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East St. John High School holds first summer graduation ceremony

RESERVE — Describing them as the hardest working members of the Class of 2019, East St. John High School, Principal Christopher Mayes conferred degrees on three graduates before their families and friends at the school’s first graduation ceremony for students who completed the necessary requirements during summer school.

In all, six students earned their diplomas by completing those requirements, whether that was earning needed credits or retaking end-of-course tests.

In the past, those students would have received their diplomas in the mail. But Mayes said that wasn’t good enough for students who refused to give up on their educations, and so a new tradition was born.

“This is probably by far one of the most touching experiences I’ve had in my 16 years in education. Giving up is the easiest choice to make when things get tough, when people stop believing in you, when you’re told you’ve come up short and you’re not going to make it,” Mayes told the students during the commencement ceremony. “Physically and mentally, going back in the race, even in last place, and coming out on top is a greater victory than anyone can imagine. I have never been more proud to graduate students than I am tonight. You made a decision to overcome circumstance and give 110 percent even when hope appeared frail. It is my hope in this moment that you’ll realize the strength and resiliency that you possess and carry this power with you for the rest of your life.”

Students earning their diplomas after summer school were Jaryd Bell, Jamairan Brumfield, Marcus Gutierrez, Kendrell Holmes, Shayla Stirgus and A’Juan Webber.

For Webber, it came down to passing his end-of-course tests in order to fulfill a very special mission.

“I wanted to be the first male in my family to graduate,” he said. “I worked very hard and studied hard so I could pass the test.”

Webber is now enrolled in the process technology program (PTEC) at River Parishes Community College.

“This is just so special, to see them wanting to do something with their lives,” teacher Avis Lightfoot said as she wiped away tears prior to the students making their entrance to “Pomp and Circumstance”.

Guest speaker for the commencement was St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District Interim Superintendent Heidi Trosclair, also an East St. John High School graduate.

“Thirty-five years ago at East St. John High School I walked across the stage in the gym and I experienced what you’re experiencing right now. We’re fellow Wildcats,” she said. “You, as an East St. John Wildcat, can do anything you want. You’re going to do things you never imagined. So I challenge you and tell you that you can do anything. The fact that you’re here tonight proves that you’re already on that track.”