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At this year’s Homecoming game on October 8th, we were excited to have our alumni family back on campus. At halftime, we had the honor of inducting several more of our Hall of Fame Athletes. The alumni athletes are the cornerstone of the Nashville Christian School athletic program. We were excited to celebrate many of the athletes from the 90’s in a special induction ceremony. See those most recently inducted below:
Mark Smith - Golf
Scott Moss - Football, Baseball
Tim Cooper - Football, Track & Field
Jay Harris - Football, Baseball
Jeremy Moore - Football, Basketball
Chris Amonette - Basketball, Football
Byron Page - Football, Baseball
Brandon Shanks - Football
Jody Duncan - Wrestling, Football
Stephen Elizer - Football, Baseball
Chris McCall - Football, Basketball
Jon Parsons - Football
Shane Sanders - Football
Brad Shanks - Football
Brent Morris - Football
Patrick Moss - Football, Basketball, Baseball
Kerry Byrum - Football
Winston Gaffron - Football
Michael Perkins - Football
Craig Bedore - Golf
Justin Graff - Football
Mike Mundy - Football
Ryan Perkins - Football, Track
Drew Tyner - Football, Basketball
Josh Vanatta - Football
Our next induction ceremony will be on January 14th between the boys and girls basketball games vs. DCA. Stay tuned for more details on that event!
We recently began a new program to bring some of our alumni back to campus to speak to our students about their experiences and successes. In March, we invited Ray West, a graduate from the class of 1984, to speak with our seniors on the topic of, “The Perfect College Student. In his time at Nashville Christian School, Mr. West made three trips to the State Finals in track and participated in the State Wrestling Tournament twice while also being a part of a successful football team. Currently, Mr. West owns his own financial firm, Rayburn West Financial, after being an original founder of Pinnacle Bank and working in other financial institutions. It was great for our seniors to hear insight from Mr. West about his success over the past 30 years in the financial industry. He shared tips for our seniors that they can use during their college years to set themselves up for success in their careers. We will have more alumni on campus in the near future and look forward to the information that they will share with our students.
NCS will be hosting our 11th Annual Hoops "4" Hope Pink Out on February 4th during our basketball game against Goodpasture. Funds raised during this event go to help someone in the NCS family who is battling breast cancer. This year, we have two NCS alumni as our beneficiaries, and we thought you might like to know a little more about these courageous women you will be helping. Here are their powerful stories:
Lindsay Loring King (class of '95)
In 2014, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy and went through chemotherapy. By the middle of 2015, I was in remission. There was no cancer showing anywhere in my body. I continued to go to my oncologist every 30- 60 days, and everything was great!
In October of 2017, I went to my oncologist for my routine appointment, and an ultrasound was done, which showed that the cancer had returned. It was in the same side and had also spread to lymph nodes. My oncologist was blown away because of the fact that I have no family history, my age is fairly young, and I had a double mastectomy and the strongest chemotherapy that I could have had in 2014-2015. I began treatment in 2018, and in February of 2019, a pet scan was done to see if anything had spread, and to determine if I would be a candidate for surgery. The pet scan showed that the tumors were all the same size, maybe a little smaller. My oncologist then submitted my case to the "tumor board,” a team of surgeons. They said that I was not a candidate at that time because of the size of the tumors. I started on new medications and then in 3-4 months they wanted to do another pet scan.
On June 13, 2019, I had another pet scan, and that was the time I got the news that no one wants to ever hear. My cancer had spread to both lungs. My cancer is not operable. I have stage 4, terminal metastatic breast cancer that is in my breast, lymph nodes and both lungs.
I will continue treatments for the rest of my life. I have four children, and that is why I fight every day.
Mallie Wilson (class of '11)
I graduated from NCS in 2011. I now work with a therapeutic foster care agency as a case manager, and I love it!
I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer July 3, 2019 and immediately started treatment. I have been going through chemo since then and now have my surgery scheduled for February 5th (lucky timing, right? lol). I will be having a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
I can remember cheering at these games when I was a student at NCS, but I never imagined I would be so personally impacted by breast cancer myself. I am so grateful to this school and all the things they do to help the community. Thank you so so much again for thinking of me! Y’all have no idea how much this helps!
We will have several opportunities for you to give a donation the night of the Pink Out. We will have a soup supper beginning at 5:00pm and continuing throughout the games until we run out. We only ask that if you choose to eat, please leave a donation in the bucket. We will also play the Heads or Tails game for an awesome prize during halftime of the girls game. Tokens will be sold for $10 for your chance to play. Last year the prize was a 32” TV! If you can't make it to the game, please consider making a donation to help these young women by clicking here.
