The fifth graduating class of the Youth Opportunity Unlimited (Y.O.U.) program was held Thursday, March 6, at the Ville Platte Civic Center. Brother Kevin West opened the event with a prayer, and student Anasia Thomas welcomed everyone to the ceremony. Y.O.U. Director Dianna Johnson introduced the special guests before the graduating students introduced themselves. Student Donovan Thomas then led the blessing of the meal.
To begin the program, West addressed the students and thanked the business owners for opening their hearts to the students and allowing them into their businesses as a part of this program. He also congratulated the graduates on their success.
Evangeline Parish School Board Superintendent Toni Hamlin also took a few minutes to speak to the graduates and congratulate them. She said she was humbled and honored to lead over 6,000 students throughout the parish. She told the students “what you do today affects your future.” She also thanked the parents by saying, “We can’t teach to the degree necessary without an active role from the parents.” She also congratulated the graduates and the Y.O.U. staff for a job well done.
Y.O.U. staff member Sharon Fontenot then introduced District Attorney Brent Coreil as the key note speaker for the evening. He spoke to the graduates about appreciating the wonderful opportunity they had through Y.O.U., noting the program didn’t exist four years ago. He said one should prioritize their life and said the keys to being successful are happiness, providing for your family and a good relationship with God. He also said one has to work hard to find their niche in the world, something that makes you happy and gives you a sense of accomplishment. He added one should always have a smile, be thankful and appreciative of the job you have and do that job happily.
Following Coreil’s talk, several Y.O.U. graduates shared their experiences with their fellow graduates. Haley Brown, Christopher Stewart, Rushawn Middleton and William Watson all spoke about their workforce experience and expressed how grateful they were for the opportunity available through the program.
Before the graduates received their certificates, several of the Y.O.U. case managers and business mentors also shared their experiences from this session of the Y.O.U. program.
Once the certificates were handed out, a drawing was held for a new laptop computer, which was won by Henry Alfred.