As the wife of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the mother of three young children, Supriya Jindal is devoted to education and encouraging children to build a strong foundation in math and science as well as the arts. She visits schools throughout the state, participates in hands-on science projects, and works tirelessly to modernize Louisiana classrooms.
Supriya currently serves as the youngest first lady in the nation and is the only first spouse in the country who holds a degree in engineering. After graduating Magna Cum Laude with Honors from Tulane in chemical engineering, Supriya went to work at Monsanto Chemical in Luling, while also pursuing an MBA from Tulane University. After graduating in 1996, Supriya began working in Baton Rouge for the Albemarle Corporation. She has since finished all coursework at LSU towards a PhD in marketing, with a dissertation remaining.
Due to her devotion to education, she has established a nonprofit foundation, “The Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children,” which is working to modernize Louisiana classrooms by bringing interactive technology into as many Louisiana classrooms as possible. The First Lady is also supporting the artistic endeavors of Louisiana’s students through dedicating a wall at the Governor’s Mansion for children’s art, while recognizing different student artists each month. Supriya is also involved with the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Association, the Louisiana Special Olympics, the American Heart Association, and the Louisiana Shots for Tots Coalition.
Taking time out of her busy schedule, Supriya shared with me her hopes for Louisiana’s children and also spoke about the Jindal’s holiday traditions and plans for Christmas this year.
You have done so much for Louisiana’s children, from rallying for their school supplies secondary to the Gulf oil spill to creating your nonprofit foundation that emphasizes the importance of science and math in Louisiana classrooms. Could you please explain the interactive whiteboard technology that you recently introduced through your foundation to various schools?
Interactive whiteboards are revolutionized chalkboards for the 21st century. The board’s extreme versatility allows students to experience visual representations and sounds, while also giving students the opportunity to interact with the whiteboard and their fellow students. Teachers can also download lesson plans and presentations from across the country, giving teachers a vast array of multidimensional and innovative presentations to use to cater to the needs of their particular class. A study recently published shows incredible results—unintended benefits include improving attendance and dialogue in the classroom. Incredibly, the study shows a 17 to 29 percentile gain in academic achievement in classrooms with such technology versus classrooms without! With the help and generosity of our foundation partners (AT&T, the Dow Chemical Company, Alon, Marathon, as well as many others), we are working to make a lasting and positive difference in education today, while helping to build a strong workforce for tomorrow.
I find it very admirable that you are also involved with the Special Olympics and the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Association, since I had a special child born with a heart defect. With your busy schedule traveling around the state to visit various schools in all the parishes, have you gotten a chance to meet any young cardiac patients or special needs children in hospitals or other settings?
We, too, have a child who was born with a heart defect. Thus, this is a very special cause to me as well. I have had the privilege of working with the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation and have met many young children and their families who face heart disease. Additionally, I partnered with Build-a-Bear and have distributed many “We Love Your Heart” bears to children who bravely manage their heart condition with a smile. It has been inspiring to visit these courageous children, hear their stories and witness their strength. As a mom of three young children, I am extremely passionate about the health and well-being of all of our state’s children. I have greatly enjoyed working closely with the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation, the American Heart Association, Special Olympics, the March of Dimes, and our local food banks to help raise awareness of the good work these organizations do year-round to help Louisiana’s children and families.
How do your three young children, Selia, Shaan, and Slade, enjoy living in the Governor’s Mansion?
Our children, Selia, Shaan, and Slade, are fairly young—in fact, they are the youngest children to have ever lived in the Mansion. They find it funny that there are events held at the Mansion that they are not invited to! One of their favorite things about the Mansion is the vegetable garden in the backyard; we have fun planting and harvesting vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots are favorites!
Do you have any special holiday traditions in the Jindal family?
As a toddler, Selia told us that since Christmas was to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we needed to have a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” cake for Him. Thus began a tradition. Every Christmas, we bake a birthday cake for Jesus, sing “Happy Birthday,” and blow out the candles on the cake. We also have a special holiday guest at the Mansion, an elf named Shelfie who visits us all the way from the North Pole! Throughout the year, Shelfie sends notes to the kids accompanied with occasional visits to check up on their behavior. He officially arrives the day after Thanksgiving, and provides nightly updates to Santa on the behavior he sees. Each morning, as Shelfie arrives back from the North Pole, he positions himself in a different place. The kids enjoy looking for him each morning—and it gives them extra incentive to be on their best behavior!
What do you plan to serve for your family’s holiday dinner?
Some of the side dishes vary every year, but it is a fairly traditional Christmas meal with turkey (turducken or turkey stuffed with crawfish dressing are favorites), sweet potato crunch, green bean casserole, etc., topped off by Grandma’s famous chocolate chip pecan pie for dessert.
Where will you, Governor Jindal and the children be enjoying Christmas this year?
We will be here in Baton Rouge, celebrating the blessings in our lives, the joy of family and friends, and the grace of God…and the kids will be on the lookout for Santa!
If you could have one Christmas wish for the children of Louisiana, what would it be?
I would wish that every child feels warm blessings and love from family and friends not only during the Christmas season, but throughout the year.