High school students talk post-graduation plans with local officials

IMG_1511.JPGSpecial to the American Press

<p class="p1">More than a dozen area high school students told local officials on Thursday about their plans after graduation, with some explaining their reasons for attending colleges and universities outside Lake Charles.

<p class="p1">The event at Sowela Technical Community College was part of the Mayor’s Youth Partnership for the city of Lake Charles. Students had a roundtable discussion with officials from the city, Sowela, McNeese State University and the Calcasieu Parish School Board.

<p class="p1">Kourtlen Thomas, a senior at Washington-Marion Magnet High School, said he wants to experience life outside Lake Charles and return after graduation with plenty of ideas. He said he plans to study nursing at Dillard University in New Orleans.

<p class="p1">“At the stage I’m at right now, I don’t feel as though I’m that valuable to Lake Charles,” Thomas said. “I would like to explore the world and see what else it has to offer to me.”

<p class="p1">Renee Simien, a senior at LaGrange High School, said she plans to study political science at Dillard University and later attend law school. She said her main reason for leaving Lake Charles is a lack of activities for young people.

<p class="p1">“There are no cafés (or) lounges for us,” she said. “There’s nothing that really grasps our attention. I feel like I would be bored.”

<p class="p1">Simien said she would like to return to Lake Charles at some point.

<p class="p1">Jasmyne Auzenne, a senior at LaGrange, said she plans to attend Louisiana State University. She, along with several other students who took part in the discussion, will be the first one in her family to attend college.

<p class="p1">Sowela Chancellor Neil Aspinwall asked students about their biggest fear while in college. Simien said she is afraid of not having enough financial stability to graduate. Auzenne said she is worried about not having enough support from home. Thomas said his biggest fear is time management.

<p class="p1">Several students encouraged government agencies and local organizations to share information on upcoming events using social media platforms like Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.

<p class="p1">“That’s what gets our attention,” Simien said. “That would make us want to be here and be involved in wanting to go to McNeese and Sowela.”

<p class="p1">When asked about the impact cellphones have at schools, Jillian Elliott, a sophomore at Westlake High School, spoke about Banzai, a smartphone app that teaches students about economics. She said apps that promote learning remove the stigma of using smartphones in class. Thomas also mentioned Duolingo, an app that helps students better understand foreign languages.

<p class="p1">Mitchell Adrian, McNeese vice president of academic affairs and enrollment management, said he left Lake Charles in the early 1980s after graduating from McNeese. He returned in 2007 to work for the university. Adrian encouraged students to explore other cities, but said Lake Charles has plenty to offer.

<p class="p1">“We have great programs,” he said. “There’s plenty right here that wasn’t here years ago.”

<p class="p1">Karl Bruchhaus, Calcasieu Parish school superintendent, said he went to McNeese after spending one year at LSU so he could be closer to home.

<p class="p1">“I never regretted coming back here,” he said.

<p class="p1">Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter spoke about several initiatives the city has planned for students attending McNeese and Sowela. He encouraged students who plan to attend college outside Lake Charles to return after graduation and help the community grow. 

<p class="p1">Aspinwall warned students about accepting more student loan money than they need.

<p class="p1">“They’re very easy to get, but they are hard to pay back,” he said. 

<p class="p1">Students also asked officials about several topics. They included the threat of cuts for the TOPS scholarship, addressing long-term drainage problems, school safety and strengthening programs for courses in science, technology engineering and math.

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