Hemelt: Choose to define our community through positive news

Published 12:03 am Saturday, November 11, 2017

It was obvious we were in good hands when I heard East St. John High’s Crysten Newhouse sing the National Anthem.

Without any music, the young singer took to the microphone with enthusiasm that sent us off in the right direction.

Newhouse was one of approximately 200 local students who attended Wednesday’s 6th Annual Youth Summit put on by the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Themed “Getting Ready for the World,” I was honored to serve as the event’s moderator, which basically meant I got to introduce and listen to men and women from across our parish, state and nation speak to local teenagers about the many avenues available to them for success.

Most importantly, the forum left plenty of time for questions from the students.

With invitations going out to most schools in the parish, the event included numerous moving parts.

With students first arriving at their schools before making their way by bus to the St. John Community Center, we got off to a later-than-planned start, but Crysten’s singing kick-started a productive day.

Danae Lorio of St. Charles Parish kept the music going with a wonderful song during our lunch break.

Abbie Cooper of Louisiana Workforce Commission was specific with recommendations to those looking for jobs, including news about mileage reimbursement for those driving young people to and from jobs.

St. John Health and Human Services Director Rhonda Lemons stressed that vouchers are available to young people without vehicles to use the River Parishes
Transit Authority to get to and from their homes and work.

Presentations from Tracy Dahmer of the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office about teen relationships and bullying and from Sheriff Mike Tregre about positive developments versus negative perceptions were also well received.

From my vantage point, students seemed most engaged when listening to keynote speaker Mark Bennett of the Metro Nashville Davidson County Police Department and while engaging in an Q&A with members of the St. John Sheriff’s Office.


Community newspapers are quasi-public utilities in the fact that their success, content and relevancy is completely driven by local residents.

L’OBSERVATEUR is no different. I might be the publisher today, but the newspaper remains that of the community. It was like that for decades before my family and I moved here and will stay like that long after my tenure is complete.

Our success comes in our availability to readers, who consistently drive our content, creating a uniquely tailored product to fit our readers’ needs and desires.

Our staff and myself are always available to hear concerns and receive quality news tips.

This is most recently evidenced in our current front page feature on Shawn McKinney Jr., a local elementary student who led his family in a feeding effort of homeless people.

Shawn’s grandmother called our office, told us of the story and we got to work sharing positive news. There are so many entities (I’m focused on you, social media) that seem to excel through negativity. Thank you to our readers and staff members who continue to share and read the good news occurring at a greater rate than some negative forces would have you believe.

Be heard, call us at 985-652-9545. We’re happy to share YOUR story.

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