Hemelt: ESJH Alumni Association starts strong

Published 12:03 am Saturday, October 7, 2017

The East St. John High football team produced plenty of potential MVPs during the Wildcats’ Sept. 29 homecoming victory.

Yet, it was pretty clear the stars of the night were the ESJ Alumni Association committee members.

Melanie Burl, Demetria Robinson-Carter, Tronda Banks Crier, Patrice Wolfe, Paula Schnyder Henderson, Stacey Brown Millet, Yvette Schynder Scioneaux, Rolanda Schexnayder Tircuit and Kerry Watkins are coming off the most well attended ESJH football game in recent memory.

The turnout, estimated by organizers to include more than 3,000 school alumni and friends, easily touched the players and coaches on the field.

The Wildcats won, topping H.L. Bourgeois 34-6. Following the game, coach Alden Foster said the fan turnout and support gave him chills.

“It was just a Godsend for these kids to see the pride of East St. John and everybody back together when we pulled in there,” Foster said. “The kids were like, ‘Coach, we need this for every game.’

“The whole alumni association committee did a great job of organizing. Next year, we’re looking forward to a bigger crowd.”

School District Superintendent Kevin George called the outpouring amazing.

“It just shows that when this community comes together, it can do some amazing things,” George said “For me, it was one of the proudest moments I’ve had since I have been here to see all those people there to support East St. John High School.”

The ESJ Alumni Association was established in August with a vision to duplicate the homecoming efforts of St. James High and West St. John High.

Committee members took up the charge of bringing together representatives from graduating classes between 1979 and 2017 with the theme, “Bridging the Generational Gap.”

The Association was created with an annual membership of $25 that supports the athletic department, sponsors scholarships and backs student activities.

Within a couple of days, Paula Henderson said the group had more than 500 followers on Facebook and continued to blossom.

“We were able to solicit volunteers from every class year,” she said. “The idea wasn’t just to have a tailgate, but create an association. Within one month, our alumni raised over $20,000 to support approximately eight to 10 scholarships that we will give out in May at awards night in East St. John. It is a dream come true.”

Alumni came from across Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, with organizers saying many people connected after not seeing each other in 30 years.

Henderson was quick to point out the amazing effort by the Class of 1979 and team leaders Emery Dents, Crystal Collins Jones and Tammy Williams Milioto, which signed up 79 members for the Association and won the Spirit Award on homecoming night.

According to Henderson, the homecoming celebration’s greatest achievements were rekindled friendships.

“We had a Soul Train line led by Bonny Dinvaut, class of 1981,” Henderson said. “She got almost 300 people on a gravel road to do a Soul Train line. That was fun. There was also all the food you could think of. We saw old classmates and got lots of hugs. There were no incidents or any problems.”

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.