusion. Luke said audiences will find the show “intensely funny” and looks forward to putting on a show that will be seen in Southern Indiana for the first time at Providence,

While there are a lot of laughs, there are some tender moments too. Regan’s favorite solo is “After All This and Everything,” which she sings to Katherine’s sleeping son/Ellie’s brother while portraying the daughter.

“He has just come home after trying to run away,” Regan said. “I tell him about all the things I’ve learned from my 16 years on the earth, and I begin sing-ranting about all the bad and good I went through and how our family will get through whatever is thrown at us. It is a very touching scene and one of my favorites.”

Jenna said the music and dancing are her favorite parts.  She’s been taking dance her whole life, so she really enjoys “combining the musical aspect with acting. Adding the music helps give a lot of it more meaning and drives the points across.”

Freaky Friday opens Friday, March 1, with Premiere Night, which includes a pre-show reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Koetter Gym and the show at 7:30. Premiere Night is $40. All other shows are $15 for adults, and $10 for students through grade eight (which must be purchase by phone or in person). On March 2, March 8, and March 9, the show starts at 7:00 p.m. On March 3 and March 10, the show starts at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased online on the school website or by calling 812-945-2538 ext. 301. They may also be purchased at the box office prior to each show.

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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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Junior makes accordion his signature instrument

It’s an impressive but not too surprising a feat when someone teaches himself to play the guitar or the piano. After all, YouTube how-to videos abound, and those with a musical talent can pick up the skill fairly quickly. But junior Luke Rodski’s instrument of choice is more of a rarity. He taught himself to play the accordion this past summer and has impressed his classmates by playing it for school presentations.

The accordion had been his late grandfather’s, and after his death, the instrument was kept at Luke’s house. The more he thought about the bellows-driven musical instrument, the more it intrigued him, he said.

“I decided it was a really cool and unique instrument, and I wanted to learn it,” he said.

With no accordion instructors that he knew of, Luke turned to the internet and found charts that described the function of the multiple buttons on one handle. Then he found some sheet music – he plays piano occasionally – and taught himself how to play. Once he learned the basics, he began playing songs after hearing them, including a few polkas, music traditionally played on the accordion.

Usually he likes to practice daily, but since rehearsals began for Freaky Friday, he’s been busy preparing for the role of Adam, the love interest of Ellie Blake, the daughter who switches bodies with her mother in the Disney musical. When he has time, he also likes to play chess, either online or with his other grandfather.

Luke has played his accordion for a couple school events. He played “Frere Jacques” for his French class, and last week he played White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army,” a tune often played at sporting events, for the class video the juniors submitted for the Catholic Schools Week class video contest.

Playing the accordion has become a way for him to stand out, and he likes having become known for it, Luke said. Even more, he likes seeing how much he’s improved in the months he’s been playing.

“I really like music,” Luke said. “The learning and growing of playing an instrument from not knowing at all how to play to being able to play music on it – it’s fun to watch yourself grow in that way.”

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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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