If you would like to add a friend or family member’s name to the game program please email Ashley Page their information. We will have a section for survivors and those who have lost their courageous fight. Please also let me know if you are a survivor or know of a survivor that will be coming to the game. We would like to make sure to honor everyone!
If you would like to be a sponsor of this event, please contact Ashley Page at firstname.lastname@example.org or 356-5600 ext. 114. Any donations are greatly appreciated! Thank you for continued support!
15 days. 47 people. Innumerable hours traversing Ireland and the United Kingdom by bus. Less than innumerable bathroom breaks. Nashville Christian students, teachers, parents, and faculty set off to Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales this summer to explore some of the notable sites these countries have to offer. Here’s what you missed on the 2019 NCS International Trip.
We started off in Ireland on a tour our bus driver Francis called the “ABC tour” (another bloody castle tour). We saw many castles, all of which were striking and worth exploring. To get a unique view of Ireland we did a jaunty tour at Killarney. We piled into the horse-drawn carriages and enjoyed picturesque views of the Irish countryside. The color green seemed different in Ireland: brighter, cleaner. No one could deny how beautiful the country was.
After our adventures in Ireland, we took a ferry to Wales. We went to an unfinished castle and struggled to find a staircase that actually led anywhere. Getting lost in a castle in Wales was a treat. Speaking of treats, at nearly every stop, somebody (or everybody) bought some ice cream. This sweet treat was the featured dessert of our trip. It seemed like every city had the best ice cream in the world.
Now in the UK, we boarded a new coach and started our trek. We drove through Wales and stopped a few times to enjoyed the views before we arrived in Edinburgh, our home for the next few days. With our free time in the city, we shopped, hiked, and ate. A few of us climbed Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano. Our tour guide Margaret left us for a few days to have tea with the Queen. We helped her with her fashion choices before the big day, too. Personally, Edinburgh was one of the best stops for me, and I really enjoyed goofing around with friends and teacher. That was the best part of the trip, honestly. I was able to bound with my old teachers on a more personal level and also got to know people from school that I had very few interactions with before this.
In the last days of the trip we saw Stirling Castle and Windsor Castle. We also explore Anne Hathaway’s cottage and Shakespeare’s birthplace, as well as English poet William Wordsworth’s house and garden. I loved seeing the homes of people I have learned about in history and English class. It was a fascinating way to connect the past to the present. Walking Wordsworth’s garden, I understood why he was inspired to write so much poetry about the value of life and living it truly. I never wanted to leave.
All in all, this trip was one of the best of my life. I got to bond with everyone, and I saw some of the magnificent wonders this world has to show us. It inspired me to keep exploring. I encourage you to go on one of these trips. I learned a lot about the United Kingdom and its history, but I learned even more about the people I so often interact with without truly getting to know. I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who can take advantage of it. I’m truly glad that I did.
Mike Campbell, Chairman of the Board for NCS, first joined the board in 1992. He graduated from NCS with the great class of 1979. His children graduated from NCS as well, Leah (06) and Jake (09). Henry, his grandson, is also presently attending the preschool. Mike got a BS in electrical engineering from TSU and has spent his entire adult life in electrical construction. Presently, he is the vice chairman of Enterprise Solutions, LLC. We recently interviewed him about our new mission statement.
Describe the process of developing a new mission statement.
As NCS has grown and changed, so has our school mission statement. The former mission statement was intentionally focused on demonstrating the love of Christ. It was extremely important to the Board to embrace that Christ’s love is foundational to everything. If our students, teachers, staff, and families looked at all relationships through this lens, then it would effectively impact the focus of our campus which in turn effectively impacts our spiritual formation. As a school, we had to decide who and what is NCS. The board of directors, school administrators, and focus groups went through this period of growth and reflection together. I think the mission statement we adopted at the end of this process states exactly what we strive to be and achieve at NCS.
Why was it important to include the words Christian, authentic, and dynamic?
I think Christian is what NCS strives to be to our core. If we don’t start there and make that our main principle, the rest of the mission statement is almost meaningless. To me, authentic tells everyone that NCS understands who NCS is; we are proud of that, and we don’t want to be any other school. Dynamic speaks to forward movement, high energy, and effectiveness, a force that affects change. Nashville Christian always seeks to pursue excellence in every area to continuously improve and provide students with the highest quality educational experience to prepare them to be global leaders. As the school’s leadership has grown, I marvel at the talent and godly people we have leading the school. Every person works to make each student, from preschool to high school, a Christian, authentic and dynamic person, and it shows any time you step on this campus.
What changes have you seen at Nashville Christian School since you have been a part of it, and how have you participated in affecting change?
