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

Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Ascension Episcopal School

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

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? 

Individualized Attention

Caroline Merryman ’20, owner of Caroline’s Cookies, emphasizes, “One benefit of graduating from Ascension Episcopal School is the personal connections 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 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 individualized attention in developing his communication and leadership skills. The intimate class setting allows students to feel valued and understood.

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. She highlights how Ascension Episcopal School encouraged students to be “100% themselves,” fostering self-confidence. 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

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 with individuals of different ages and personalities, where relationships are built on mutual respect, intellectual curiosity, and shared goals. These experiences prepare students for the challenges of college and the workforce and enrich their lives with diverse perspectives and lifelong connections. 

Strong Sense of Community

Students, faculty, and families can form a nurturing and inclusive community in a smaller school. Tyrrell describes Ascension not just as a school but as a second family, where educators and faculty guided him through his process 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 beyond graduation.

Whether you attended a large or small school, there is no denying the benefits of personalized learning and whole-child development. 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. 

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

Ascension Episcopal School is now accepting applications for the 2024-2025 school year. Learn more, schedule a tour, or contact our admissions department at www.ascensionbluegators.org


Alumni SpotlightPEYTON WOODRING, holds the Louisiana field goal kicking record of 60 yards

PEYTON WOODRING ‘23 | Freshman starting kicker at the University of Georgia studying economics. Peyton 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 high school freshman gave him “a leg up” against competition and earned him the title of one of the nation’s best kickers. 


CAROLINE MERRYMAN, Caroline’s Cookies’

CAROLINE MERRYMAN ‘20 | Opened Caroline’s Cookies’ first location in 2020. Caroline’s Cookies became an instant sensation, 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. 



BEN TYRRELL, performed in numerous musicals, starred in short films, auditioned for Broadway shows, BEN TYRRELL ‘19 | Musical theatre graduate of the University of Arizona living in New York City. He has performed in numerous musicals, starred in short films, auditioned for Broadway shows, and currently performs 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 succeed beyond high school. 


JILLIAN VERSWYVELT, JILLIAN VERZWYVELT ‘18 | Holds two bachelor’s degrees, earned in 4 years because of credits earned in high school. Jillian also earned a master’s in Global Media and Communications at The London School of Economics and Political Science. She 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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