As a sea of neon-yellow T-shirts, some 500 seventh-graders from public and private schools around St. Landry Parish were gathered into the Yambilee Building on Friday afternoon to listen to motivational speakers, music and nonprofits all in an effort to promote good choice making in the upcoming years of their lives.
The 2016 St. Landry Parish Youth Boldly Living As Smart Teens, or BLAST, event was a parish-wide collaborative project with 25 local non-profit organizations, state agencies, local governments and businesses.
“Today is an opportunity for our youth in our parish, specifically our seventh-graders, to come together to be about the power of change,” said Dale Fontenot, co-chair of the Children and Youth Services Planning Board. “Our kids are our most valuable resources in our parish. We’re here as dozens of groups who invest in our kids because we believe in them. That’s what the BLAST is, encouraging our kids to boldly live as smart teenagers.”
The event is intended to encourage the importance of good mental health, making healthy life choices and preventing teen HIV/STD transmission, pregnancy, violence, school drop outs and substance, alcohol and tobacco abuse.
“We have to inform our future leaders of tomorrow,” assistant Superintendent Joseph Cassimere said. “We can encourage them to stay away from drugs and alcohol, and the importance of a good education.”
All-in-all, an estimated 1,000 seventh-graders attended the event and were encouraged to be conscientious of their future.
“We can fail fast, and you can learn fast, and the faster you learn the more you’ll grow,” one motivational speaker, Darrin Harris, told the kids.
One volunteer, Gavieal Vedell, said he believed out of all of the messages being presented to the children, it was the effort that the community made to help the kids that the children felt the most.
“I think the most important message today was telling the kids that out of all these people, we love and care about you,” said Vedell. “The other messages are important, too — about drugs and alcohol — but the most important one is the one they’re just feeling, and that’s love.”