Dearest SJA


Dearest SJA. My alma mater, my home, my sisterhood… any other cliche yet true saying you could come up with, that’s what St. Joseph’s Academy is to me. So I’m dedicating January’s TBT to the incredible place that made me who I am today. I made a little trip to school over Christmas break and made a point to go harass all my favorite teachers. But this post isn’t about redoing an old outfit or anything like I’ve done before, it’s more of a recognition to SJA and a little background check on me. There are so many things I would lack if it weren’t for SJA; character, charisma, a sense of humor, a bond that’ll last me and my graduating class a lifetime. I have SJA to thank for preparing me for the sorority life because let’s be honest, going to an all girls’ high school is absolutely no different from being in a sorority. SJA prepared me for college with its insanely challenging teachers, athletics, and expectations. I can’t even begin to fully express how thankful I am to have experience such an incredible high school… but the one thing I want to give back to it more than anything is my style. That might sound a little strange, but I owe it all to Mrs. Amy Neck and Mrs. Georgette Fontenot for helping me flourish. These two incredible woman are the ones who taught me how to sew, and as terrible as I was at first, they always believed in me. They saw my drive. And even though I don’t intend on being a designer, knowing how to sew and identify fabrics will get me very far in my fashion career. Learning how to sew gave me a new found appreciation and respect for quality; especially since I worked so hard to make something look so perfect and it just never would… being a perfectionist and all. Even something as simple as matching buttons to a button hole made me realize how much work people put into their creations. So next time you question why something is so expensive, consider how much time and effort was put into that single garment! And then walk away slowly and convince yourself that you don’t want it. Now if you need it, that might be a different story:) Anyway, I’m dedicating this post to show off my beautiful high school and the very room where my passion flourished. Also if any of you SJA seniors are going to see Mrs. Neck tomorrow, someone please show her this since she can’t figure out how to get to the site herself… I have so much love and thanks for that woman… I miss her crazy life stories! PS: in case you don’t know, when I say FACS, it means Family and Consumer Science. Or Home Ec.

So without further adieu, welcome to St. Joseph’s. (SJA alums, brace yourself for the nostalgia…and a lot of pictures. I went a little camera crazy)

First, I’ll start with a little tour of campus.

*ENTER ST. JOSEPH’S ACADEMY*

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Hey Meggy!!! She’s relevant later in the story.

Or as we like refer to it, “St. Broseph’s Fratcademy” (totally irrelevant, I just think this is too good to go unmentioned)

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Oh Fratboy Friday… nothing will ever top that day. Funday’s at SJA were the best. I think it’s safe to say that they prepared us all too well for frat/srat themed exchanges.

Also I promised a few of my favorite seniors that I’d give them a lil shout out. Kelsey, Brenton, and Ada… ILY never change 🙂

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Anyway… back to the grand tour.

This statue is extremely important to my family. The little girl in the wagon is actually my grandmother, Gigi. Pretty cool, huh? Before St. Joe’s became a high school, it was an elementary school, day care, and orphanage. My grandmother’s dad would drop her off there while he went to work. Gigi, my aunt Tena, and my mom all attended SJA and my sister Amelia is currently a sophomore there and my sister Elise will (hopefully) start the incredible journey that is SJA next fall. So basically this school runs through my blood….

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The one and only “pot” and the beautiful courtyards outside of the cafeteria.

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I’d say that the shield is the most sacred part of this school. It’s rumored to have the nuns who taught at St. Joe’s buried underneath it and if you step on it, you get in major trouble. Y’all, don’t tell anyone, but I accidentally stepped on it… Don’t tell Mrs. Harvison!

To my graduating class: we finally made it onto the office wall!

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*Shoutout to y’all for voting me for best style (I was gleaming with happiness)* Think I could put that on my resume?

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So about the four of us in the middle… Since ceremony seating arrangements are always alphabetical, obviously the four of us were put next to each other every time. This probably wasn’t the best idea considering Gabby (Ana) and I are probably two of the most emotional people in our grade. Yes, we did bring a box of tissues to graduation of stuck it in between us. It definitely came in handy. I miss messing around and making fun of the ceremonial systems with you three. Reunion with our dads soon?

Hey Bruins, WE’RE STILL ON THE BULLETIN BOARD!! DSC_0057

*ENTER THE SEWING LAB* aka where all the magic happened

See the lady in red in the back? That would be the woman herself, Mrs. Neck. Hard at work per usual.

