St. John students get a taste of capitol living

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 5, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / May 5, 2000

BATON ROUGE – High school students from St. John the Baptist Parish public,private and parochial schools got a first-hand look at how state government works Wednesday.

Thanks to the efforts of Parish President Nickie Monica, Wednesday was officially proclaimed “St. John Parish Day” in Baton Rouge, and as part of thefestivities 150 student council officers and representatives from all the parish high schools were bussed to Baton Rouge to talk to legislators and learn how laws are created in the state of Louisiana.

“This is a first for St. John, and I plan to make it an annual event,” saidMonica.

The students were treated to a real-life example of democracy in action since St. John Day was also the day several thousand public school teachersfrom around the state gathered on the steps of the Capitol to demand a pay raise from Gov. Mike Foster and the Louisiana Legislature.While the students were given a tour of the Capitol they could hear the shouts and speeches of angry protestors outside. And most studentsbelieved it was something the teachers had to do.

Eighth-grader Brasonda Bailey of Leon Godchaux Junior High said, “They are just expressing their opinion, and they deserve a raise because of all the hard work they do.”Michael Foster, an eighth-grader at Garyville/Mt.Airy Magnet, agreed.”I like it that everybody is allowed to have a say in things,” Foster said. Hegrinned and added, “I think students should get a raise, too.”The students were guided through a display of St. John industries andbusinesses by Julia Remondet, economic development director The display set up in the Capitol lobby showcased the new sign and logo for St. JohnParish.

Then the students were taken up the elevator to the very top of the Capitol where they were treated to a stunning panoramic view of the city of Baton Rouge.

After the trip down students first visited the Senate and then the House of Representatives.

While on the House side state Reps. Bobby Faucheux and Gary Smith gave thestudents a lecture on the business of making laws for Louisiana. They weretold how a bill makes it way through committees, the House and then the Senate before it is signed into law by the governor.

Faucheux also told the students about the jobs available in state government and what is expected of such positions.

The students then posed for pictures with the legislators and Monica.

Henri Dufresne, president of the St. Joan of Arc Student Council, wasimpressed with the tour.

“I think it was really cool,” Dufresne said. “I really liked it that all the schoolsin the parish got together to do this.”Among other stops on the tour, students were shown the hallway where Gov.

Huey “Kingfish” Long was assassinated.

“I liked seeing the bullet holes,” remarked Patrick Millet, treasurer of the Leon Godchaux Junior High Student Council. “And I liked going up the elevator.It’s all been pretty interesting.”Finally, it was lunch time, and everybody took a walk from the Capitol to the governor’s mansion.

Amidst the rose bushes and majestic oak trees in the mansion’s back yard students, faculty and legislators feasted on baked chicken, dirty rice and salad cooked up by Dell Persinger, Willie Veron, Dale Madere and Jerry Aubert. Dessert was chocolate-chip cookies, provided by Winn-Dixie.Drinks were provided by Delta Beverage. Other sponsors of the trip wereEntergy, Riverlands Insurance, American Awnings, Curtis Environmental and the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office.It was hoped the governor might say a few words to the students, but state Rep. Roy Quezaire informed everyone the governor’s schedule was taken upwith the teachers’ protest at the Capitol.

However, Monica told the students, “You are very special to us, and you are our future, and that is why we wanted to do this trip with you.”Quezaire added, “You all are part of the state government whether you know it or not, so don’t limit yourself. Someday, one of you might be governor.”Before saying goodbye, Faucheux told the students, “Come back here anytime. Remember, this place belongs to you.”Robert Bourgeois, St. Joan of Arc principal, was very pleased at how the tripturned out.

“This was absolutely wonderful,” Bourgeois said, beaming. “A greatexperience for the students.”Ireyonna Lewis, a student council representative of West St. John HighSchool, summed it up. “It was very educational, and I learned a lot more aboutpolitics.””Yeah, maybe I will go into politics now,” said David Conran, an eighth-grader from Leon Godchaux Junior High.

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