Education is a Priority in St. Landry

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

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High-quality educational opportunities that inspire today’s youth exist throughout the schools in St. Landry Parish. Whether that means working with NASA or learning to create the perfect gumbo, local students are presented with a multitude of choices to develop their interests and begin their future pursuits.

“The youth in our school is the generation that is not afraid to try something new,” said Aimee Summerlin, a ProStart instructor in the Culinary Arts program at Eunice Career & Technical Education Center (ECTEC). “It is extremely remarkable to see the evolution these kids undertake in our programs.”

Education plays a key role in economic development. An investment in the education of today’s youth is an investment in the future of a community. Technology has created an environment where businesses rely on a dynamic workforce to adapt to changes quickly and maintain their success. Schools must be able to prepare their students to thrive in the future presented to them.

“Employers in all industry sectors today are demanding a workforce that is more sophisticated than ever before. Our public education system is being asked to adapt to these needs in a timely and effective manner,” said Bill Rodier, CEO, St. Landry Economic Development. “SLED is committed to working with both the employer and education communities to help facilitate this connection and are pleased to see so many examples of success from the St Landry District System.”

Advantages in education

Quality education in St. Landry Parish comes in many forms, providing advantages for students toward paths they wish to pursue after high school, be that a four-year university, two-year technical school or immediately entering the workforce. Some of the exciting programs in the St. Landry Parish School District include:

  • Since 2010, Beau Chene High School has participated in High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH), an educational initiative giving high school students the opportunity to create hardware with NASA’s aid. Students receive valuable experience creating goods for NASA, specifically hardware, while NASA receives the creativity of the high school students. Students in the Drafting and Design Technology Department have designed parts requested by NASA and subsequently provide 3D models of the hardware for NASA to use when training astronauts for the International Space Station. Students use Autodesk Inventor 3D software and 3D printing to complete prototypes of requested parts. They also collaborate periodically with their mentor, Mr. Robert Zeek, co-founder of HUNCH, to confirm design quality through classroom visits, or via Skype or Zoom.
  • Students can earn the Industry Based Credential of the FAA Part 107 exam through a course at Port Barre High School. achieve their FAA 107 Drone Pilot License. The FAA Part 107 is the certification necessary to operate a drone commercially and legally offer professional drone services. Students can learn how to fly a drone with commercial-scale equipment.
  • At Opelousas High School, students achieve a Micro-Enterprise Credential while learning the skills necessary to be small business owners and entrepreneurs in an Entrepreneurship class. Students obtain hands-on experience with running a t-shirt printing business, obtaining practical skills necessary to run their own business someday. In 2021, the t-shirt business was so successful that orders were turned away until Vision St. Landry provided the school with a larger, professional-grade heat press to double capacity from 50 to 100 t-shirts per hour. Money generated from the t-shirt sales goes back into the program, as part of a larger effort by the school to be self-sustainable instead of asking students and parents to seek fundraisers or other outside sources for funding.
  • All seven St. Landry high schools participate in the National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI) program with a three-year grant. The St. Landry Parish School District was the only full district NMSI award in Louisiana. NMSI is a national program designed to increase access to high-quality Advanced Placement courses and overall STEM education for all students. 
  • Northwest High School has a popular and successful Robotics program. 2021 saw the program host two nationwide pre-recorded virtual skills-only competitions with 30 teams from across the nation, along with one team being ranked #1 overall in the state of Louisiana. Three of its teams, out of a total of seven for Louisiana,  qualified for the World Championships in Dallas. A 2019 Northwest team qualified to compete at the World Championship VEX Robotics Competition and it recently expanded to an all-female student team.

The educational opportunities in St. Landry are not limited to high school, said Therese Ellender, Ed. D. and St. Landry Schools Director of STEAM, a common acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics programming.

“We are getting STEAM into elementary schools with programs like Project Lead the Way and training for teachers to lead these programs,” she said. 

Head start on careers

The recent national workforce shortage, coupled with the skyrocketing cost of attending a four-year postsecondary institution, has underlined the importance of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programming. St. Landry Parish Schools has several alternative program locations to meet that need.

“These alternative programs are tailored to give our students a head start on college and careers,” said Ellender.

