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Vocal spray leads to new business for ’84 grad

Gina (Summers) Emerson ’84 didn’t intend to start her own company when she went looking for a natural, organic vocal spray. The person who had previously formulated one for her was retiring, so she turned to Rob Pappas ’85, Ph.D., a chemist with expertise in essential oils formulations. She had been reading about the benefits of CBD oil and followed his research on his blog for his company, Essential Oils University. She asked if he could create a spray combining CBD oil and essential oils.

After several different attempts and few “silly” names, Emerson said, the patented spray Vocal Gold, which contains 200 milligrams of full spectrum hemp extract, was born. Emerson was so impressed she asked him to create more formulations for her and in August started the company Dew Drops CBD to share them with the public.

Emerson said she wanted to add CBD oil to her vocal spray because she had read it helped reduce inflammation. As the lead singer in several local cover bands, she sometimes had to deal with strained vocal chords. And she was taking medication that dried her throat. The spray helped with those problems – and a few other unexpected benefits, from helping calm her nerves before going on stage to improving her health.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Emerson said of the vocal spray. “It’s not only helping with vocal chords, it’s helping with colds and coughs. It’s great for allergies. It’s better than we anticipated.”

Emerson said that in the few weeks her business has been up and running, she has built a client base of more than 100 people. Some Vocal Gold users have seen relief from acid reflux and irritation from radiation from throat cancer treatments.

The company must not claim that its products have any specific health benefits, per FDA rules. But clients using Dew Drops flavored CBD oil drops have seen benefits such as relief from anxiety and insomnia. The Royal Blue Super A.I., for anti-inflammatory, helps with chronic pain and inflammation. There even is a formula for dogs that has helped with seizures and anxiety from storms.

Emerson said she was compelled to start her own business after Pappas’ formulations helped her with her own health. She was on several medications for conditions from osteoporosis to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. After taking the essential oil/CBD oil formulations, she no longer needs any medications and her positive energy has returned.

“I’m off everything,” she said. “I tell Rob, ‘You’re my hero. You saved my life.’ Because he did.”

Pappas is an independent consultant formulator supplying the formulations for Dew Drops CBD. He uses a carbon dioxide extraction process to extract the “beneficial cannabinoids” from certified organic hemp without leaving any solvents behind, he said.

He began adding CBD oil to his essential oils formulations about five years after reading about its benefits, from controlling seizures to treating cancer.

“It just seems to have a lot of beneficial properties,” he said.

There are restrictions in the industry, including keeping the THC level in the hemp products below 0.3 percent, and those restrictions as well as restrictions in the banking industry put up some hurdles, but Emerson is moving forward because she has witnessed the products helping herself and others.

She has left her previous job as a certified medical assistant and focuses full-time on running her new company. She has a handful of employees and several partners, including alumni Marty Shireman ’78, Kim Karem LaPilusa ’84, and Beth (Crone) Jones ’84, among others.

The products are bottled and labeled in a warehouse in Greenville and sold online, and plans are in the works for a downtown New Albany store to open in a couple months.

Emerson said she is going on faith – and belief in her products.

“I’d never in my 53 years would have thought if somebody came up to me and said, ‘Gina, you’re going to own a CBD company,’ I’d believe them,” she said. “I’d have laughed in your face. But God has a plan for everything.”

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Brothers enjoy once-in-a-lifetime vacation

For the three oldest Harper brothers, finding time to spend together is rare. Tony ’02 is a data engineering manager at Facebook living in Foster City, Calif., Paul ’07 is a reconnaissance system trainer for Raytheon in Honolulu, Hawaii, after recently leaving a six-year career in the U.S. Air Force – most recently as an imagery intelligence analyst stationed at Osan Air Base near Seoul, South Korea – and Stephen ’13 is an English teacher at a private academy in Seoul. This past spring as Paul was considering leaving the military, Tony decided it was a good time to travel to Asia and see the sites with his brothers as his guides. They spent a week traveling, sightseeing, and enjoying time with each other, and all three treasure the experience.

“It’s sometimes difficult to get together, and we never know when our next chance will be, so I’m happy we had the opportunity,” Stephen said.