My brother Mark (‘78), sister Mindy (‘80) and I started at NCS when we were still in the West Nashville Heights Church of Christ building. My father was chairman of the building committee when we started the process to build a new school building. We spent a lot of weekends along with other families working on clearing the property. All the kids worked, but also had a lot of fun playing when our parents weren’t watching. I remember the groundbreaking for every major building we have and enjoy seeing the campus continue to improve. I am very excited about the possibilities of more buildings to come in the near future. I mentioned the leadership of the school earlier, and I know they are the right group to lead the school and continue to grow what is a wonderful Christian culture on our campus. If I just stay out of the way, Connie Jo Shelton and the leadership will keep making NCS exactly what our mission statement says we strive to be.
Our new mission statement states that we are equipping students to be global leaders. As a graduate of NCS and business owner, how are you a global leader?
Webster’s dictionary defines global as “relating to or embracing the whole of something or of a group of things.” Global leaders are not only focused on their own interests but have a genuine interest in impacting their surrounding community and society as a whole. They understand that while personal success and prosperity are important, what you do with it to help others, and the imprint you leave on the world is what makes a true leader. I think my parents and NCS instilled in me a foundation of thinking about the whole instead of myself. As a business owner, you must look at what is best for the company and the people working with you before worrying about yourself.
What do you think NCS students need to become global leaders?
To become a global leader, NCS students need a curiosity about the world around them and a desire to continue learning and use what they learn to affect change. By following the examples of their teachers, coaches, and the leadership at NCS, an NCS student sees and is taught what it is to think globally instead of only thinking about themselves. Through differentiated instruction in the classroom, multiple enrichment clubs and activities, athletic teams, the fine arts and service opportunities like Kathy Overbay Service Day and international mission trips, the NCS graduate is well equipped to be a global leader.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with NCS alumna, Sarah Willmore, class of 2013. Sarah was very active in her class at Nashville Christian. She was an Alpha Omega, played soccer and cheered. Sarah is now a teacher in Marshall County and was voted Teacher of the Year! She was also working the day of the Marshall County shooting that killed two students and injured 18 others. Here's what she shared with us:
How/when did you make the decision to become a teacher? Where and what do you teach?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. When I was a senior at NCS I started considering special education. I went on the New York mission trip and asked to be placed in a special education room and instantly fell in love! I went back with the group a few times and still keep up with the teacher I was paired with, who even helped me get the job I have today! I loved seeing how inclusive NCS was with students of all abilities and wanted to bring that same atmosphere to low income public schools. Right now I am teaching 2nd and 3rd grade special education in Marshall Co., Kentucky. I teach individuals with a combination of intellectual and behavior/mental health disabilities.
How frightening it must have been when you realized there was an active shooter at the high school in your county! We heard you knew the boy. How has this affected your day-to-day life?
January 23rd was absolutely the scariest day of my life. I was walking in the hallway that morning and greeting all of the children. Our school is a bus hub for the entire county, so high schoolers get dropped off at our school to get on the bus for the high school. Looking back, I don’t remember noticing Gabriel Parker, and that makes me feel very guilty. I just remember around 8 o’clock when we usually start the pledge and dismiss the children to their rooms, I saw teachers running down the halls. They were in tears and they just kept screaming “there’s a shooter”. At first I was very confused and had no idea what to think. I didn’t know if they meant in our building, or what was going on. Once we kind of got an idea about what was happening, we had no clue of the severity. Teachers were still trying to get ahold of their children that were there, and no one knew that nearly 25 kids were shot until about 10:00 A.M. We also were told that there could potentially be more than one shooter since it was unusual that so many students were shot and only one hand gun was used. Of course, that was just a vicious rumor that started over social media, but it was horrible to sit there for an entire day not knowing what was going on. Many of our students had relatives that were shot and we were not allowed to tell them what was going on. My kids kept asking, “did something bad happened, why are so many kids leaving school”. And you just had to tell them that they were safe right where they were. This event changed my life in a lot of ways. First of all, it made me realize that I am not only committed to teaching these kids every day, but I also am volunteering myself to protect them when they enter our school building. What is happening in this world inside our school buildings is beyond scary. We have several parents in our district that are extremely violent, and some of my students are too, and make constant threats to themselves and others daily. I have learned to be vigilant and always take threats seriously. I pray that our students with mental health needs get the help they deserve in our school system before it is too late! The event has also just shown me that life is often way too short.
On a positive note, you were voted Teacher of the Year! Being a first-year teacher, how has this impacted you?
