Alternative Assessment students selected as delegates for Youth Leadership Forum

Published 4:32 am Wednesday, May 31, 2023

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LAPLACE — Four alternative assessment students from East St. John High School have been selected to serve as a voice for individuals with disabilities during the Louisiana Youth Leadership Forum in July.

This is the first year the nationwide program will be hosted in Louisiana through the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities. Serving as delegates, East St. John students Trinity Jacobs, Courtney Lemoine, Jude Boynton and 2023 graduate Logan Boynton will attend camp at University of Louisiana at Lafayette and attend sessions teaching them how to advocate for themselves, establish healthy relationships, and become leaders within their community. The program, hosted July 14-16, also includes a talent show and a day at the Louisiana State Capitol where delegates can speak directly to legislators on priorities that they come up with based on the needs they see for individuals with disabilities.

Staying overnight on a college campus gives delegates a taste of independence as they experience what it is like to live away from home. The four East St. John students were among 12 campers selected for the program following an application process and Zoom interview.

Trinity Jacobs has always had a desire to work at a daycare. After she ages out of high school in 2025, she plans to attend college through the two-year Nicholls State University Brigde to Independence program.

Her mother, School Board member Jennifer Frizzell, said it is important that Trinity has the tools to advocate for herself as she enters young adulthood.

“Trinity’s biggest deficit is her speech. She has lots to say, but people have trouble understanding her,” Frizzell said. “The goal of this three-day camp is to learn how to self-advocate for resources. It makes me proud that she was accepted and that she had an interest in going. As a parent, it’s extremely important to me that I educate myself and that she becomes educated on bridging to independence and learning to speak up for herself because Mom can’t always be there. It’s important that she has the tools and resources to speak on what’s important to her.”

Part of that involves being surrounded by the right circle of people. The Alternative Assessment program at East St. John has facilitated strong bonds between students so they may speak up for each other.

“Especially having a child with a speech impediment, I’m always terrified that something is going to happen and she won’t be able to explain. You just have to trust and believe that you’ve brought her up right and that the people you are connecting her with have her best interests, but it is fearful, and I think ultimately fear is what holds parents back,” Frizzell said.

The Legislative Youth Leadership Forum also aims to instill a sense of pride within delegates by celebrating their abilities.

East St. John alternative assessment student Jude Boynton dreams of becoming a sports journalist. He would love to work for either ESPN or Crescent City Sports, and he’s already immersed in the world of sports as athlete with the River Parishes Special Olympics. He also plans to attend the Bridge to Independence Program after graduating from high school, and he believes the Louisiana Youth Leadership Forum will prepare him for what comes next.
“I know it’s going to be tough to transition from East St. John to Nicholls,” Boynton said. “This will definitely make me a better speaker and make me a better person overall, and it will definitely prepare me for what’s ahead. It’s been my dream to go to the state capitol. Going down the bridge, I’ve always seen the LSU stadium on one side and the state capitol on the other side. I’m going to make that a dream come true.”

Courtney Lemoine dreams of landing a job in Chicago after college. Both she and Jacobs are excited about the social aspects of the camp, including the opportunity to meet new friends.

ESJ Alternative Assessment teacher Ryshique Williams said it is a tremendous honor for the students to be accepted into the forum, and she will encourage more students to become involved in the years to come.
“In my class, our goal is that you can do anything you want to do. You may take a different route to get here or it may take longer to get there, but you can do anything and everything that you want to do,” Williams said. “Our goal is to prepare them for life after high school. We want to give them the tools to be able to stand up and speak for themselves after they leave home.”