Perrin Jones is St. George's Director of Middle School.
Ask any middle schooler what my favorite core value is. They’ll report I invoke perseverance at every assembly and in every announcement. I know I shouldn’t have a favorite value, but in a year that has challenged everyone to reimagine and revise schedules, curriculums and traditions, cultivating a growth mindset has become more important than ever. Perseverance is the backbone that gives us all the strength and flexibility to adapt and rise to the challenges that surprise us each day.
The annual 8th grade trip to our nation’s capital is a cherished tradition that many alumni consider their favorite St. George’s memory. As the week approached when we would have normally made the trip, our community sensed anew the loss of this tradition. So, as with most things in life this year, we had to become flexible adapters with regards to our DC trip. Putting our heads together we thought, “Let’s bring DC to StG.” And thus “#DCtoStG” was born.
We began by reaching out to the concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC. Michael Chase, Concierge Supervisor, set about helping us with a “reimagined DC trip” by suggesting online tours and exhibition highlights. He noted the National Cherry Blossom Festival would start and we could “Bring the springtime to NOLA,” ask our congresspersons as it’s part of their responsibilities as our elected officials and, last, but not least, reach out to Ben’s Chili Bowl, which we discovered can be delivered nationally. A delightful bit of insight, to say the least.
Several meetings ensued with Mr. Jessie Isidore taking the lead, as we worked through activities we might do that are at the heart of a visit to DC along with ensuring our history class content was coordinated with our adventure. We reached out to Erin Fell ‘08, St. George’s alumna, to ask about her favorite monuments, her preferred spot to grab a coffee or anything that makes DC special to her as she continues her PhD studies at Georgetown or reminisces about her trip in 2008, which she loved. And, as always, she pulled through and then some. Our students viewed “A Stroll through DC with Erin” to get acquainted with this lovely city overflowing with history.
As recommended by FSH Washington DC, we reached out to U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. who took us on a private tour of the Capitol created specifically for the students of St. George’s. His team, who helped him put together the nearly 18-minute video, said he was incredibly excited to do the tour, and it showed. With Dr. Cassidy leading the way, we walked from his office to the Capitol Building (by way of the United States Capitol subway system). Throughout the tour, Dr. Cassidy highlighted not only the art and architecture; he noted the historical significance of many spaces and artifacts (many specific to our great state of Louisiana). There were many parts of our special StG tour that were unique and would not have been available on a “general” tour. For example, using the spiral staircase shortcut is a privilege reserved for our lawmakers.
Click the image above to view our Instagram post, which includes clips from the video tour!
Did you know that there is a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service called SITES? We did not, and it was an exciting find to say the least. Our second day of #DCtoStG allowed us to transform our Salem Theatre into a Smithsonian museum exhibition, specifically the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign” which honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final and most ambitious vision-- a vision we are still striving to achieve today for equal access to economic activities and the American Dream. Mr. Isidore asked all of the students to find personal connection to one of the exhibition pieces to highlight the relationship between our students and our nation’s history.
This year, our visit to Arlington National Cemetery would have included the privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also visiting Lizzie Y.’s dad, who is buried in section 60, to pay our respects. As this was not possible, we spoke with Erin, Lizzie’s mom, who quickly agreed to put something together for our students; Lizzie gave a lovely, impassioned speech using these materials about the historical significance and her meaningful, personal connection with this part of DC.
At lunch on Wednesday, 8th grade students, wearing white, pink and/or florals, gathered for lunch surrounded by photography of DC’s incredible cherry blossoms. The same location was used for our very special delivery of Ben’s Chili Bowl for the next day!
On Thursday, our #DCtoStG journey came to a fantastic finish thanks to Ben’s Chili Bowl. Ben’s Chili Bowl opened on U Street 62 years ago and has been a pillar of the community ever since. They donated food to the Poor People’s Campaign in 1960 and the March on Washington in 1963, later receiving the prestigious James Beard Award (think Oscars in the foodie world) in 2004.
The StG team broke out the grill (thank you, Mr. Eric!), and our lunch program partners from Boucherie, Troy and Sara, were our grillmasters for the afternoon. Eighth grade sampled a delicious tasting of half-smoked sausages, chili and banana pudding. I think most students (and teachers) not in 8th grade were jealous due to the wonderful smells wafting through the courtyard. A terrific end to a terrific week with our reimagining of DC.
To our 8th graders who engaged wholeheartedly with each of our “visits,” thank you… I hope you enjoyed your D.C. to StG “trip” as much as we did. Sometimes a little bit of creativity (and perseverance, of course) results in an unexpected but thoroughly memorable experience.
- 8th Grade
- Core Values
- Middle School