Alumna Mary-Wade Ballou supports a number of HIES students in her role as High School Associate for Peachtree Church.
Like so many people, Mary-Wade Ballou ’13 experienced a dramatic change in performing her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the past few months. Serving in a busy role as High School Associate at Peachtree Church, Ms. Ballou had to figure out how to connect with her students in a virtual format as well as support them during a time of great uncertainty.
Working on the church’s engagement task force, “We had to get creative real quick,” Ms. Ballou said. “It was definitely a challenge to manage and the church routine is such a big part of their lives.”
Relying on Zoom and FaceTime initially, Ms. Ballou changed gears when students tired of the online format. They met in Chastain Park (spaced apart) and re-styled the usual celebrations for high school seniors. The church ordered yard signs and Ms. Ballou organized drive-bys at their homes.
The church has streamed services for the past several months with strong attendance and has scheduled a return to in-person worship on Sunday, Aug. 9.
With several years’ experience of international living and traveling that required flexibility and adaptability on her part, Ms. Ballou relied on those skills even more in recent months.
After graduating from Ole Miss in 2017, Ms. Ballou jetted to Spain for a seven-month gig as an au pair. She assisted the family’s children with learning English while practicing her Spanish. After that job, she connected with an Atlanta family living in Tokyo and worked as their nanny for a year. She explored the country in her free time and also worked part-time at the American Embassy in Tokyo.
“It was like a mini White House and a great experience,” Ms. Ballou said.
She hopes to return to Asia one day and also would like to travel to Australia and Argentina.
In her travels and in her work with the church, Ms. Ballou has often relied on lessons learned in her time at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, namely being a community builder.
“When I think about HIES, I think about that community feeling and being well-rounded,” she said. “I don’t take that for granted.”
She fondly remembers Middle School English teacher Eileen Thurmond, Upper School PE teacher Amanda Peckham, Upper School broadcast teachers James Jackson and Joe Conway, Upper School math teacher Meredith Many and Coach Dunn, who served as the class Tassel Turner in 2013. She played basketball and lacrosse and even donned the HIGBY! suit in her senior year.
“I took one for the team,” Ms. Ballou said.
She has remained close with many in the HIES community. She works with a number of HIES students in the youth program at Peachtree Church, some of whom graduated this year.
“Don’t forget where you came from,” she advised. “Go to college with an open mind, try something new and make new friends but always be yourself.”