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The couple that studies together, stays together

RESERVE — Caden Notarino and Jamie Barker have faced the world together since Oct. 11, 2014, the night they met at Ponchatoula High School’s homecoming dance.

This month, they participated in a drive-through graduation ceremony at River Parish Community College’s Reserve campus. With process technology degrees in hand, the couple is looking forward to landing careers in local industry, buying a house and starting a family.

“We’ve been working the same jobs ever since we were out of high school,” Caden said. “We went to the same college, took the same classes and got the same degree.”

Since earning their high school diplomas together in 2017, Caden and Jamie spent several summers working at the Reunion Lake RV Resort. Caden would pull kayaks out of the lake while Jamie cooked delicious meals at the poolside grill.

When the weather turned cool and their seasonal work ended, Caden and Jamie went to UPS and worked the peak season. They are both currently employed at Walmart — Caden in the back stocking shelves and Jamie working the check-out in the front — until the right opportunity comes along for them to build their future.

The Reserve campus was home for two-and-a-half years. They studied as South Central Louisiana Technical College made the switch to River Parishes Community College and picked up extra credits along the way.

In the process technology program, they learned how to safely climb towers and operate a methanol unit. Their studies have prepared them to work a control board and troubleshoot state of the art machines.

Caden and Jamie completed the program in fall 2019 and got engaged shortly after. They were recognized along with other fall and spring RPCC graduates at the recent drive-through graduation, which afforded them the opportunity to say goodbye to the faculty and staff that have cheered them on along their journey.

The experience left them feeling hopeful for the future.

“Even though all this COVID-19 stuff is going on right now, we’re not going to let it tear us down,” Caden said. “We’re going to keep applying for jobs and push forward. Eventually, something will turn up.”