A group of Washington-Marion High School students are undertaking a community project to improve the J.D. Clifton Recreation Center in north Lake Charles.
Students gave a presentation at the center on Wednesday and later discussed the project with the City Council. The effort is part of Tellurian's Youth LEAD (Leadership, Enrichment and Development) Program, which seeks to identify and cultivate the next generation of community leaders.
LEAD participants gather input and information from elected officials, non-profit organizations and business leaders to identify pressing needs in their community. Program participants are chosen through a competitive application process and given a $20,000 grant by Tellurian for their projects.
LEAD Council members include Devin Dobbins, Aa'sialynn Fuller, Alicia Powell, Zavier Richard, Javonte Roberts, Asia Senegal, Nathanial Smith, Asia Stevens and Janaya Woodard. The students decided to spruce up the rec center, at 2415 E. Gieffers St., with landscaping and new benches.
"We have been so impressed with this amazing group of students ... you all have had so much motivation and determination," said Heather Hohensee, director of government and public affairs in SWLA for Tellurian. "You are on track to launch an amazing project,"
Fuller said the park was chosen because of the fun times they shared there as children.
"It's a traditional park in our community where family and friends come together and have parties and events that are important to them," Fuller said. "We hope this will help bring the community back together and (they'll) have a sense of pride in the park."
The park was named after Jessie D. Clifton, the first African-American female principal in Calcasieu Parish.
"She did a lot for the community ... made a lot of things happen," Woodard said. "We want to honor the work she did with this project."
"I think it is awesome to honor her and her legacy, and to remind people why this park was named after her," Mayor Nic Hunter said.
Roberts said he first played basketball at the center, while Stevens recalled a crawfish boil she had there a few months earlier.
The project should be done by the end of the school year or early summer. The group is scheduling community clean-up days for friends, family and neighbors to participate.
LEAD began in 2017 with Sulphur High School. Projects included launching a food pantry, placing radar speed signs near school zones and providing scholarships to Calcasieu Parish School Board summer programs.
The city's Partners in Parks initiative of the Community Foundation of SWLA will match Tellurian's $20,000 contribution.