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DSC_0011Allow me to explain the interestingly dressed mannequins… Every year, the junior class does a recycle project with the clothes they make. For my year, we collaborated with the advanced art students and made simple dresses out of canvas cotton. The artists painted on the fabric to make the pattern and we were asked to use an everyday item to put onto the dress. Me and Olivia LoCascio (my artist) did a multicolored ombre effect with paint pallets around the waist to look like a peplum! It didn’t exactly turn out like we planned… which is why I will not be showing you all what it looked like :). So this year, the students were asked to use household items for their garments. Girls used things such as ties, lampshades, and bauble wrap to create their outfits!

Below you’ll see my sewing machine. This machine gave me more trouble… or maybe I gave it the trouble? Either way, we made it through my first sewing class together.  I was so bad sophomore year. I mean I couldn’t even make two even stitches on a cotton skirt. My PJ shorts were two sizes too big and the waist band on the first dress I made was asymmetrical… Here’s the thing about FACS classes: you have to get accepted into the next level of the coarse. I was so terrible the first year that Mrs. Fontenot didn’t pass me to clothing construction… I literally begged to be moved up. Hands and knees. Bless you, Mrs. Fontenot, for giving into my excessive nagging, because without it I probably would’ve given up then and there. Then what the heck would I be doing with my life if it weren’t for FACS?

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DSC_0010Bailey in front of the lens for once… Believe it or not, she took this class too! After year one she realized the sewing life style just wasn’t for her.

So Meagan. My partner in crime for all things sewing. Me and Meg were such slacker’s in Neck’s class but we were her favorite’s anyway 🙂 As much as that woman picked on Meg’s spray tans or my lack of focus, she never fails to mention our sewing horror stories to her classes. Ironically, when we went to SJA to shoot this, we walked in right as Mrs. Neck was telling her senior advanced clothing construction class about what not to do and was using me and Meagan as examples. You’d think we’d be offended but we couldn’t help but laugh because our mistakes were so stupid. I’ll get into some of those later.DSC_0009DSC_0017

Meg slacking as usual… Mrs. Neck lecturing her for slacking as usual

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It felt so good to be back on a machine again. The class was making port pillows, which we do every year, to give to Cancer patients going through chemotherapy to provide them with a little more comfort. So of course, Meg and I couldn’t resist but jump in.

DSC_0030As you can tell, we were giddy after making just one stitch… Meagan sewed her’s on the wrong side, but what’s new? Much love Meggy 🙂DSC_0032

Look how proud Meg is for finishing her pillow! Good to know those three years of classes paid off, huh Meg?DSC_0033

In case you were wondering, yes, we did do some more advance sewing. The senior sewing class is given the opportunity to make formal gowns, so most girls make their prom or Honors Convocation dresses. Before the class gets started, we get to go on a field trip to one of the best fabric shops in Louisiana: Promenade’s. If you’re ever in NOLA and have a knack for sewing, GOOO. I was tearing up when I walked in… the fabrics are so beautiful. I was overwhelmed. It took me about three hours to decide on fabric and I totally went off the grid for which type of fabric would work best for my pattern (which probably explains why my dress ripped at prom…twice). Me and Meg claim to share a brain when it comes to fashion. This occasion proves it… we actually picked out the same pattern guide for our dress. You won’t believe it though, our dresses came out completely differently. The magic of making your own patterns. Me and Mrs. Neck reworked and remade my pattern guide at least four times and over the course of three months to come to the final product; I take immense pride in the dress I made so if you don’t like it, I don’t wanna know.

Here’s my fellow group of slacker’s in NOLA when we went to the magical world that is Promenade’s

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In process^

Now to that horror story I mentioned early… If anyone knows what a surger is, you should know that you DO NOT want to get the wrong part of your fabric stuck in it. Basically what this machine does is cut your fabric electronically, so there’s no controlling it or reversing it. On the day before the Style Show, I was surging my skirt and putting on the final touches. Right as I reached the area by the zipper, part of the skirt got stuck in the surger… there was a giant hole right in the middle of my butt. So I’m sure you’ve guessed that I had to basically remake my skirt the day before it was supposed to be presented. Death by surger. I cried, Neck screamed, we all pulled our hair out. It was fun. I spent the entire next two days in the sewing lab with Mrs. Weimer (Neck’s second hand man and my savior) trying to fix the unfixable. It must’ve been a Christmas miracle, but we did it.

