Students present project plans to community leaders
By: JEAN L. KAESS
MORGAN CITY — Student representatives from four high schools had a chance to address their concerns to area leaders via the New Generations Conference sponsored by the Morgan City Rotary Club Monday night.
Centerville High School proposed a summer employment fair for high school students similar to annual college fairs, and Patterson High School representatives proposed an ambitious parking lot expansion at their school. Morgan City High School presented Through the Eyes of a Tourist, and West St. Mary in Baldwin presented Operation Erase the Waste, both addressing littering and recycling concerns specific to their respective areas.
Student representatives were Brooke Boudreaux and Carrie Hebert.
“We are sure that even during the worst of times, there are employers that depend on the availability of students that are hard-working in nature, energetic, and ready to provide the help young people can. We also realize that many students are going to face the unfortunate … that there are fewer jobs this summer along with tougher competition from adults who might have more work experience or can stay on longer than the average high school student could. Yes, there are the regular babysitter jobs, fast food jobs, lifeguarding, and newspaper delivery or photography, but what else is out there? How about working for the vet’s office, at car dealerships, newspapers, personal assistants ... and even working in the warehouse at one of the local businesses? While those might be great options, where does one really start and look? Each year, the St. Mary Parish school board hosts the annual College Fair for high school juniors and seniors,” they said.
It may be logistically impossible for the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce to have every one of its 500 businesses represented at the hypothetical fair every year or for them to present jobs appropriate for high school students, but certain representatives from each area of businesses could be included.
“Representatives could include businesses from both retail and wholesale local industry, credit and debt business, part-time or internships in banking, real estate, health and fitness industry, tourism, food service, radio, television and newspapers can be represented along with various branches of city and parish government such as recreation, city hall, fire and electrical, water plants and even in central purchasing. The job opportunities could be endless.
“To make ourselves identifiable, students would have to be in school uniform and show a current school I.D. to gain entry. Times could be set up for both east- and west-end students to visit. At least this would open up new opportunities from businesses that we normally would never have thought of. Really, there are only a certain number of slots to fill and we all can’t work at the same place,” they said.
A central location at one of the recreational centers or school gyms could be secured for a 2 to 3 hour period on a Friday afternoon or night where students could come in and search. This way, students get a chance to see what is out there and business owners see what youths have to offer, the CHS students proposed.
PHS students Katelyn Sonnier, Mollie Duhamel, Acacia Freman, and Rachael Lemoine addressed the need for more parking at their school to accommodate football games, clubs and their community’s activities.
Students decided the need was great at their school because both Hattie Watts Elementary and Patterson Junior High schools hold their graduations at PHS during school hours when the parking lot already is full. High school graduation additionally is a very crowded time for parking.
More parking could help to prevent accidents — and possibly death — for those who park along La. 182 in front of the school. Such was the case for Edna Bourque, who was leaving a football game in September 2002 when she was killed crossing the highway.
Additional reasons students submitted for their request included the lack of parking forcing visitors to park on property the school does not own; busses and vehicles parking in the grass and it being very muddy during bad weather; the football practice field gets damaged by vehicles; faculty park with the student body; and exiting campus after school can get hectic.
“We have the extra land, why not use it?” the students said.
Students submitted plans to area contractors to get quotes. The total cost was expensive, the students realized, but they broke it into sections to make it more affordable. The lowest quote was from Howard Cementing Co. at $4 per square foot:
—51x81, $16,524, Parking area in front by stadium.
—60x19, $4,560, Driveway on right side of building to fence.
—40x100, $16,000, Parking and driveway from fence to patio on right side of school.
—55x188, $41,360, Parking and drive way on right rear.
—26x101, $10,504, Driveway left side to fence.
—14x75, $4,200, Driveway.
—60x90, $21,600, Parking and driveway left side of school.
—14x70, $3,920, Driveway leading to left rear parking.
—20x80, $6,400, Rear parking.
—9,000 sq. ft., $36,000, Parking behind weight room.
Students Dejah Francis, Camille Mosley, Matika Scott, and Linda Tran took on littering in the Morgan City area through the eyes of a tourist.
Among their complaints were the dog excrement in Lawrence Park, consistently overflowing recycling bins in the city, Hesco baskets still along the levees that now impede walking trails; and miscellaneous litter throughout town, including Mardi Gras beads still hanging in trees.
The teens took a walk through the city and looked at the area as a tourist would, noting unsightly debris.
Among the worst problems they noted were the Hesco baskets still topping the levees that ring Morgan City. Those now spill sand onto the walking trails around the city. Added to the sand are broken glass bottles, ants and fungus, the teens said.
The trail, which should lead to the new Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau Welcome and Interpretative Center at the end of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, is impassable because of the debris and broken because of subsidence.
The teens suggested adding pet excrement bag dispensers and trash receptacles at popular parks, asking Mardi Gras krewes to clean beads from trees on the day following Mardi Gras, adding recycling bins in less accessible areas (like Amelia) and policing them for fullness, maintaining or removing Hesco baskets, amping up litter enforcement and advertising litter enforcement to maintain the area’s positive image among its citizens and visitors.
Nathaniel France, Keisa Matthews, Sherry Higgins, Tanisha James, Lyndsey Millet, and Dewaylen Spain presented Operation Erase the Waste. This had a similar theme to MCHS’ presentation, but focused on cleaning Bayou Teche on the west end of the parish.
The bayou provides jobs for workers, food to families, tourism and an environment for animals, among other uses, but it is under attack from human waste products. Because of this situation, it is ruining both a source of income and a source of recreation.
There are 113 acres of land protected by the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge south of Franklin where alligators, all sorts of birds, ducks, eagles and black bears are protected. Unfortunately, pollution can still be an issue in a wildlife refuge.
To combat this, area schools have started clean-up requirements in their clubs and begun recycling clubs.
The teens suggest advertisement to inform the public of the problem, further public outreach for the problem, donation of time to clean-up efforts and support of local charities who believe in the same causes.
Effects of a clean bayou include attracting tourists and recreation, giving local wildlife a place to inhabit, instilling community pride and causing St. Mary Parish to become a beacon of cleanliness for the parish.
St. Mary Superintendent Donald Aguillard responded to the students after their statements.
For CHS, he said the school system wants to put together a job fair, but students should realize that jobs are hard to get for everyone. He will direct employees to work toward creating a fair for high school students.
At PHS, Aguillard agreed there is a great need. He suggested the presentation be given at a District 2 Maintenance Committee Meeting where consideration of spending the money for Phase I could be made. He also suggested students come up with a plan to raise the money for the program and also to contact surrounding property owners to see if they might be willing to donate or allow use of their land for such a program.
At MCHS and WSM, he said the programs are more municipal, but did suggest the associated elementary schools begin education programs as well as encourage junior and high school clubs to support suggested initiatives.
As for the Hesco baskets, Morgan City councilmen in attendance said they would discuss them further at Tuesday’s city council meeting. The baskets remain in place because the levees they protect are lower than they should be, and FEMA has not given the city any information on raising them yet.
As hurricane season approaches yet again, leaders are apprehensive about removing the increased protections from the city.
As for cleaning around them, that is the city’s responsibility.