A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Community Life

Deep Talk on The Hill

In the hustle of everyday life at Episcopal, the time for truly in-depth conversations is hard to find. I realized how little I’ve conversed with many of my peers, and more importantly, the faculty and staff. Lasting relationships are not founded on small talk. They are the culmination of shared memories, ideas, and opinions. There are many faces around campus whose names I know, but little else. Whether they be faculty, or groundskeepers, or workers in the dining hall, these people are all an integral part of our community. Some have been here since well before the turn of the century, watching traditions, buildings, and faculty come and go. They all have stories to tell. We, as a student body, should take the time out of our busy lives to hear their stories, for when we graduate, their stories are the ones we’ll remember. They’ll serve as a tether between us and Episcopal—the foundation of relationships built by the deep talk, and not the shallow.


Here’s a look into the lives of Episcopal staff members I reached out to recently. Many you will recognize. Others maybe not. All conversations were premised on these questions: Where are you from? How and when did you find your way to Episcopal? Is there anything else you’d like students to know about yourself?


On any given day, you can find Rosa Maria manning the Nook. She is the one to thank for our coffee and our cereal, the little things that sustain us throughout the day. Most importantly, however, she always cheerfully engages with anyone in conversation. In Spanish if you’re confident enough in your skills, or in English if not, talking with Rosa will undoubtedly brighten your day. Born in 1955 in El Salvador, Rosa had a childhood like any other. She had parents who weren’t too strict, and was carefree. Unfortunately, spurred by the outbreak of the Salvadoran Civil War in roughly 1973 and 1974, Rosa was compelled to leave home, arriving in the United States in 1980. Rosa is one of the many staff members at Episcopal from El Salvador. Carlos, who works in the kitchen, actually lived in the same neighborhood as Rosa before he too moved to northern Virginia. This is Rosa’s thirteenth year here at EHS.


Also a part of the dining staff, Flor Ayala is responsible for all of our baked goods, (my personal favorites are the peanut butter bars and brownies). Flor came to the U.S. from Peru in July of 2005. Originally, she came to travel, but after meeting her future husband, she decided to stay. She’s been working at Episcopal since September of 2011. She attributes her fluent English to the countless hours she spent watching English TV shows and listening to American music.


In charge of the mailroom, Mr. Hong is a familiar face for many Episcopal students. Born in Vietnam in 1949, Mr. Hong fought in the Vietnam War for the South Vietnamese regional forces. After the war, Mr. Hong sought refuge in Thailand, staying there for four months before going to the Philippines, and finally, to America in February of 1980. After working for the United States Postal Service, Mr. Hong took a job at Episcopal. Back in those days, the mailroom was beneath the saggy floors of old Stewart. In 2012, before the reign of Amazon, Mr. Hong handled roughly 12000 packages annually, a pithy amount compared to the 32000 packages handled today.


Noureddine, who mans the snackbar in the morning, is a savior to many of us starved students who miss breakfast regularly. Originally from Morocco, he came to America in 2014. He stressed how lucky he was to have received a green card, and currently works part-time at Episcopal and at the Ritz-Carlton in D.C.


Since 2001, Vickie has worked in the School Store. She is originally from Columbia, South Carolina, and has resided in Virginia for 25 years now. Colt Waller comments, “Vickie never fails to offer quality music, a funny sense of humor, and advice when needed. It means a lot when someone knows both your name and your book store number.” I asked Vickie about some of the changes she’s witnessed take place at Episcopal. She noted the school store’s various locations over the years, from the faculty apartment building behind the Health Center, to the Hershey Athletic Center, and finally to new Stewart. To cap off our talk, Vickie stressed why she loves Episcopal so much: “I feel like home year…it’s like I have an extra four-hundred nieces and nephews every year, and now I have thousands.”


Each of these talks took no more than ten minutes. Yet, in that short period of time, I was able to hear such compelling stories from some of the people that make Episcopal special. This article barely scratches the surface. So I implore you, the students, to reach out and talk—deep talk.