So here’s the backstory to my dress: My favorite designer is Elie Saab and most of his creations involve tulle, floral appliqués, and elaborate skirts. And last February when Elie’s new spring line had just come out, I was totally obsessed and totally inspired. So I wanted to make a dress similar to his masterpieces. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary; most of the girls choose to make a simple white gown and add a cool belt to it. My goal was to make something totally different from the SJA sewing class norm, so I aspired for a full skirt, sleeves, and a low draped back. I found a pattern guide that seemed relatively easy to alter and started making some sketches. The guide called for a stretchy polyester. When we went to Promenade’s, I couldn’t find anything that I wanted except this gorgeous silk floral and a red raw silk fabric. So many ideas popped into my head so I begged and begged Mrs. Neck to let me use this tight material and she was very skeptical. After a million questions from the rest of the class, she gave in to me. Months and months of slaving over this dress eventually paid off. Meg took the correct route with the pattern guide and her dress came out to be sleek and sophisticated. Did I mention we used the same pattern?

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The final product was everything I had imagined and more.

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In lieu of making a formal gown, I was also in charge of choreographing the annual Style Show. The Style Show is the main event for all FACS classes. It’s when each class gets to showcase their creations and the entire school comes in for an assembly to watch. So basically, it’s a big deal. Boys from our brother school Catholic High are picked to dance and escort the girls throughout the show, and I had to manage ten of them… So allow me to brag about the wonders I worked on those boys. Teaching a bunch of non-coordinated stubborn guys how to dance is no cup of tea. I’ve tried every way to put the rough draft video of the opening number to the show on here, but it’s just not budging… So Mrs. Neck if you’re reading this, I still want a copy of the video of the show!!!:) Instead, here’s a picture of the whole crew. The opening number group and the whole senior sewing class.

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I couldn’t have done it without you crazy people. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for making my last Style Show the best one yet.

Anyone need proof that I actually wore my dress to prom? Here ya go

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My handsome date William above, and one of my oldest friends Hanna below IMG_1649Fixing each other’s makeup after laughing half of it off… that’s what friends are for, right?

So as a final note:

FACS class didn’t only teach my how to sew, it taught me how to dream. As lame as that sounds, it’s true! I was taught to use my imagination in ways I never had before and make my ideas into a reality. This was one of the few classes that inspired me and literally taught me how to be more creative. Every class at St. Joseph’s is going to benefit me in some way, but I truly believe this one will do so the most personally. When Mrs. Fontenot didn’t let me into the next level of the class, I realized how badly I actually wanted to be in it. So I promised her I would improve if she let me go to the next level and I did. I pushed myself harder than I had in a long time and was more dedicated to the Style Show and proving myself to them than anyone else in the class (senior year, that is). I would like to think that I made her proud for that. Mrs. Neck challenged me when she let me experiment with unordinary fabrics and personalized pattern guides, and I grew to earn her trust by running the beloved Style Show. That show became my baby… I could finally see why it was such a big deal to her. Her crazy life stories were indeed crazy, but they actually were extremely valid. She always found a way to make us laugh and inspire us in ways that no one else could. So I’m repaying her by paying homage and showing my love.

SJA, Mrs. Neck, mom and dad… I owe everything to you for getting me where I am today. I can guarantee that I wouldn’t be half as happy as I am or nearly as successful as I will be if it weren’t for this high school. The friends I made and the lessons I learned will stay with me forever. I know most people forget about their alma mater the second they graduate, but this is one place that I never want to forget about. I fully intend on always being a part of the SJA community, whether it be through my sisters, my obsession with band and Bruinettes, or through my own daughters when that day comes. I can honestly say that going to St. Joseph’s Academy was the best thing that ever has and ever will happen to me. This school and these teachers pushed me to reach my full potential, and even though I might have resented them for it then, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for it now. I love you Mrs. Neck and I love you St. Joseph’s. Thanks for everything.
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This article just came across my Facebook timeline… it’s spot on. If anyone needs a little more insight on what it’s like for us SJA girls and the adventure that is living a co-ed lifestyle, take a read. http://theodysseyonline.com/missouri/uniform-sweaters-big-greek-letters/84082

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2 thoughts on “Dearest SJA

  1. Marchand, I am so honored to have a blog in my honor. As a teacher you never really know if you make an impact. After reading your blog, I am speechless. Thanks for the dedication and your most generous comments. I know I will never forget this moment of reading my first ever blog and reading that its about me. Keep up your hard work. It will pay off. Mrs. Neck

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