Stephen and Paul also enjoyed sharing their love of Seoul with their brother. They took Tony to the main tourist sites, from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea and the Korean War Museum to the Lotte World Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, and Olympic Park, home to the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Tony said he enjoyed the sights, meeting Stephen’s friends, taking photos around the city, and eating at many different restaurants.

“One of my favorite experiences was walking into an off-the-beaten path restaurant and the owner asking Paul and me if we were twins,” Tony said. “He was so amused to have three American brothers in his store and was amazed that Stephen spoke Korean so well!”

Stephen and Paul said they love Seoul because despite its size and population of 11 million people, the city is safe, the people are polite, and transportation is affordable and efficient, allowing them to easily travel from one area of the city to another. They also enjoy the metropolitan feel, which offers a varieties of cultures, food, and people.

“One of the best parts of living in Seoul is the food,” Paul said. “You can get anything ranging from Outback Steakhouse all the way to grilled squid the length of your arm from a street vendor, all of which is very delicious, although the more exotic dishes can be a little shocking for the uninitiated.”

Stephen said he likes meeting people from many cultures.

Stephen Harper ’13 teaches English in Seoul, South Korea, which gave him the chance to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“Aside from all the Korean friends that I’ve made here, I’ve also had the chance to meet and work with people from all over Europe, and through some of my Korean classes, I’ve been able to meet people from Vietnam, Myanmar, Russia, China, Mongolia, and even North Korea,” Stephen said. “Seoul is a hub for a lot of East Asian business and immigration, and the pop culture pulls a lot of exchange students and tourists who I get to meet sometimes.”

For the past two years, he has taught English as a foreign language (EFL), working in an English academy that the students attend for three to four hours a day after their regular school day, a job he really enjoys, he said. The South Korean school system is more intense than the traditional American system, and the students attend such academies several days a week, whether the English academy to improve their conversational skills or ones that offer math, computer coding, Chinese, and science.

“My job isn’t so much to teach them as it is to try and get them to talk, help them with their pronunciation and word usage, and most importantly get them to feel comfortable speaking English,” Stephen said. “A lot of them are very shy.”

He does share some of the same struggles that American teachers have in trying to interest his middle-school aged students in learning a foreign language.

“For the most part though, they’re very sweet and excited to be talking to someone from a different country, and they’re amazingly smart and talented,” Stephen said. “It’s truly amazing that I can have a near fluent conversation in English with a 12-year-old Korean student. They work very hard, and it definitely shows. They’re some of the smartest kids I’ve ever met.”

Stephen himself is a student of language, having been taking classes on how to speak Korean, giving him an insight into his students’ experience with him – and bringing amusement to his students when he practices on them.

“It’s fun to see myself going through the same mistakes and difficulties as my students go through while learning English, even though their English is way better than my Korean,” Stephen said. “Sometimes I’ll try to speak Korean to them, and they either laugh at me because of my accent or are totally amazed to hear a foreigner speaking their language. They’re also amazed that American students don’t have to go to after school academies every day and they’re very jealous.”

Stephen and Paul will miss living an hour away and being able to visit once a month, but Paul is glad to be back living in the United States if just for the option of being able to drive a car.

“Military personnel for the most part are not allowed to drive cars in Korea,” Paul said. “I missed the ability to jump in my car and go anywhere I want instead of having to wait for a train and stand amongst hundreds of people to get where I need to go.”

Paul Harper ’07 is returning to work in Hawaii, this time as a civilian.

For Paul, moving to Hawaii and leaving the military brings mixed feelings. As an officer, he had a sense of security knowing that his health insurance, housing, and ability to support himself were covered. He won’t have to miss the sense of community, though. Before his most recent stint in South Korea, he was stationed in Hawaii and worked at Hickam Air Force Base at Pearl Harbor, where he will now work as a civilian.

“Many of my old friends and co-workers will be once again working with me,” Paul said. “The biggest difference will be that I will be wearing a Hawaiian shirt on Friday’s instead of my military uniform.”

The people of Hawaii also have a sense of community that Paul felt a part of while he lived there previously. The awe of the beauty of the island may wear off over time, but the real reason to love living there does not, he said.

