[StBernard] (no subject)

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Jun 1 19:22:16 EDT 2006

Three colors mark graduation for St. Bernard Unified School
5/29/2006, 12:28 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - It was a more colorful high-school graduation than most,
with three colors of caps and gowns - one for each of the three high schools
in St. Bernard Parish before Hurricane Katrina.

The hurricane flooded every building in the parish. Every student who
returned, from kindergarten to high-school, attended St. Bernard Unified
School in the unflooded second floor of what had been Chalmette High, as
well as tents and trailers on its campus.

They sat in separate sections Saturday, for the graduation ceremony at the
New Orleans Arena. Students who had spent their previous high-school years
at Chalmette High wore marooon; those who had gone to Andrew Jackson High
wore bright blue, and those who had attended St. Bernard High wore navy

But they were together, too.

Faith Lapeyrouse, in navy blue, said sharing classes with students from the
other side of the parish helped erase some rivalries and misconceptions. "At
first I didn't want to be around all those snooty, catty girls, but they
became some of my best friends," she said. "It was all crazy."

Lapeyrouse is from Shell Beach, a small fishing community that was virtually
washed away into the surrounding bayous and marsh. She now lives in a FEMA
trailer there, and her father continues to feed the family by fishing for

Each closed school's principals and assistants spoke, as did those of the
combined school. There were rows and rows of scholarship recipients. Three
separate processions.

Just about every speech praised Superintendent Doris Voitier, the driving
force behind the Unified School. With no state or federal help, she opened
the school Nov. 14 with 320 students. It now has about 2,330 students, about
one-fourth of the district's pre-Katrina enrollment. Next school year,
Andrew Jackson will reopen as an elementary and middle school.

Voitier said the storm "took our homes, our possessions and a measure of
time that can never be recovered." But amid the loss, a valuable lesson was
gained, she said.

"The people of St. Bernard have redefined 'home' for an entire nation,"
Voitier said. "Where the children are: That is home."

The four valedictory speeches included two by Justin Templet of Meraux, top
scholar at both the Unified School and Chalmette High.

"Neither wind, nor water, nor government red tape could impede our
unification. ... 'Chicken patty Tuesday' and 'fish stick Friday' were here
again," he said, recalling his return from evacuation in Dallas.

He and his twin brother, Jason Templet, commuted to Chalmette from Metairie.

All 164 graduates wore bronze-colored medallions showing they had attended
the unified school.

More than 100 otherd, many still living in out-of-state, completed their
studies at new schools but were drawn back to march with their former
friends and classmates.

Danielle Blaise, who lived in the downriver community of Violet, traveled
with six family members from her new home in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I just got here today, so I was happy to see all my friends again," said
Blaise, who had attended Andrew Jackson. "It was different, but fun."

Twin sisters Laci and Laura Burton wore the maroon colors of Chalmette High
School, even though they are still living in a rural area outside of Ruston.
Amy Burton, their mother and a former Chalmette High teacher, said her
daughters also walked in the graduation of their new school, Summerfield

"They were allowed to wear maroon in honor of Chalmette," Burton said. "It's
been a rough year for the kids, but with everything that happened, it feels
great to be here. We made it."


Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.timespicayune.com

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