St. Landry Culinary ClassOne example is ECTEC, which offers Automotive Technology, Carpentry, Culinary Arts, Health Sciences, Oilfield Production and Welding programs, all designed to better prepare students for the technical college system. Courses are taught by qualified professional instructors who have attained national certification in their respective fields, many with professional work experience. The Culinary Arts program is guided by ProStart, a nationwide program affiliated with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The curriculum covers the full range of skills necessary to work in the restaurant industry, from culinary techniques to management skills. Students complete the program over three years at ECTEC as a dual credit opportunity, earning enough college credits through Southern Louisiana Community College (SLCC) to receive their technical degree while still in high school, at no cost and without leaving their high school campus.

“The dual-enrollment nature of the program is a fantastic opportunity from the standpoint of earning college credits while still in high school,” said Erica Janice, ECTEC Facilitator. “But to do so at no cost gives them a tremendous advantage going forward.”

Dylan Fuselier and Baylie Guillory were among the first students to enroll in the Collegiate Technical Academy in Culinary Arts at ECTEC in 2019 and will be the first two high school students in the state to graduate with their Technical Degree in Culinary Arts & Occupations from SLCC. Yet neither student stepped foot on the SLCC campus, receiving all their training and education at ECTEC from accredited teachers there.

“I wanted to be an inventor when I was a little kid, but once I was introduced to cooking, I learned to be creative with that too,” said Fuselier. “The program at ECTEC taught me what I needed to know to get into the restaurant industry but also helped with my self-discipline and work ethic, so it is a well-rounded program.”

The students spend about half of their school day in the commercial kitchen at ECTEC, which has everything necessary to introduce them to typical restaurant industry standards.

“These students will have a real advantage over others as they leave high school,” said Summerlin. “Culinary schools reach out to us, asking for our students because they know they will receive individuals with an intimate knowledge of the restaurant industry.”

As they prepare to graduate, Fuselier and Guillory have their eyes set on their future. Fuselier has dreams to open his own restaurant, while Guillory is hoping to attend the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University.

“I definitely have a better future due to this program and all the opportunities it has presented me,” said Guillory.

The St. Landry Parish School District offers other dual enrollment opportunities, such as:

  • Jump Start, a state CTE program combining high school education with career certifications.  
  • LSUE Academy, a program where students take courses at Louisiana State University Eunice to earn an associate’s degree while earning their high school diploma in areas such as pre-professional biological sciences, nursing, radiologic technology and respiratory care.
  • Collegiate Technical Academy, a partnership between SLCC and St. Landry Parish Schools, located at ECTEC and the Washington Career and Technical Education Center, offers advanced training necessary for students to graduate and enter high-wage, high-demand careers in industries such as automotive, welding and culinary arts.

Cultural education

Quality education in St. Landry Parish extends beyond the public school system and is a reflection of the community’s dedication to preserving the cultural assets of the region with its residents, regardless of age. One example is Saint Luc French Immersion and Cultural Campus in Arnaudville, the first adult French immersion school in the United States. Visitors from across the country attend Saint Luc for formal French language studies led by local native speakers, with French immersive experiences in the realms of culture, economy, education and the environment.

The community expanded the French immersion experience with the 2021 opening of École Saint-Landry, a French immersion charter school for elementary students in Sunset. The school is free and open to public registration, currently serving students in kindergarten and first grade, with plans to expand by a grade every year until it reaches fifth grade. It’s motto is “to prepare students from the Acadiana region to be academically proficient, bilingual and globally competent.”

Growing support for St Landry education

This March 26, the St. Landry Parish School Board is presenting three millage proposals for voters of St Landry to consider that would bring first-class facilities into the system, allow for the retention of quality staff and improve athletic options for students through increased funding for teachers and facilities. Learn more at Building Our Future.

  • Millage Proposal #1 (Salaries) - Generates $6,557,551 annually over ten years
  • Millage Proposal #2 (Athletic Facilities) - Generates $662,379 annually; $6.62 million over 10 years
  • Millage Proposal #3 (Facilities) - Generates $150 million over 30 years

To learn more about the educational opportunities in St. Landry parish, email SLED or call (337) 948-1391.

Category: News

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