“What truly made me fall in love with Hawaii is the ‘Ohana’ culture,” Paul said. “Once you are welcomed into a community here, you are family. Life in Hawaii can be challenging, but people reach out to support each other with everything they have, even if they themselves don’t have very much to offer. This is a true definition of community, and it has captured my heart.”

Tony Harper ’02 and his wife, Anastasia, enjoy the sites in San Francisco, having moved to California after he was recruited to work for Facebook.

Tony is back in California with his wife, Anastasia. He moved to California last year, having been recruited by Facebook via LinkedIn. He previously served as data engineer for Humana in Louisville for 11 years, including modernizing its analytics systems. During that time, he had built up a network in Silicon Valley while learning a lot about software engineering and data warehousing practices, he said.

He likes the Facebook corporate culture, which encourages innovation, and is inspired by the opportunity to “work to solve problems that affect billions of people,” he said. The mild, sunny weather is great too, and he appreciates the abundance of opportunities in the STEM fields, but living in the San Francisco area where so many people have transferred in from somewhere he hasn’t quite found what Paul has in Hawaii.

“I still miss home a lot,” Tony said, noting that he’s able to visit about two or three times a year. “There’s something to be said for the close-knit community that I grew up in.”

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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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Miller named Boys Basketball head coach

Former Boys Basketball player and assistant coach Ryan J. Miller ‘99 has been named head of the Boys Basketball program with Lance Stemler as associate head coach. Coach Miller also played collegiately at Eastern Kentucky University. He was assistant coach here, as was Coach Stemler, under former coach Lou Lefevre. 

During Miller’s five years as assistant coach at Providence, the boys’ program experienced levels of unprecedented success, with a No. 1 state ranking, three sectional titles, and two semi-state appearances. The program also led the state in lowest defensive points-per-game allowed in Class 2A.

Coach Miller also was assistant coach at Floyd Central High School for five seasons. During that time, the Highlander program was consistently ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A. Coach Miller said he is grateful for the mentoring he received from both head coaches.

Coach Miller and his wife, Danielle (Himmelhaver) Miller ’99, and their three children are members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, where their children also attend school.

Coach Stemler played basketball at Gibault Catholic High school in Waterloo, Ill., and collegiately at Indiana University, where he was the team captain on a Top 10 nationally ranked team, and was recently inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame. He is married to Amanda (Loi) Stemler ‘05, and they have two sons. The family also are members of OLPH, and the boys attend OLPH School.

Coach Miller said he is excited to return to his alma mater as head coach, noting that his extended family — from his parents to their siblings and his own siblings – all are Providence graduates.

“Providence is our community,” Coach Miller said. “I’m just glad to be back here. I have a great deal of pride for the entire New Albany Deanery and Providence.”

Coach Miller and Coach Stemler are looking forward to coaching together again and leading the boys’ basketball program.

“We look forward to bringing a great sense of pride for our players and the community and how we play and represent the program,” Coach Miller said.

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’61 grad prizes Honor Flight experience

When Bob Petraits ’61 applied to take part in an Honor Flight, which provides veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War with a free one-day trip to Washington, D.C., to tour the city’s war memorials and nearby Arlington National Cemetery, he never thought he would be selected. Most of the recipients of the trip are World War II or Korean War veterans, so he mostly forgot about it.

In March, he was thrilled to receive word he was selected to be a participant in May on Honor Flight 30 out of Indianapolis. Petraits had been to D.C. with his wife, Gayle, a few years ago, but that trip could barely compare to the Honor Flight he just took.

Petraits said he did indeed feel honored at every step of the trip. The day started with breakfast in a high school gym accompanied by his oldest daughter, Amy, as his guardian. (The program requires a veteran to have a younger family member or friend to accompany them on the trip and assist them as needed.) The 85 veterans and their guardians took a bus to the airport, where they sailed past security and immediately boarded their flight.

“What was so neat was we didn’t have to wait on any lines,” he said. “We just walked right through and got to our plane.”

The group arrived in D.C. at 8 a.m. and were immediately welcomed as heroes.