I was beyond excited to win Teacher of the Year! For me it was a way of God telling me that I am exactly where I need to be, changing the lives of these sweet students. There were days where I felt like giving up, or felt unsuccessful. The kids are hard to deal with at times and unpredictable due to the nature of their disabilities, even being violent at times. There were days where I went home covered in bruises and bite marks, crying about how difficult my day had been. The parents are very unreliable and in horrible situations too, and social services often doesn’t help us out as much as we would like. I had one student who had to receive a full set of dentures at nine years old because his personal hygiene was so neglected. Then there were days where I felt like if I gave up I would be abandoning my students. This school is 99% below the poverty line, so I often buy materials for them, including basic needs, out of my own paycheck. It is tough and exhausting, but then something makes it all worthwhile like a student finally mastering a standard they’ve been working on for weeks, crying when they have to leave your room, or just running up and giving you a hug. It was humbling to know that my hard work and dedication to these students didn’t go unoticed. I love being the person in the lives of my students who they can rely on, and I am 100% confident that I am where God wants me to be, serving the students of Benton, KY.
What are some special memories you have of NCS?
I have more special memories at NCS than I can count. I went to NCS from kindergarten all the way up to my senior year of high school. When I was in elementary school, my mother was battling breast cancer, and we were overwhelmed with the support we received from my school family. We were so well taken care of, and that is a big reason on why I want to take care of my students during their hard times. I have never forgotten the outpouring of love and support I received, and it has inspired me to act the same in the lives of my children. From grade school on up to high school, my best memories are with my best friends Emma and Amanda who I still talk to almost every single day. They were the biggest blessings in my life, and still are! I am so thankful that NCS gave me my forever friends. All of my college friends have always said “I never stayed close with anyone from high school,” and I feel so lucky that I have. My graduating class was the most tight-knit group I have ever known to come out of a high school. I still talk to many of them daily, and even spent a lot of time with them this weekend or any time that I am home. I am so thankful for my NCS family and know they will be in my life for many more years to come. Of course many of my other smaller memories also surround cheerleading and soccer, traveling to New York city to represent NCS in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and going to New York for the mission trip.
How did your time here affect your life and decisions you have made?
I am very thankful for the time I had at Nashville Christian. The values that they planted in us are still deep in my roots. I think that the largest lesson that I got from Nashville Christian that is still very much present in my life is to serve others, and to live with a serving heart. I believe that God’s love is best shown through the service and love that you give unto others. All throughout college, and now in my adult life, I have shown the love of Christ to others, specifically to those who are less fortunate with severe disabilities and little to no family support. Students with special needs, or anyone with special needs, are often not sure of their own worth. Showing them how they are fearfully and wonderfully made spreads beyond just the individual that you are motivating. Then it inspires them to serve Christ through serving others in their own ways! Nashville Christian prepared me not only in my spiritual life, but in academics too. I felt way more prepared than my peers going into college, and thanks to Mr. Atkins and Mrs. Harper, I was able to whip out a college paper with no complaints! Nashville Christian shows you how to set a strong work ethic! If it weren’t for the hard-working academic skills I developed at NCS, I don’t think I would have had the motivation to complete two bachelor’s degrees in only four years!
Is there anything else you would like for us to know about you?
My teaching degrees are in elementary education (K-5) and special education (K-12). I plan to remain in Kentucky while completing my masters in Functional Mental Disabilities and then move back and bring my teaching talents home to Nashville! In college, I helped an individual with Down Syndrome open her own fashion boutique in Murray, Kentucky and worked under Anthony Kennedy Shriver for Best Buddies Kentucky and Best Buddies International Young Leaders Council.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with NCS alum, Ryan Turbeville, class of 2005. Ryan played football and was the president of the senior class, salutatorian, and voted "Most Likely to Succeed."
What is it like to be in real estate and development at this time in Nashville?
Real estate in Nashville is highly competitive. It's getting harder and harder to find deals where the numbers make sense. Someone told me a long time ago that they made all of their money on the deals that they didn't do. I try to keep that in mind and not be over eager or too leveraged. It's important now more that ever to work with a professional who can help you navigate tough negotiations and multiple-offer situations.
What sets you apart from other agents?
My team is consistently one of the top five teams in the nation for RE/MAX. We do that by utilizing the latest technology and not being afraid of change in an industry where many still cling to the status quo. A small example of that is that I shoot all of my listings in virtual reality so that out-of-state buyers can view the property just like they were there. Also, being a developer I have a better grasp on urban neighborhoods, construction, zoning/land use, and investment principles than a typical agent.
You recently presented an affordable housing solution at Pitch Nashville and won. What can you tell us about that?
The only real way to create more affordable housing is to drastically reduce the cost of building a home. This can only be done through innovation, but the current system makes it almost impossible. My idea is to create a prize where teams from throughout the world could compete to build a prototype that would solve this. The prize would be land donated by the city and $10 million raised privately. The city would also need to create a zone where existing building codes and regulations don't apply, allowing the freedom to innovate. If you provide people with the freedom and the incentives, then innovation is possible.
What impact did NCS have on you?
I made many lifelong friends at NCS. I was not only prepared for college in the classroom but through sports and other activities I learned what it was to be successful as a man.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us...a memory at NCS, those who influenced you the most...anything at all?
