Embracing Excellence: The Top Values of Attending a Small Independent School

Ascension Episcopal School
In the world of learning, everyone's adventure is unique, just like each of us is special. While attending a large school has its benefits, the nurturing environment of small independent schools also comes with many advantages. But what makes small independent schools unique and worthy of the investment? 

Personal Connections and Individualized Attention
Caroline Merryman '20, owner of Caroline's Cookies - the thriving Lafayette and Baton Rouge business, emphasizes, "One benefit of graduating from Ascension Episcopal School is the personal connections that you can have with your teachers because of the smaller class settings. Through those connections, I learned how to be an independent learner, harness my personal motivation, work with a team, and see the importance of networking and building a community." This sentiment is echoed by Louisiana record-holding field-goal kicker Peyton Woodring '23, who also learned the value of close-knit classes in developing personal communication skills and lasting friendships. The intimate class settings and lower student-to-teacher ratio at small independent schools allow students to feel valued and understood, providing students with the individualized attention they need to thrive academically and personally.

Character Development and Strong Sense of Self
Jillian Verzwyvelt '18, a double degree communications major building a career in strategic communications, emphasizes the importance of a strong sense of self at small independent schools. She highlights how Ascension Episcopal School encouraged students to be "100% themselves," fostering self-confidence and personal motivation. Ben Tyrrell '19, living in New York and performing in renowned productions like From Here to Eternity, attests to the whole-child approach to education at Ascension, where educators prioritize the development of every student academically, personally, and spiritually. The supportive environment nurtures students' strengths, refines their weaknesses, and instills a sense of purpose and identity that transcends the classroom. 

Drive to Take Risks and Collaborate 
Verzwyvelt identifies the drive to take risks as a hallmark of attending a small independent school. She credits the supportive environment for empowering students to make mistakes, learn from them, and excel in any career they choose. Furthermore, Verzwyvelt and Tyrrell highlight the ability to collaborate cross-generationally as a benefit of small schools. They emphasize how small independent schools like Ascension bring together individuals of different ages and personalities, where relationships are built on mutual respect, intellectual curiosity, and shared goals. These experiences not only prepare students for the challenges of college and the workforce but also enrich their lives with diverse perspectives and lifelong connections. 

Longtime Relationships and Strong Sense of Community
In smaller independent schools, students, faculty, and families are able to form a nurturing and inclusive community. Tyrrell describes Ascension not just as a school but as a second family, where educators and faculty play pivotal roles in students' lives, guiding them through their journey of growth and self-discovery. "I am certain that I learned how to be a better human being while attending Ascension Episcopal School, and I am eternally grateful to the educators and faculty who aided me throughout my journey," says Tyrrell. The sense of belonging and camaraderie at Ascension breeds a culture of support, empathy, and acceptance. Verzwyvelt emphasizes the lasting relationships formed because every student is known, valued, and supported by their peers and faculty. The sense of community extends beyond graduation, with alums maintaining close ties and continuing to help one another in their personal and professional lives. 

Whether you graduated from a large or small school, there is no denying the benefits of personalized learning and whole-child development. Grade school is more than just an educational experience—it's a transformative journey that shapes the trajectory of one's life. Through personal connections, character development, and a strong sense of community, students emerge as confident, compassionate, and capable individuals, ready to make their mark on the world. As alums continue to excel in their chosen fields and cherish lifelong connections, the advantage of attending a small independent school like Ascension remains undeniable.

Alumni Spotlight

PEYTON WOODRING ‘23 - Peyton is a freshman starting kicker at the University of Georgia studying economics. Peyton currently holds the Louisiana field goal kicking record of 60 yards, which he earned as a senior at Ascension Episcopal School. Peyton’s ability to kick for Ascension as a freshman gave him “a leg up” against competition and earned him the title of one of the nation’s best kickers. 

CAROLINE MERRYMAN ‘20 - Caroline graduated from Ascension in 2020 and opened her first business in Lafayette in 2020.  Caroline’s Cookies became an instant sensation and has now expanded to Baton Rouge and employs over 20 people.  Caroline’s leadership and business acumen learned at Ascension have allowed her to thrive as an entrepreneur. Through her business, she demonstrates gentleness, generosity, bravery, and kindness, tenants learned at Ascension. 

BEN TYRRELL ‘19 - Ben is a musical theatre graduate of the University of Arizona and is living in New York City. He has performed in numerous musicals, starred in short films, auditioned for Broadway shows, and is currently performing in a Tim Rice musical - From Here to Eternity - at the Skylight Theatre in Milwaukee, WI. At Ascension, Ben’s heavy participation in the arts and supported risk-taking propelled him to his success beyond high school. 

JILLIAN VERSWYVELT ‘18 - Jillian holds two bachelor's degrees, which she earned in just 4 years in part because of the credits she was able to earn in high school. She also earned a master's in Global Media and Communications at The London School of Economics and Political Science and earned her second master's from the University of Southern California in May of 2024. Jillian’s leadership experience and rigorous academic classes positioned her to succeed in her upcoming job with the Global Brand Marketing team at RTX, the world’s largest aerospace and defense company.

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Main Address:
1030 Johnston Street
Lafayette, Louisiana, 70501


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    The Episcopal Church of the Ascension School (Ascension Episcopal School) admits qualified students without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. We are a welcoming community.