ANGIE, LOUISIANA– Last week was Teacher Appreciation week; it was also the week many high school students across the country would have normally graduated. However, despite the coronavirus and onset of social distancing, all stories are not sad ones. There are communities all over the country who are banning together in times of hardship to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
About an hour and thirty minutes north of New Orleans is Washington Parish Louisiana, where there are several small communities known as villages. Here the students and school district honored teachers in the community by placing “essential teacher” signs on their front lawns .
Amiree Brown is in the 3rd Grade at Wesley Elementary School and says, “I love my teachers and the principles. All of the teachers through the years have been amazing to me.” Ladarrus Brister is a teacher at Wesley Ray and says he was very proud to find a sign on his front yard, saying “this was my first full time job as a teacher and it was just heartfelt to see the signs. I felt appreciated.” Kewanda August is the Wesley Ray Elementary Principal and says that spring is time where educators get to see the fruits of their labor, saying “this is the student’s happy place. It’s my happy place as well and we’re stronger together.”
In addition to the teachers receiving signs, some teachers, faculty and principals passed out meals as part of a “Grab and Go” program. The meals feed students from about ten schools and can include milk, juice, fruit, sandwiches and breakfast items. Marsha Newman is the School Foods Service Director for Washington Parish schools and says, “we began on March the 18th, doing the grab and go program here. Monday’s, Wednesdays and Fridays. We provide two meals on Mondays, two meals on Wednesdays and one meal on Fridays. It’s been a great success. We feed about two thousand a day throughout the parish.”
Varnado High School had virtual celebrations for their graduating seniors. Jennifer Beninato is the Varnado High School Principal and says “my heart just broke because the kids were missing. I was glad that we were able to let them have a way to celebrate the night that they should have graduated.” Kelmekia Moses is a Graduating Senior at Varnado High and says, “we never did get the chance to say goodbye to our favorite teachers. So it really doesn’t feel like I graduated. It feels like I’m on summer break.”
In July, many of the schools in Washington Parish School District plan on having a traditional graduation, if the coronavirus and social distance restrictions are lifted. To see Varnado High School’s graduating class of 2020, you can click here.