“When we got off the plane and got into the concourse there, there were people lined up on both sides cheering us,” Petraits said. “That was kind of awesome because if you ever talk to any Vietnam veterans when they came back to the States, it was the exact opposite. … So having people on both sides, you walk down the middle of them, and they would cheer us, they wanted to shake our hands. I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool.’”

The participants then boarded charter buses with a police escort that got them through any congested traffic and to their stops on time. The veterans visited the World War II Memorial, and many of them, including Petraits, had their photo taken next to the Indiana pillar. Eleven other Honor Flights from other states also were there that day, and those members took photos at the pillar representing their state, Petraits said.

Next, they visited the U.S. Air Force Memorial and saw the garden dedicated to those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon – two places Petraits had not seen on his prior visit. Then they toured the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, featuring the flag raising at Iwo Jima. Petraits was a Marine, doing one 13-month tour in Vietnam and being honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1967. They also visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial.

Petraits said he was glad he had more time on his first visit to the Vietnam Wall to locate the names of friends killed in action in the war. The second trip was still meaningful, especially since the majority of the veterans on this Honor Flight were fellow Vietnam veterans. The most touching experience was their visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.

A primary reason veterans are accompanied by a younger relative and not their spouse is so their guardian can push the veteran’s wheelchair should he or she get tired and need a break from walking during the whirlwind tour, Petraits said. He wondered how many veterans would need to have wheelchairs in Arlington due to the distance of the tomb from the parking lot. Much to his surprise, however, the group was delivered by their charter bus right to the steps at the foot of the memorial.

Even though it was his second trip to the tomb and witnessing the changing of the guard, he said he was still struck by the solemnity of the occasion.

“It brings tears to your eyes,” Petraits said.

By the end of the day, the group was exhausted, and about half of the veterans had resorted to wheelchairs, he said. But the honors weren’t over. As the group got ready to board the plane, each veteran was handed a large manila envelope stuffed with letters written by family as well as strangers. Petraits said he spent most of the return flight looking through the letters and several more hours the next morning.

The biggest surprise came at the school where they had met earlier that day. When they drove up, two fire trucks with ladders extended held a huge American flag. Then, when they entered the school gym, he was overwhelmed by the families, friends, and strangers welcoming the group back to Indianapolis. His daughter carried an oversized cutout of him in his Marine uniform as he entered the gym with his name announced over the loudspeaker.

“I almost broke down crying because it’s so overwhelming,” he said.

Petraits said he is very grateful to the Honor Flight program and the chance to visit D.C. with his daughter on her first trip to the nation’s capital. He has two other children, a son and a daughter, and five grandchildren plus his wife’s five grandchildren. So getting to spend time with her alone was special.

“It was good education for her plus we got to spend some quality time together,” he said. “It was just good for both of us to be together, and she could enjoy it just as much as I did.”

Petraits spent most of his life in the Indianapolis area. He grew up in Speedway, a suburb on the west side of the city, until his father was transferred to New Albany, bringing him to Providence as a sophomore. His family moved back to Indianapolis while he was still trying to make his way through the University of Cincinnati. He left college after his sophomore year and within six months received a letter he should report for his physical for the draft. A friend convinced him to visit the Marines recruiting office, and although his friend wasn’t accepted and was later drafted into the U.S. Army, Petraits did enlist and was later stationed in Vietnam.

After returning to Indianapolis, he eventually settled into a career driving 18 wheelers over the road and locally while also operating a Christmas tree farm in Pittsboro with his first wife, who passed away just prior to his retirement in 2000. He said going through her death was difficult on him and his children, who were then in their 20s, but they were able to work through it. He met his current wife while he lived in Florida, where he moved after selling his interest in the tree farm. She convinced him to move back to Indianapolis several years ago, and they stay busy visiting their children and grandchildren.

As for the Honor Flight, it’s an experience he will long treasure.

“It was just a memory I’m going to have the rest of my life,” Petraits said. “I feel lucky I was able to get to go.”

