By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Photographer | Published May 24, 2012
Over the next year or so The Georgia Bulletin will run an occasional series entitled, “Then and Now.” This series will feature people who have appeared in our photos over the years along with news about what they are doing now.
This first “Then and Now” involves a couple of iconic photographs of seven young students from St. Thomas More School, Decatur. They were kindergarteners in January 2004 as they were singing during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth & Young Adult Celebration at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta. Two of the students, Gabrielle Bowen and Kelly Pickard, appeared on the cover of The Georgia Bulletin’s Jan. 22, 2004, issue, singing, “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Set on Jesus.” On page 3 of the same issue a diverse group of students were photographed singing the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”
I caught up with most of those students, now eighth-graders, and asked what has happened in their lives since kindergarten.
After more than eight years together at the same school, Bowen and Pickard will split up to different Catholic schools—Bowen is heading to Marist School, and Pickard is off to St. Pius X High School.
While the change in physical appearance is what you notice at first glance, their faith life has evolved too.
“Faith is a huge part of my life. The first thing I do whenever I’m worried, anxious or scared is to ask God to help me calm down. I always try to live in the example of Jesus,” said Pickard. Bowen’s favorite Scripture passage is from Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
“I try to live by this, trusting in God whenever I am faced with a challenge in life,” said Bowen.
Bowen wants to become an anesthesiologist, pediatrician or neurologist. Pickard hopes to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design or Auburn University, with the intent to become an interior designer or a professional photographer.
The five front row students included Michael Pate, Kendell Hutchison, Maia Harrell, Andrew Rochefort and Sam de Cocq. Like Pickard and Bowen, they have also have matured and developed a wide variety of interests.
Pate learned that he was dyslexic when he was in the first grade. From second to fifth grade he went to The Schenck School, a school that focuses on children with dyslexia-related issues. One of his proudest moments was completing his course work at The Schenck School so he could return to St. Thomas More for middle school. Pate will attend St. Pius X High School this August.
At the time, the kids’ show of choice for Hutchison was “Arthur,” an animated educational television series for children shown on the Public Broadcasting Service. Today she likes country music and favorite artists include Georgia native Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Hutchison will also attend St. Pius X High School.
Harrell and Rochefort are fans of hip hop, pop and R&B music. They both like Nicki Minaj. Harrell also likes Drake and Katie Perry. Rochefort’s other favorites are Bruno Mars and electro pop duo LMFAO. Harrell’s aspirations include earning a Ph.D. and teaching biology at the college level.
Rochefort follows and participates in sports, particularly baseball. His favorite saint is St. Sebastian.
“I enjoy being involved in sports, and he is the patron saint of sports (and athletes),” said Rochefort.
Both Harrell and Rochefort will attend St. Pius X High School next school year.
Fourteen-year-old Sam de Cocq’s three favorite movies of all time are “Transformers,” “Act of Valor” and “Fast & Furious.” Eight years from now de Cocq says he would like to be a police officer and work with the SWAT team. De Cocq hopes to attend Ola High School, McDonough.
As evidenced in the photos, St. Thomas More School fosters an environment of inclusiveness for its student body, and all seven students seem to have embraced the concept as well.
“I have become more accepting and tolerant of others through events in our school,” said Hutchison.
Underscoring one of the fundamental tenets of Catholic schools, Rochefort may have expressed it best: “St. Thomas More School has helped to teach us that we are all God’s children.”