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Summer Transition Institute prepares students for senior year

BOUTTE — The third annual St. Charles Parish Public Schools Senior Summer Transition Institute taught Destrehan and Hahnville’s Class of 2022 that this next chapter in life will be all about balance.

College applications, resumes and financial aid are just as integral to the senior year experience as prom, friendships and football games. Students listened attentively to presenters last week at the River Parishes Community College United Way of St. Charles campus and learned that now is the time to start planning for the future.

Dr. Iman Ennabut, counselor for St. Charles Parish Public Schools, said the Senior Summer Transition Institute aims to help rising seniors start thinking about their next steps rather than waiting until April or May to start looking into college and financial aid.

“The earlier you think about it, the more success you are going to have because you’ll have more opportunities and more options. We want to give them these resources now so that when they go back to Destrehan and Hahnville, they know who to seek out and the steps they need to take,” Ennabut said.

Ryant Price, a Destrehan High School and Nicholls State University graduate, served as the keynote speaker at the start of the exciting day. As he begins his first full-time teaching position at Akili Academy in New Orleans, Price took time to talk to high school students and share what steps he took to become successful.

Price said planning was the biggest factor. He began the process of applying for financial aid early, and whenever Plan A failed, he was ready with Plan B. In addition to his parents, Price also found support from counselors and administrators who were able to point him in the right direction.

Afterward, students rotated through a series of breakout sessions. University of New Orleans representative Todd Gitlin and U.S. Army representatives Sgt. Kimberly Watson and Sgt. Amanda Switzer led a discussion titled, “Who am I? Where am I going?” Watson and Switzer discussed how a future in the Army could relieve financial burdens and keep students on a path to finishing their education.

A break-out session called “Show Me the Money” centered around finances with excellent advice from LOSFA representative Britt Kelly and Kim Bourgeois of Louisiana Federal Credit Union.

Hahnville High School’s School to Career coordinator Hope Barnhill and counselor Shanon Briner led a break-out session called “I am a Survivor.” Tamika Green, executive director of equity and student support, said students connected with discussions on self-care.

“They were having a great conversation about what they each individually do to take care of themselves. Since COVID, it’s been brought to the forefront. We offered universal screenings to all students and employees last year in regards to the need for more mental health services, more self-care, more mindfulness. We are at a whole new level of social and emotional wellness,” Green said.

“You could feel their energy when they are talking about reading a good book, closing my bedroom door, making time for myself, running a bubble bath, having my favorite shake from Chick-fil-A. In the 70s, when I was born, you did not focus on yourself. Now we’re learning you can serve others and be a leader, but you must also make time for self.”

According to Green, a major message during the Senior Summer Institute was that students have many choices ahead of them, and it’s okay if they change their mind and decide to go down a different path.

“Life is a journey. It’s not a one-and-done destination,” Green said.

She added, “We will continue to have these conversations throughout the school year with parent nights and inside the classroom. This is not the last time they will be hearing these messages.”

Ennabut said River Parishes Community College has been a supportive community partner.

“The community is small, and we work really well together from the police department to the colleges. It’s a great way to introduce our seniors to the community college and let them know you don’t necessarily have to go to the four-year universities,” Ennabut said.