I have too many memories to pick just one. I would like to say thanks to all of my teachers and coaches for all they did for me and apologize for the times I had a little too much fun at their expense.
On July 27th, a memorial was held at NCS for Drew Wilkerson ('06). Drew passed away on November 28, 2016. Friends and family gathered on Keeton Field including Eric Vick '06, Luke Jenkins 05', Rachel Markin 06' and Ashley Coleman 06’. Because of Drew’s great love of Nashville Christian football, they spread his ashes on the 50-yard line. Following that some beautiful butterflies were released in his memory. Rachel Markin had the following to say about her good friend, Drew:
"Andrew Wilkerson, known as Drew to all of us, was one in a million. He was a loyal friend who loved music and movies and jamming to tunes in his Jeep. When I think of Drew, I think of a man who loved Jesus and who had a servant heart and wanted to help others. I think of him inviting me to church and always offering to hang out. He never chose to leave people out, or to treat them badly. He loved his parents and sister and his friends with all his heart. Drew had a smile that I'll always remember until we all meet again. We love you, Drew. You are never forgotten."
The Nashville Christian Skeet and Trap Team currently has two High School Squads and one Middle School Squad which consists of 11 student shooters. All squads are focused on the sport of trap shooting. The team has been shooting each weekend at either the Nashville Gun Club or Montgomery County Shooting Complex. These shooters shot several weekends in April in windy, rainy, cold conditions. They are dedicated!
NCS will be represented at this upcoming weekend's TN Scholastic Clay Target Program (TNSCTP) Regional Shoot. The high school will have one team consisting of Nate Lewis, Chase Morris, Luke Robbins, and Nathan Gaidos, and the middle school will have two shooters, McClure Gill and Devin Ray.
In late June, the TNSCTP will host the TNSCTP State Shoot. SCTP Teams from all over the state will compete. Shooters must have certain qualifications to shoot, and our team members are currently working toward the qualification goals. The team’s goal is to represent NCS at the SCTP National Championship in Ohio. There are college scholarships and lots of opportunities to grow with the sport.
This program is all about discipline. All shooters are required to have passed the TWRA Hunters Education and several safety meetings prior to getting on the range. Our shooters have really bonded and work together as a team. We have parents, grandparents, and friends come out weekly to support the team. Mr. Carlucci is the only NRA Certified Shotgun Coach currently, but this fall NCS parents Randy and Kathy Gaidos (Class of '92) plan to be NRA Certified Shotgun Level 1. This will allow the program to expand as there must be an NRA Certified Coach on the field at all times. Currently, Mr. Carlucci and Mr. and Mrs. Gaidos spend about three hours at the range each week working with the shooters. They hope to have multiple squads in trap, skeet and possibly sporting clays as well in the future.
Anyone interested in joining the team in the fall needs to pass the Hunter's Ed class over the summer. You will also find a sign up table with more information on registration day in August. The team plans to shoot on Sunday afternoons at least once a month in the fall. We look forward to watching this great new program grow! You can view their full schedule by clicking here.
We recently spoke with NCS alumna Lisa Frensley, class of 84 about her memories of Nashville Christian and how she is now giving back to her Alma Mater. Lisa books Disney vacations through a company called Ears of Experience, and will give 10% back to NCS for anyone associated with our school.
What impact did NCS have on you?
NCS was a major part of my life from 5th grade - 12th. My Uncle, Ronald Harris, was the Headmaster during that time so my family was very involved to say the least! I feel it was such a well-rounded education book-wise in addition to our chapel services each Wednesday, the athletic programs, and the many caring teachers and volunteers who helped teach me in those critical formative years.
Have you stayed in touch with any friends or faculty from NCS?
Yes-Facebook has allowed me to be in contact with many friends!
Tell us about Ears of Experience and what it is like booking Disney trips.
Ears of Experience is a reputable travel planner agency authorized by Disney to book and plan trips. It is the same as booking a trip directly with Disney; however, you receive all my concierge services at no charge at all. The tips I give you are tried and true from all of our agents. We will save you time standing in lines at the rides and provide you with the best restaurant recommendations for families as well as adults only! I have been a planner all my life, and booking Disney vacations is a passion for me. I love making others dreams come true.
What is the benefit of booking through Ears of Experience versus directly with Disney?
Ears of Experience gives you all of the experience of over 200 agents to provide you with tips, tricks, and helpful hints as well as saving you money. If Disney specials come out, we can adjust your package to save you money in that way. Even if someone has booked their vacation through Disney, if it is in a 30-day window, they can contact me, and we can transfer it to Ears of Experience with no charge for my services. Also, you are connected to me directly and can contact me quickly via text, email, website or phone call to make a payment or ask questions. I also provide you with a typed itinerary with your dining, fast passes and tips such as the best area to stand for the parade, best bathrooms for families and so much more!
