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Little Harvard Mardi Gras ball brings families together

LAPLACE — Tiny tots from Little Harvard Learning Academy in LaPlace discovered what it meant to feel like royalty when they dressed in elegant gowns and suits for their school’s inaugural Mardi Gras Ball.

Little Harvard owner Briena Hayes said the Mardi Gras Ball, held Feb. 21 at YMC events, helped bring the community together and instilled confidence within the children.

“I’m big on self-esteem,” Hayes said. “I really wanted them to feel like kings and queens or princes and princesses. We always tell them that, but I wanted them to really feel that way.”

The event also added some excitement to a Mardi Gras season that was greatly impacted by COVID-19. While families were not able to attend parades this year, Little Harvard children were able to catch beads and trinkets from a mock Mardi Gras float as they entered the ball.

Inside the facility, they found festive decorations, Mardi Gras Indians, a Second Line band and a surplus of food. Children in four age categories were declared winners of the court and were able to take pictures with their fancy crowns, sashes and trophies.

“The world changed and kids didn’t get to enjoy Mardi Gras this year, so I decided why not try to bring Mardi Gras to them?” Hayes said. “My goal is always to give them different experiences because I want them to know that there is more to the world than the things they see every day. I wanted being dressed up and having a family friendly time to feel normal for them.”

Once the children saw the band and umbrellas, they automatically knew how to laissez les bon temps rouler! Hayes said it was also beneficial for the children to see their parents going the extra mile to make this event possible.

Families held fundraisers throughout St. John the Baptist Parish, ranging from seafood boils and jambalaya lunch plates to raffles on hair, nails and spa packages.

Little Harvard families supported each other’s fundraisers and built bonds in the process. While many of the parents have only known each other for a matter of months, Hayes said they get along like one big family.

“None of it would be possible without the parents. They went all out,” she said. “It feels like we have known each other all our lives and that we really came together for the children.”

Hayes is also thankful to YMC Events for providing all of the event decorations.

Little Harvard Learning Academy is preparing for another upscale event with a “Happily Ever After” fairytale prom scheduled for May 14. The 4-year-old “graduating class” will have an opportunity to runfor King/Queen, which will be voted on by community members.

Prior to the prom, Little Harvard will partner with the East St. John football team and Chantell Tassin from Superior Tax Service to host a community Easter Bash on Saturday, April 3 at the ESJH football field. The fun-filled day will include Easter baskets for community members, a crawfish boil, drinks and Easter Bunny pictures.

Little Harvard Learning Academy is enrolling children ages 1-4 at the beginning of March. As there is currently a waiting list, Hayes hopes to secure a larger building to provide affordable, quality childcare to more families.

Children up to age 12 attending virtual classes in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools can also join Little Harvard’s virtual classroom.

“I currently have 14 students in the classroom with two teachers who tutor and help with homework. It gives parents peace of mind so they don’t have to worry about whether their child is online,” Hayes said. “By the time they leave, all of their assignments are completed, and all of their work is turned in. Our teachers communicate with their teachers. We stay in touch with our parents as well.”

Lunch is provided, and students can come in early for breakfast or stay late until their parents get off of work. Students can still come in and receive instruction and tutoring even on days when public schools are not in session.

For more information about Little Harvard Learning Academy, call 985-224-2271.