Occupation: Vice President of Community Engagement at Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School
Husband: Garret Graves
Children: Ralston, 16; Calla, 13; and Kulshan, 11
Hobbies: Yoga, hiking, family bike rides, and reading
A perfect day for Carissa Graves begins quite simply. For her, it’s all about sleeping in before having a cup of coffee and time to read the newspaper while still in bed. After that? It’s time to get moving and head outdoors with her family. As a mom of three, Carissa enjoys exploring South Louisiana as a family, whether they’re hiking or biking.
Having lived in 11 different states over the years, Carissa is happy to now call Baton Rouge her home. As the Vice President of Community Engagement at Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School, Carissa is passionate about bringing our community together, and she does so with great care and compassion.
How would you describe raising your children?
CARISSA: I feel like raising children is so very different based on the seasons that they’re in. Raising them when they were babies and toddlers was very different than what it looks like now. I would say it keeps me on my toes. It keeps us learning new things and trying new things. It’s an adventure.
What do you like to do as a family?
CARISSA: Our family does love to travel, even if it’s just going to Washington DC for a week and joining Garret there. We love to travel. Next would be some physical activity together, anything outside if the weather’s decent.
What’s the greatest thing about being a mom?
CARISSA: Just being a part of the development and formulation of three really cool human beings.
How has parenthood changed you?
CARISSA: Parenthood has forced me to become more organized and structured. I think it has also helped me to pay more attention to policy, everything from global and current affairs down to the local level.
How would you describe being married to a politician?
CARISSA: It’s inspiring. It really is inspiring to be a part of that and be able to watch on the front row. It’s also really lonely and that’s because it’s such a unique family experience. It’s logistically challenging. We have to stay on our toes and be ready when it comes to how things are run within the household, the menu, who does the grocery shopping, who drives the kids, and even the disciplinary choices.
What has been your biggest challenge in parenting during the pandemic?
CARISSA: It really has been more about being there to help them process any questions, anxieties, or stresses they might have around this global pandemic.
What do you love most about your job?
CARISSA: The opportunity to really be a part of bridging two very different parts of our community here in Baton Rouge. It’s a unique experience. I found when I moved to Baton Rouge, our neighborhoods stay pretty siloed. There’s not a lot of opportunity to get to know folks who live differently than us, who look differently than us, who are in a different socioeconomic bracket from us. I think Cristo Rey is one way for us to bring the community together.
What were some of the biggest challenges in 2020?
CARISSA: Certainly trying to push our students forward to support their academic growth virtually. We had a really quick turn to get them all the devices they needed, Hotspots, reliable Internet access. I think longevity is the biggest challenge. It’s just really addressing and supporting some of the more basic needs and struggles, regular meals and consistent schedules and mental health.
What has your job taught you about parenting?
CARISSA: I was a stay-at-home mom for a good chunk of my kids’ lives early on. And so, it felt like a big leap from stay-at-home to full time working with Cristo Rey. I think it taught me that a parent can be really, really busy and passionate and committed to a career and still be a decent parent.
How do you make time to relax?
CARISSA: I love a 20-30 minute nap, when I can grab them. Recently, Garret and I have done a lot of walking. We used to always be runners, bikers, climbers, but just walking the lakes, just the two of us, has been really great and a nice way to relax.
What’s something you hope to instill in your children?
CARISSA: Curiosity, and certainly, kindness and appreciation for different ways of thinking, appreciation for very diverse landscapes and communities and ways of making a living, and an appreciation for what is bigger than their little neighborhood or school community.
Which family member has been your greatest role model in life?
CARISSA: My mother. She showed us what it meant to be flexible, open minded, and willing to dig your feet in and make connections and relationships wherever we landed as a family. I’ve learned a lot in my current married and family life from watching her.
Any advice for other parents?
CARISSA: I don’t feel qualified to give parenting advice, but you know what? I’m there with you. Parenting is hard and we never feel like we’re doing it all the way right, ever, but just keep on going. ■
Before I go out, I always check to make sure I have…my phone.
In my fridge, you will always find…milk.
Music I’m loving…Taylor Swift. I love it because the girls and I listen together.
My favorite television shows are…Schitt’s Creek and Cobra Kai.
My favorite ice cream is…Mint Chocolate Chip.
My dream travel spot is…the coast of Italy.