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Class of 1969 hits $50K milestone

The Class of 1969 set new heights for class endowment fundraising efforts in honor of its 50th reunion. It is the first class to raise $50,000 for its class endowment fund. The goal was to accomplish that by May 22, the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Providence graduation, and the class met its goal.

Tom Raidy ’69, Jerry Wayne ’69, and Dottie (Galligan) Zipp ’69 were instrumental in leading the charge to meet the $50,000 goal. They are pleased that their classmates rose to the challenge and believe it is a testament to the cohesiveness and specialness of their class.

“I feel very happy and proud to be a member of the Class of 1969,” Raidy said. “It is full of great people and we had an amazing class president and lifelong friend to all of us, (the late) Mike Naville (’69). We have had great turnouts to the reunions over the years, and the classmates seem to have remained good friends regardless of time and or distance.”

Naville continued to lead the class long after graduation, and his classmates followed his example of his support for Providence. And they continue to do so after his passing.

“Mike was a kind and generous man, and I think it spread throughout the class, so, I’m not surprised we made the goal,” Raidy said. “I believe Mike is looking down with a huge smile. Reaching the $50,000 goal and being the top donating class during our 50th anniversary year shows the rest of our fellow alumni what we already knew – the Class of ‘69 is a great class made up of very good and very generous people.”

The class has several other leaders as well. Raidy credits Diane Lander-Simon ’69 with sparking the initial class endowment fundraising efforts at the class’s 40th reunion. Lander-Simon told her classmates that their endowment was below $5,000 and encouraged them to donate. They responded, and within a decade, donated more than $40,000 to reach the milestone amount today.

Wayne agrees with Raidy that their classmates’ generosity is a testament to the special quality of the class.

“The class of 1969 was always special,” Wayne said. “We heard it from teachers long after we graduated. Being the first class to hit $50,000 is another example of the uniqueness of this remarkable group of fine individuals. Mike Naville … led by example, and a lot of us give him credit for holding us together, and he would be so proud of this benchmark we’ve achieved.”

Zipp said she is pleased to see her classmates continue to support the school she loves so dearly. Her love for Catholic education began with her parents, who valued it highly, sent her and her siblings to the old St. Augustine School in Jeffersonville and to Providence. She would have attended Bellarmine except it didn’t offer her major, physical education and health. So she attended the University of Louisville and was hired to teach P.E. after earning her degree. Her goal was to “build sports programs for girls from scratch” to give them more opportunities than what she had, “to be a cheerleader or a tennis player,” she said. 

“I worked to get basketball, volleyball, and softball teams started,” she said. “Fast forward to now, and I want anyone who wants to attend Providence to be able to. My parents worked hard and sacrificed to put six kids through Catholic school, and I hope everyone in the Class of 1969 appreciates the sacrifices their parents made for them and will contribute.

“I am so happy our class has met its goal because as a teacher at Providence, I personally taught many children of my classmates and I got to see the success of future leaders of our community. We need to keep Providence thriving in our community.”

Twenty percent of the Class of 1969 made contributions to help the class get to $50,000, and Wayne, Raidy, and Zipp want that number to grow to 50 percent participation in honor of their 50th reunion – and to meet their next goal.

“Now that we’ve hit $50,000, I say let’s get to $69,000, and let’s do it quickly,” Wayne said.

While Providence has made great strides in building the school’s overall endowment fund, it stands below the objective of reaching $3 million set forth in the Endowing the Future campaign. Endowment funds are still invested for growth in the short term, but in the long term, the plan is to use them to address the ever-present need for financial assistance and fortification of teacher salaries. If your class is not “on the board” in class endowment efforts, it not too late to get started. You can benefit from a challenge gift that will match the first $500 raised and also contribute an additional $500 if the total has reached $4,500.


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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?
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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’91 grad to teach at international Jazzercise event

Stacie (Fleshman) Barnes ’91 fell in love with Jazzercise the first time she tried it more than 20 years ago, and now she is celebrating her 20th anniversary as a certified instructor along with the 50th anniversary of the dance-based fitness company. Barnes also is a Jazzercise franchise owner and will be part of the company’s international celebration in June as an instructor for its East vs. West program.