What is the best way to reach you to start booking a trip?
I can be reached in whatever way is most convenient for you - cell phone, text, email, Facebook or website. Here is my contact information:
Cell number: 704-324-1534
Facebook: Lisa Phillips, Ears of Experience
Can you tell our alumni about the partnership between Ears of Experience and Nashville Christian School?
I'm so excited about beginning this journey with NCS and Ears of Experience. When anyone books any kind of Disney vacation (Disneyland, Disney World, a Disney cruise, Adventures by Disney, Disney Aulani (Hawaii), Disney Hilton Head) and they contact me to book their trip, I will send 10% of the sales profit from each trip back to NCS to use however they choose!
You mentioned that you also do wedding planning. Do you have any memorable stories?
My wedding planning business, Best Wishes, includes many memorable brides and their families. One of my most memorable was planning for the family of a past Olympian who medalled in the Equestrian events and has a statue of himself at Churchhill Downs where the Kentucky Derby is located.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I'm excited to partner with my alma mater and to be able to give back a portion of all that was given to me over the years at NCS. The memories of my small 40+ graduating class are something that can never be taken away or replaced. We were such a close-knit class back then, and it was an education that I don't believe could have been achieved anywhere else. I'm truly thankful my parents enrolled my sister and me there.
Cassi Wright began mastering her artistic talents starting in the 6th grade at Nashville Christian School. Since then she has earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, finishing with her senior thesis, The Hallowed Woods. NCS Director of Alumni Relations Karen Whelan recently caught up with Cassi to talk about where her passion for art is now taking her...
I looked at your thesis on your website, cassiwright.wordpress.com, and am fascinated with how you combine your art with your faith. Can you share how this came to be?
My faith was increased when I started having dreams at night from God. I knew these dreams were from Him because scriptures would be spoken to me in the dreams. The art I make comes from being inspired by what I learned from studying these scriptures. The dream that inspired my senior thesis was from a scripture I had never read before. In this dream I was walking down a narrow path lined with tall trees. It was sunrise, and light was peeking through the treetops. I could smell a strong scent of cedar, and I heard a man’s voice behind me, and he said, “This is the glory of Lebanon” over and over, and I repeated that phrase as I walked. I woke up from this dream feeling inspired and curious about what was spoken to me. I immediately looked up the phrase and came to find a specific passage from the Bible: The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. —Isaiah 60:13 This word gave meaning to what I had seen in the dream and inspired my writings on my senior thesis. My senior thesis writings and research can be found at cassiwright.wordpress.com
I noticed your most recent medium of art is pyrography? Tell us about that.
I am a self taught pyrographer and I have been using this medium for almost 12 months now. Pyrography is a combination of greek words that mean “writing with fire." I have found the practice is very similar to the process of painting with water color. Just like in watercolor painting I build up layers of shading with pigment I also build up layers of burn in pyrography. I was able to pick up the practice of pyrography so quickly because I had spent so much time doing water color paintings. I found the practice after having the Isaiah 60:13 dream. The dream made me want to work with all kinds of wood and in researching art practices that use wood pyrography resonated with me the most.
Do you have a favorite medium?
Pyrography is by far my favorite medium. I love the different wood grains I get to work with and the smell of the burning wood. But this practice has meant so much to me because I am getting to work with fire. Why fire resonates with me is because of my belief about baptism. In Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 we are told that our Messiah will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. What I love so much about this verse is I get a picture of how baptism should look. That this baptism changes everything and my life will never look the same. It is like in pyrography once fire touches the wood it is changed forever, there is no erasing with this practice. I think about a forrest fire. When we see forrest fires we think about loss. But something pretty incredible happens after that loss. Everything touched by the fire bursts with a new life. Our life in the Holy Spirit should look like this where the old self is changed by His fire and new life in Him can begin. We cannot remain the same if we experience His purifying fire through the baptism of His Spirit. I believe that this is how the life of a Christian should be. I love Pyrography because the process reminds me of my baptism and how change by fire is irreversible.
Is your art on display anywhere?
My series, "The Hallowed Woods”, will be on display in the Brentwood office of Dr. Joseph Mclaughlin, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University and Child Psycologist.
What impact did NCS have on you?
There are a lot of ways NCS has impacted me.
One of the ways was NCS encouraged me to become a master in my talent. I was allowed to take art everyday from 6th-12th grade. Not many schools let students customize their schedule to their interests, I am extremely grateful that they recognized my talents and allowed me to pursue them during the school day.
Have you stayed in touch with any friends or faculty from NCS?
