Academic success celebrated with luncheon

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2022

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LAPLACE — Each summer, Parish President Jaclyn Hotard hosts an Academic Excellence Luncheon to celebrate St. John the Baptist Parish’s best and brightest.

This year’s event, held June 22 at Petra Restaurant in LaPlace, was made even more special by highlighting the achievements of students and teachers who have persevered not only through the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a destructive category four hurricane.

“Many of our students still achieved the success that they did while displaced from their homes and families,” Hotard said. “They have had so much against them in the past two years. For that we are so proud.”

Hotard said the luncheon was an opportunity to acknowledge not only the top-performing students, but also the educators who have risen to the top of their respective fields while pouring into the next generation of leaders.

Guest speaker Dr. Addy Reine, a physician at the Ochsner LaPlace Medical Center, commended the educators and urged scholars to consider investing their futures to better the St. John Parish community.

Dr. Reine graduated from St. Charles Catholic High School as valedictorian in 2007. She now resides in Garyville with her husband and their young son, but she clearly remembers a time when she was torn between returning to St. John or pursuing a career opportunity in Ascension Parish.

She was on hour 23 of a 28-hour shift in the intensive care unit while completing her residency at Our Lady of the Lake. A mother walked in with her 20-year-old son who was gravely ill and required a ventilator. Even though Dr. Reine had never met the family before, she noticed how the mother seemed more at ease when she realized they lived less than a mile apart from one another in St. John Parish. Familiarity had a stronger impact than Dr. Reine anticipated, and she realized it would be an honor to give back to the area where she was raised.

Dr. Reine saw herself in some of the students as she thought back to when Hurricane Katrina struck at the beginning of her junior year. Many families were displaced from their homes, and there was a large influx of students from New Orleans area schools.
“This is nothing compared to what you have been through during your high school years with the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning, and Hurricane Ida wreaking havoc on the parish and destroying local homes and schools,” Dr. Reine said. “Despite this adversity, you excelled and finished at the top of your class. You have reached a major milestone. I hope that you use this as a stepping stone to accomplish great things.”

Among the local officials in attendance at the Academic Excellence Luncheon were Sheriff Mike Tregre, Council members Tammy Houston, Warren Torres, Tonia Schnyder, Interim Superintendent Rebecca Johnson, and School Board members Charo Holden, Gerald Keller, Debbie Schum and Clarence Triche.

“One thing no one can ever take away from you is your education,” Sheriff Tregre said. “One day somebody in this luncheon will be in our positions. Keep working hard, learn a foreign language, take it all in. If more people took the time to get their education like you guys are doing, there would be less people incarcerated.”

Hotard added that it is never too late to further your education. She shared that it was always her dream to attend law school, but achieving that goal meant she had to go back to school in 2012 to finish her undergrad degree.

“Don’t be afraid to take those chances,” Hotard said. “I would challenge you that if at any moment along your life’s journey you feel called and compelled to do something different, just do it.”

She reminded students and teachers that her office is always open to them, whether they need a letter of recommendation or words of advice.