Barnes will be one of many presenters at the company’s 50 Years Strong Celebration in San Diego, Calif., which will include two full days of exercise classes for Jazzercise instructors and the public. She was selected after submitting a video of her instruction technique and is honored and thrilled to be a part of the event, she said.

“I’m just really excited,” she said. “Being up in front of thousands of people will be a way different experience than being in front of a class of 40 or 45 people.”

Barnes is confident she will be well prepared for the large class because Jazzercise will provide her with the music and choreography, just as the company does for all the routines taught at its 8,200 franchises worldwide. She also will receive free exercise wear and likely a pair of athletic shoes. She has attended several events for Jazzercise instructors over the years, but this is her first time to lead a class.

Barnes attended her first Jazzercise class in 1998 in New Albany at the invitation of her friend and classmate Tricia (Stiller) Kirchgessner ’91. Immediately, Barnes loved the dance-based fitness program. Within a year, she went through the training process and auditioned to become an instructor at the owner level because she saw the advantage of owning her own franchise.

After teaching in downtown New Albany for a while, she opened the first Jazzercise franchise in Corydon at the historic Leora Brown School. She taught classes three days a week as the site’s only instructor. After 18 months, though, she decided she wanted to return to college. Having previously received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University Southeast in 1995, she enrolled in the University of Louisville to study speech and language pathology.

While she was taking college classes, Barnes continued to teach Jazzercise as a substitute instructor. Then came an opportunity to become an instructor at a Jazzercise franchise in Prospect, Ky. She had moved to Louisville by that time, so she took on that role. When the owner wanted to sell the franchise, she realized she missed owning her own business and took advantage of the opportunity in June 2008.

In late 2011, she purchased a second franchise with the intention of merging the two locations. Operating two locations meant she had to hold classes on separate nights so that she could be at each location, even with other instructors to help teach. Merging, however, allowed her to increase the number of instructors and the number of classes offered. Additionally, the Prospect location was in a church basement, and signage ordinances prevented her from posting a sign on the exterior or in front of the building, so growth there was limited to word of mouth.

“It just made better business sense,” Barnes said.

With that purchase, she decided to lease space in the Holiday Manor shopping center on Brownsboro Road in Louisville. Signing a lease was a big step up from renting a room in a church basement and a bit intimidating, Barnes said. The lease was for five years and a commitment to build her business to make the monthly payment.

“I had to take a leap of faith, and I had to say, ‘I want this,’” she said.

Her Jazzercise Louisville East Premier Fitness Center has been a success from the beginning. It’s location in a highly visible and high traffic strip mall attracts plenty of new customers, she said

“That’s been a key component to our success,” Barnes said.

Three years ago, she bought the Jazzercise Jeffersonville Fitness Center, located on 10th Street next to Maxwell’s House of Music. She owned both locations for a little over a year until her husband lost his job and she needed to take on a second job to help out. She sold the Jeffersonville location but continues to operate the Louisville East location.

Barnes said she loves being a part of the Jazzercise company and being an instructor. The company provides marketing materials and administrative support as well as choreographed lessons and music. Each class is tailored to target various muscles and provide aerobic exercise in a fun atmosphere while offering low to high impact options as well as strength training. Thirty new choreographed lessons arrive every six weeks, which keeps the routines and music fresh for students and instructors.

During her two decades as a certified instructor, Barnes met and married her husband, Chad, and had a daughter who is now 11. For a time, her husband, who is a ballroom dance instructor, also was a certified Jazzercise instructor at her fitness center. She hopes someday her daughter will join her as an instructor and maybe even take over the business.

Barnes also is an assessment coordinator for the Jazzercise Training & Development Department. She views submitted videos of instructors around the world and offers coaching to help them improve their technique. Being able to talk with instructors from other countries, people she never would have met otherwise, is just one of the many things she loves about her business.

As for the 50 Years Strong Celebration in June, Barnes and her family are looking forward to making it a vacation. And she is looking forward to teaching in front of her peers. It’s the culmination of all her efforts over the years, doing a job that doesn’t feel like work.

“I absolutely love Jazzercise,” Barnes said. “I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s been with me 20 years. I found what I love.”

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