I have stayed in touch with Donna Torrez and see her as someone who has discipled me in faith and practice as an artist. I have always been inspired by her walk and ability to hear Holy Spirit in her day to day life. Donna was the first person I encountered who as an artist used her work to spread the good news. Studying under Donna gave me a desire to hear the Holy Spirit in my own life and invite Him to work through my art.
What lies ahead for Cassi Wright and Cassia Tree Studio?
What lies ahead for me is putting all of my time and energy into my work through my business Cassia Tree Studio. I am self employed working full time doing creative jobs like custom painting, woodburnings, photography, logo design and Illustration. I have been asked to display my work at different conferences and churches in the U.S. and I plan to travel and do those for a while. I find a lot of joy in meeting new people and sharing my creative experience with them. I love the connections that I make and the stories people share with me about how Holy Spirit speaks to them. My heart’s desire and what I am saving up for is a trip to Israel. I would like to set up a creative space there to raise up the next generation in creating art from a relationship with God’s Spirit.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us...a memory at NCS, those who influenced you the most...anything at all?
There were so many incredible people who impacted me at NCS it would be hard to write about all of them. The best way I can think to do it is by sharing a few names of some staff members and a word about what I learned from them.
- Donna Torrez- A lifestyle of Worship and communion with the Spirit
- Kristen Hooper (Brown)- Praying through the scriptures, Asking God for Wisdom (lesson on Solomon in 7th grade)
- Greg Hines- The Value of Researching the Scriptures, Having a voice and answer to why I believe what I believe
- Brian Tipps- The value of asking good questions and searching out others hearts
- Stephanie Harper- Story telling and developing my voice in writing
- Karen Shivers- Finacial responsibility and Planning, Strategy
- Natasha Fincher- Endurance, goal setting, and work ethic
- Mr.Carlucci- the value and power of story telling and memorization
- Eric Fruechtemeyer- Authenticity and Honesty
- Connie Jo Shelton- Passion and Vision
As Director of Development and Alumni Relations, I was excited to get the chance to interview 1978 graduate, Maggie Weatherman when she recently visited our campus for the baseball team's Salute to the Troops.
LUMINOUS: It was so nice to meet you at the NCS baseball game honoring our military. I believe you were the only Colonel present. What inspired you to join the military?
MAGGIE: My father, a career Air Force pilot and Silver Star recipient, was my main inspiration. Growing up a military brat gave me an appreciation for the military.
LUMINOUS: Tell us more about your military career.
MAGGIE: I entered the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corp in 1988 and was stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina as a 1st Lieutenant JAG. I soon found I loved being in the courtroom and trying cases. I served as a prosecutor, defense counsel and senior defense counsel while on active duty. I also met my husband who was an active duty pilot. After having my first child I went from active duty to the Reserves. While serving in the Reserves I’ve had 14 different assignments, deployed to the Middle East, traveled all over the world, tried many cases as a senior attorney, and met lots of amazing people. It’s been an incredible journey. I am extremely blessed to have had so many great opportunities and develop so many lifelong friendships.
LUMINOUS: In addition to your career, you also coach a swim team and a mock trial team. What else do you enjoy doing?
MAGGIE: I’m involved with my church and really love working in the children’s ministry. I’m involved in some local organizations and enjoy helping the kids in our community. I enjoy working out, running 5ks, gardening and traveling with my husband and daughters. And in the fall, I enjoy Tennessee football!
LUMINOUS: I enjoyed taking you on the tour of our campus. I know a lot has changed since 1978! What was it like being back on the Nashville Christian campus?
MAGGIE: It was definitely a trip down memory lane. It was great being back in a place with so many fond memories.
LUMINOUS: How did attending NCS impact you?
MAGGIE: During my Junior year we had a teacher, Mr. Widick, who took us through the book of Acts. Studying Paul, his love for Christ and his unending perseverance still impacts me to this day.
LUMINOUS: You mentioned that you plan on being an annual donor to NCS, which we greatly appreciate! Can you share why you feel it is important to support NCS?
MAGGIE: First I want to thank the baseball coach the team and the fans for honoring veterans. It was a very humbling experience. Second, it was such a blessing to hear the heartfelt prayer before the game. With so many schools being forced to erase all mention of Christianity, I believe it is extremely important to support schools that proudly proclaim they are Christians.
We always love to see our students graduate from Nashville Christian and go on to have great careers, make a difference in their communities and start families of their own. We love it even more when those alumni bring their children back to NCS for their education! Here are the current students we have that are children of NCS alumni.
