Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 28, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE — The past, present and future of St. Charles Catholic was all neatly tied together on Wednesday night.
As part of the school’s annual PTO “Back to School” night, the new “Comet Commons” room was dedicated. The Commons room is SCC’s renovated cafeteria space.
But it only takes moments after walking in to realize it’s become much more than that.
Recently, the school began a fundraising initiative called S.O.A.R. (Support Our Academic Resources) to redo sections of the school. In 2007, the library got a facelift. In 2008, the cafeteria has become a multipurpose room for meals, activities, and presentations.
The results include: two 52’ high definition television monitors (with accompanying audio equipment); a display wall of the school’s athletic trophies from state competition; a memorial of St. Charles Borromeo; a plaque reciting the 10 “Comet Commandments”; a career corner, honoring distinguished and accomplished alumni; and a “Wall of Honor”, dedicated to those distinguished alumni who have served in the military.
“It’s an unbelievable transformation,” said St. Charles Principal Andrew Cupit. “The students love it. They don’t stop talking about it. It really brightens things up here.”
Louis Authement, chairperson of the SOAR giving drive, spoke to a packed gymnasium of parents, students and facility before officially inducting each alumni into the Wall of Honor and the Career Corner.
“We feel great about all of it,” he said. “It’s not as difficult as it appears when you work with great people. And that’s what defines St. Charles Catholic.”
The Wall of Honor included five men:
Master Chief Sean Landry: Graduated in 1988. Landry joined the Navy in 1990 and has served as a missile technician on multiple ships. In April 2008, he earned the highest enlisted rank in the military when he was promoted to Master Chief Petty Officer.
Corporal Anthony Macaluso: Graduated in 2002. He joined the Marine Corps in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. During the Battle of Hit, his platoon was outnumbered 10 to one by insurgent forces in a fight that raged on for seven minutes. He persevered through, and received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Valor.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Hymel, whom the wall was dedicated to: Graduated in 1964. Hymel died in the terrorist attack of September 11, when a 757 crashed into the Pentagon. Before that, Hymel was the pilot of a B-52 during the Vietnam War, who suffered life-threatening injuries in order to attempt to save the life of an injured soldier after missiles struck his airplane. He received a Purple Heart.
Sergeant First Class Joshua Klibert: Graduated in 1997. Klibert has served two tours of duty in Kosovo, and in 2002 was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has received the Bronze Star Medal of Honor, Army Commendation Medals with Valor, and the Combat Action Badge.
Sergeant Jason Brockman: Graduated in 2004. He has been part of a squadron that transported thousands of fuel gallons to Black Hawks and Apaches in Iraq in 2005. He’s earned three Army medals, the Combat Action Badge and the global War on Terrorism Medal.
Landry said that he hoped the students at the school would see he and the others who served on the Wall of Honor and find inspiration.
“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “I hope the kids see me, see us on that wall and consider this career path.”
The six people honored in the school’s career corner are:
Todd Trosclair: Graduated in 1977. The Owner and CEO of All Star Electric, Inc.
Curtis Johnson: Graduated in 1979. Johnson is currently the wide receivers coach of the New Orleans Saints, presiding over two of the most accomplished passing seasons in franchise history.
Sharon Kaiser Mapes: Graduated in 1980. Currently, Mapes is the Certified Accountant for Asset Services Division for the Bank of New York. Mapes was five months pregnant and on the 71st floor of the World Trade Center on September 11. The plane hit below her floor, but Mapes miraculously escaped.
John Habisreitinger: Graduated in 1982. He is the site manager for two rolled aluminum product plants in Tennessee, and oversees over 400 employees who produce one million pounds of product per day, generating $600 million per year.
Dr. Janelle A. Simon Watts: Graduated in 1987. Watts has her own medical practice with three others in Texas, specializing in general obstetrics and gynecology. Watts served 10 years in the Naval Reserves, and held the title of Lieutenant Commander.
Dr. Rodney Rocconi: Graduated in 1990. He is an assistant professor in Gynecologic Oncology at the University of South Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute. He specializes in the management of cancers of the cervix, uterus, ovaries and other reproductive organs. He’s had 40 works published in scientific journals.
Watts said she was honored – and surprised – by her selection as an honoree.
“To represent our class, it’s really an honor,” she said. “Once you graduate, you figure that everyone just goes on their own way. To think that I was someone to remember and honor, it’s nice. It was unexpected.”
Watts was impressed by the Commons room, but said she appreciated the fact that some things stayed the same as she remembered.
“The gym looks like it always has,” said Watts, who played basketball for the Lady Comets.
Johnson said he was honored, and also impressed by the other alumni’s accomplishments.
“To see what everyone has accomplished at our little school, people making a difference worldwide, it’s almost shocking,” he said. “It’s utterly amazing.”
Cupit hopes that the two “walls”, each displayed in opposing corners of the Commons room, will help give his students a clear vision for what their futures could bring.
But any way you look at it, the Comet Commons is certainly a sight to behold.
And at least one current student agrees.
“It’s beautiful,” says SCC’s Ricky Poche, the school’s Student Council Treasurer. “It’s a better place to eat lunch and have functions. It really makes everything look better.”