Alumni Update: Jessica Lawrence, MHS ‘93
Jessica Lawrence, who graduated from Manchester High School in 1993, is a national school health consultant in Morehead, Kentucky.
Born in Manchester, Jess attended Martin Elementary School. Her favorite memories include field days and art classes. She attended Bennet Junior High School and enjoyed playing basketball, running cross-country and being in the marching band. As a high school student at MHS, Jess was involved in student council, band and the swim team. Her favorite class was health education with Cindy Bars. That class is what persuaded her to pursue a career in health education.
After graduating from MHS, Jess went on to earn a degree in school health education at Ithaca College in New York. She then traveled to Oregon where she spent the next 20 years. During that time she was a middle school health education teacher for Portland Public Schools. In 2003, Jess was presented with an opportunity to extend her passion and knowledge beyond the classroom, as she became the Health Education Curriculum Specialist at the Department of Education and worked closely with a team of specialists from both the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) to implement coordinated school health. In 2005, she was selected to be one of 17 people nationally to help revise and develop the National Health Education Standards, which were published early in 2007.
After working for the Oregon Department of Education for three years, Jess decided to pursue a career as an education consultant in 2007, because it gave her the opportunity and flexibility to provide targeted, strategic and comprehensive support to school health organizations. She is the Director of Cairn Consulting and she is an exceptional speaker, presenter and facilitator. Jess's work includes facilitating meetings, workshops and strategic plans; presenting and speaking at conferences; and developing curriculum and materials specifically for health education. She is a trainer for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and also trains leaders for the Let’s Move Active Schools program.
Jess also is on the Board of Directors for RMC Health, an organization working to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional health of children and youth by providing innovative and effective professional development, training, coaching and resources to educators and professionals who serve them. Jess is also on two advisory boards - the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Yoga Foster.
All In the Family:
In 2011 she met her counterpart at the Kentucky Department of Education, Jamie Sparks. He started his career as an elementary PE teacher and is now the Coordinated School Health Director for Kentucky. After a few years of long distance dating from Oregon to Kentucky, they decided to commit and Jess moved to Morehead in 2014. Jamie has three children, ages 8, 10 and 13 that are a big part of Jess’ life.
Incidentally, Jess’s father, Rick Lawrence, is also a graduate of MHS (Class of 1964). He’s now retired, but Rick for years ran The Lawrence Associates architectural firm and he helped design many municipal buildings in Manchester and surrounding areas. Rick also has traveled to Guatemala each of the past 12 years as part of the Manchester Rotary Club’s work to bring potable water to villages.
Trip of a Lifetime:
Two years ago, Jess completed a 23-year life goal of bicycling solo across the United States. She raised $23,000 for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization that fights childhood obesity.
“I appreciate all the amazing teachers I had throughout my education career in K-12 schools,” she says. “I especially loved Mr. (Art) McCann’s social studies class and Mr. Berry’s music program at MHS.” Jess adds that her health teachers in high school -- Mrs. JoAnn Brown and Mrs. Cindy Bars -- had a direct influence on her becoming a health educator. And finally, “Mr. Dave Frost, my swim coach at MHS, also had a big impact on me as a swimmer and empowered me as a teen to be an athlete.”
Words of Wisdom (for Today’s Students):
Take care of your body. Whatever job you do, whatever high school is preparing you for, your physical and health literacy are the most important things to have. Living healthy and free of pain will someday bring you more appreciation and value than anything else! Be bold and courageous!