Front Row - Isabella Overbay (Jason Overbay ’83), AJ Page (Byron Page ’93), Henry Simpson (Brett Simpson ’90 and Candace Walker Simpson ’90), Ethan Porter (Eddie Porter ’92), Ryleigh Lane (Jason Layne ’01), Adelaide Brasel (Lauren Waller Brasel ’99), Halle Bishop (Brian Bishop ’91), Sam and Addy and McWright (Matt McWright ’02 and Trisha Stephens McWright ’00), London Biggs (Jennifer ’01), Emily Woodard (Leslie Meadows Woodard ’03), Jordan Thompson (Jennifer Meadows Thompson ’99), Bridget Page (Lee Page ’98), Griffin Smith (Mark Smith ’79 and Yvette Pratt Smith ’87), Luke and Logan Page (Lee Page ’98), Kameryn Bishop (Brian Bishop ’91), Peyton Woodard (Leslie Meadows Woodard ’03), Justin Littrell (Ben Littrell ’96 and Julie Webb Littrell ’96), Kenedi Garton (Heather Holt Garton ’01), Daniel Duncan (Jody Duncan ’94)
2nd Row – Abbie Page (Byron Page ’93), Hope McWright (Matt McWright ’02 and Trisha Stephens McWright ’00), Brittan Jarrell (Kim Cross Jarrell ’90), Sadie Smith (Mark Smith ’79 and Yvette Pratt Smith ’87), Amanda Breeden (Troy Breeden ’86), Tristan Hogan (Paul Hogan ’88), Hannah Henderson (Joey Henderson ’95), Aubrey Page (Byron Page ’93), Lynlee Page (Lee Page ’98), Julia Thompson (Jennifer Meadows Thompson ’99), Sophie Barlar (Jerry Barlar ’81), Roger Sauls (Roger Sauls ’81 and Deborah Sexton Sauls ’83), Kaylee Sparks (David Sparks ’85 and Angie Wooten Connelly ’85), Catie Palmer (Kenny Palmer ’79), Amber Bishop (Steve Bishop ’86 and Darlete Downey Bishop ’88)
3rd Row – Ben Simpson (Brett Simpson ’90 and Candace Walker Simpson ’90), Stetson Marlin (Brian Marlin ’85), Sonja Shelton (Greg Shelton ’83 and Connie Jo Keeton Shelton ’83), Gordon Sheucraft (Derrick Sheucraft ’82), Tristan Goad (Kelly Goad ’85), Jeremy Coleman (Becky Inman Coleman ’89), Austin Shelton (David Shelton ’88), Kyle Travis (Shawna Bennett Travis ’94), Jaden Barlar (Jerry Barlar ’81), Hendrick Shelton (Greg Shelton ’83 and Connie Jo Keeton Shelton ’83), Maverick Marlin (Brian Marlin ’85), Hayden Jarrell (Kim Cross Jarrell ’90), Sam Palmer (Kenny Palmer ’79), Austin Bishop (Steve Bishop ’86 and Darlete Downey Bishop ’88), Nathan Gaidos (Kathy Spray Gaidos ’92), Paul Hogan (Paul Hogan ’88), Emily Bartlett (Bart Bartlett ’81), Brady Simpson (Brett Simpson ’90 and Candace Walker Simpson ’90)
Not pictured: Karmen Drake (David Drake ’87), Kayli Mothershed (Nina Ray Mothershed ’93), Cassidy Moore (Bo Moore ’87), Ashlee Duncan (Jody Duncan '94)
Though Laurel Frazier graduated from Nashville Christian School in 2009, she has continued to be a familiar face around campus. From aftercare to summer camps to substitute teaching and now as a student teacher in Mrs. Overbay’s first grade class, Laurel serves her alma mater well. We recently spoke with Laurel and asked her about her experience at NCS and why she decided to come back to do her student teaching with us.
We are excited and blessed by your return to Nashville Christian as a student teacher. Share what led you to choose a career in education.
I actually started off in nursing and decided that is not what I wanted to do. So, I moved back home and started working in the aftercare program at NCS. Then I started to sub and realized that I really enjoyed subbing. I think subbing was the turning point of when I decided I wanted to get my degree in education.
We are honored that you decided to do your student teaching at NCS. Why did you decide to come back to your alma mater?
Nashville Christian has always been a home to me. I feel very comfortable and knew that I would get the support I needed. I started off working in aftercare and when I started going to WGU I knew that I wanted to do my student teaching at NCS because it is a great environment.
Who was a teacher who made an imprint on your life when you were a student at NCS and how?
I think the teacher that made an imprint on my life is Mrs. Harper. She pushed me to be a better student, and I believe she prepared me for college. I could always tell she cared and wanted all her students to succeed.
What has been one of the most rewarding aspects of your work so far as a student teacher?
I think the most rewarding aspect of my work as a student teacher is seeing the light bulb go off and know that students are learning. It's very exciting to see students enjoying learning.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
Well, I just got a puppy, so I enjoy playing with him and spending time with him.