By Beth Lawing, current parent, former teacher, and regular Middle School substitute
For me personally, one of the greatest joys about being connected to Country Day for 22 years is watching my former Middle School students grow up and become successful adults. Recently, when I saw one of my “90s Room Moms” in a coffee shop, she remarked how astounded she was that so many Country Day alums in her children’s graduating classes were marrying fellow Buccaneers. That sounded like a fun story to showcase—especially around Valentine’s Day.
So I excitedly got on the phone and made some calls to former students. What follows are three separate profiles of Country Day couples who share their unique stories with us—these are only a small fraction of the “Bucs in Love” out there. According to school records, there are 92 married alumni couples.
Since I am now a current parent of a Middle Schooler at the Bissell campus, I couldn’t help but ask the couples what advice they have to share about relationships with the next generation of Buccaneers, as well as what they now realize that they “love” the most about Country Day!
Amy Barrus ’07 and Devon LoParo ’06
(Now: Amy, Devon, and daughter and Then: Prom 2006)
Amy Barrus fondly remembers watching the annual Big Saturday Talent Show during her Lower School years at Country Day. Each year, the young LoParo brothers would perform their impressive karate stunts on stage with their mother. “Maybe one day you’ll date one of the LaParo boys,” Amy’s mom would giggle as they stood there watching.
As fate would have it, eleventh-grade Amy happened to be placed in the same math class as Devon LoParo, then a senior at Country Day. Amy and Devon attended an autumn concert with mutual friends and began dating the first week of October 2005. Ten days later, they went to Homecoming together.
Amy says that one of her favorite memories is Devon using his senior privilege to go off-campus for lunch. “Devon would bring me fast food, and we’d have a lunch date in the cafeteria.”
“I remember memorizing Amy’s schedule,” laughs Devon. “That way, I could say ‘hi’ to her eight times a day between classes.”
Life got far more serious and took a tragic turn for Amy’s family two months later when their house burned to the ground as the result of a Christmas tree fire. “When Amy called to tell me, she said, ‘Don’t come!’ because I was hanging out at a friend’s house. I said to her, ‘What am I going to do? Stay here and play video games?’”
After Devon drove a stunned Amy to her grandmother’s house, he returned to the scene of the fire with the rest of his family the next morning to look for anything to salvage. “Amy’s room had the most damage, but I went back to search for anything that might be meaningful to her. I was able to find about five things to take to her that made it through the fire.”
“Even though I was only 17 at the time, I remember thinking that this special relationship with Devon could be really long-term,” says Amy.
Amy and Devon both attended Duke University for their undergraduate studies. After Devon moved to Atlanta to earn his Ph.D. in psychology from Emory, Amy moved there as well and is now a writer for a toy company. Their daughter, Nora, is 18-months-old.
Advice for Current Middle and Upper School students:
Amy says, “When I was at Country Day, I knew I was getting a great academic education, but it didn’t occur to me that the school would also have such an impact on me socially. To this day, some of the closest friendships that I have as an adult are with my Country Day friends that I’ve known since Lower School. I certainly didn’t expect my husband would be from Country Day!”
Adds Devon, “My advice is to be open to being friends with people that you wouldn’t necessarily think you have a lot in common with. When we were younger, Amy being a different grade from me seemed like a big deal, but it really isn’t in the scheme of things. Don’t label people a certain way because one day you’ll love seeing how everyone has grown and changed together.”
“We are totally different and totally the same from our high school selves at Country Day. It’s nice to be married to someone who reminds you of who you are to the core.”
Amy Barrus LoParo '07
Emily Erdman ’07 and Jonathan Mauney ’06
This photo was taken at the wedding of Bryan Ives '08 and Caroline Hodgin '06 (see below).
Love was not necessarily in the air for “Lifers” Jonathan Mauney ’06 and Emily Erdman ’07 during their Country Day years. Before enjoying the vibrant restaurant scene in NYC and international travel together as a happily-married couple, Jonathan, a software engineer, and Emily, a fourth-grade teacher, had to find one another.
“We weren’t really friends when we were at Country Day,” remembers Emily. “We were both in the IB program, and I guess one of my earliest memories of Jonathan was of him sitting in the IB Lounge, honestly being pretty silly with his friends, so that’s been hard to forget.”
Jokes Jonathan, “I remember one of my friends telling me that he had a crush on Emily—nowadays I think back on my high school days wondering why I didn’t have a crush on her, too.”
Good fortune awaited both of them during their college years at UNC-Chapel Hill. The day before classes started in 2008, Jonathan’s housemates were throwing a party. “I really wasn’t feeling great,” admits Jonathan. “Emily was a sophomore and I was junior when we really met. She and her friends were the first to arrive at our party. I thought to myself, ‘Well, I guess I should be nice and go over there and talk to her since I know her. In no time at all, I realized that I wasn’t feeling bad anymore, and it was because I was talking to Emily.’”
“We wouldn’t have gotten together if it weren’t for Country Day,” attests Emily. “When we did reconnect, we already knew a lot about each other and we had so much in common. It felt so easy!”
“After a brief trial period of dating, we put a franchise tag on our relationship,” teases Jonathan.
“Growing up with similar backgrounds and shared experiences really laid a solid foundation for us.
Advice for Current Middle and Upper School students:
Emily’s advice to today’s Buccaneers: “Keep an open mind. When we were in high school, Jonathan and I never knew we would be together. People definitely change as they get older, so be patient with your classmates.”
Jonathan’s advice to today’s Buccaneers: “Buy a ‘Valentune’ from the Chamber Choir!’
Caroline Hodgin ’08 and Bryan Ives ’06
Caroline Hodgin jokes that she remembers hanging out with Bryan and his group of friends when she was an underclassman and he was a senior at Country Day. “I thought he was the funny one—I thought he was hilarious, but we really didn’t interact,” admits Caroline.
“I knew her brother George who was a year ahead of me,” says Bryan, “but I really didn’t know Caroline until we met up again at UNC.”
On the first day of college when Caroline was moving into Granville Towers, Bryan happened to be outside and started talking to her. He gave her his phone number and told her to call him if she ever needed anything. When they met up again a year later at a party, they realized how much they had to talk about because of their shared connection to Country Day.
“To this day, we talk about Spirit Week a lot,” confesses Caroline, who is now an accountant.
“Yeah, I like to push Caroline’s buttons and tell her that my grade was way better at Spirit Week than her grade was,” goads Bryan competitively. “Those shared, connected memories of Country Day—maybe we didn’t experience them together, but when Caroline starts talking about a sixth-grade teacher, I know exactly who she’s talking about—there’s no explanation needed because we know the ins and outs of Country Day.”
Bryan and Caroline married in 2016 and live in West Hartford, Connecticut. Even though they work opposite schedules, they still find time to explore small New England towns together—that is, when they are not hunkered down on the couch sharing their “unbridled love of lousy TV shows.”
Advice for Current Middle and Upper School students:
“One thing that I’ve really noticed in the past two years about my childhood friendships,” observes Caroline, “is that Country Day is a wonderful place to make an extended group of friends. It’s great when you travel to a new city, how you can catch up with people from Country Day, no introduction needed, even if they weren’t in your peer group growing up. Country Day is plenty to talk about with any alum, even if you weren’t tight while you were there.”
Bryan now works in the production research department for ESPN. He wants to reassure the next generation of Buccaneers that you don’t have to find your soulmate during your teen years. “Finding the right boyfriend or girlfriend is not as urgent as you may think, so don’t put so much pressure on yourself.” Does Bryan think there are others in the Country Day community who deserve a little more attention?
“You may not be thinking about it these days, but one of the best things going for you at Country Day right now is all those fantastic adults who are all around you. I’ve got the fun job at ESPN because of all the adults who shaped me: I write scripts for talent, I build graphics, and I do a lot for College Basketball Game Day. Use the time you have now to be thankful for the terrific grown-ups at Country Day and take advantage of their expertise by spending time with them. Practice those communication skills with ‘your superiors.’ I go to sporting events all the time where I have to mingle with the ‘higher-ups.’ I can tell that I am far more at ease with them than many of my peers. A lot of the time, your inter-office communication skills can be more important than x + y = z, so just know that the ability to talk with anyone in the room is an important trait of leaders. Learn how to communicate well and everything else will fall into place.”
Caroline Burton ’07 and Tucker Griffith ’06
(Caroline and Tucker in 2017 and at the 2006 Prom)
Before Tucker Griffith ever became Caroline Burton’s official “Prince Charming,” he was dressed up like a prince for Spirit Week 2005. “That was the first time I really remember noticing him,” Caroline says. She also remembers how much fun it was to be in the same Spanish class as Tucker. “I loved that every Monday in class we had to describe our weekend in Spanish, which eventually became descriptions of our first dates together.”
“After we started dating,” remembers Tucker, “I used to wait for Caroline at her locker in the juniors’ locker area at the end of the day. I was there so frequently that some of her classmates would roll their eyes, but I think they got used to me.”
Caroline has been dating Tucker since she was 16-years-old. Does she have any advice for today’s Buccaneers about how to strengthen their friendships?
“Tucker and I both think that it’s important to actually talk on the phone with each other instead of texting. We’re biased because texting was not as pervasive as it is today, but we built a strong foundation in our relationship by having long conversations over the phone.”
Tucker echoes this sentiment. “Our long (non-text) conversations on the phone were equally as important to the beginning of our relationship as they were irritating to Caroline’s parents when our talks would last into very late hours of the night!”
Although they attended different colleges to pursue their own distinct areas of interest, Tucker and Caroline eventually got married. Currently, Tucker is a hospital administrator while Caroline works in commercial real estate. The two love going to movies, taking spin classes, and traveling together.
“It’s been great for us to have the shared experience of Country Day and the strong education from a school we love so much,” attests Caroline. “I love the lifelong friendships that started at Country Day and continue today.”
“I think Country Day prepared us both well for college—and life after college. It’s nice to have a partner who is as ready to tackle life’s challenges as you are. While I love my Buccaneers friends and greatly appreciate my education from Country Day, it’s hard to beat finding the love of your life there!”
Tucker Griffith '06