Foster Mom: The Truth

By Lynda Hammett

The truth has to come out… My name is not Melanie Wilson.

When I decided to write these articles I was afraid. I was afraid who would find me online. I was afraid I would get unwanted attention. I was afraid family members of my babies would find me and be able to track us down.

Most people I know have figured out these articles are mine. They have called me Melanie at church and caught me off guard. I have also been out in public and talked to people about foster care and they have asked if this article was mine.

I have decided I cannot be afraid if I want to be a voice and make a change for foster children. I need to be bold enough to be seen and to be heard.

Recently I have been on social media raising money for CASA and that is what has sparked this decision. If you have seen the video and read these articles I figured most people would put two and two together.

So here is the truth…. my name is Lynda.

I have loved writing these articles and sharing my experiences with everyone. I write these articles to inform more people about the foster care system. I also write these articles to get more people fired up about fighting for our children or to listen to that feeling in your tummy saying you should be a foster or adoptive parent as well.

It is scary to put my picture out and my name into the world but I can’t be afraid of others. Our children deserve someone who will be bold and I am going to be bold.

I will continue to write these articles… now under my own name. I also started a Facebook page so you can follow along throughout the week. I will be sharing other articles on the page, information, and ways everyone can help foster care children. The page is called Foster Mom Natchitoches.

I can’t thank everyone enough for reading these articles and wanting to know more about foster care and how you can help.

I’m excited to be called by God to be bold for these children. We have a lot of work to do but I’m ready!

Library to Host World Religions Presentation

The Natchitoches Parish Library (NPL) and Friends of the NPL (FONPL) will host a talk on world religions Thursday, February 20, at 6 PM. Dr. Fraser Snowden, an emeritus professor of philosophy in the Louisiana Scholars’ College at NSU, will be presenting “World Religions: An Overview” followed by a Q&A session. The event is open to the public and no signup is required. For updates and to mark your interest see the NPL’s Facebook event.

Dr. Fraser Snowden received a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Tulane University. During his 35 years at NSU, he taught a number courses on religion: World Religions, The Religious Philosophies of India and China, Philosophies of Christianity, The Writings of C. S. Lewis, a seminar on the interface of religion and technology, and Senior Colloquium on Religious Tolerance. He received a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Study Grant to research the Gnostic Gospels. He served two terms as Chairman of the Board of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and was Chairman of the committee that wrote the original proposal for the establishment of the Louisiana Scholars’ College.

For more information regarding NPL programming and services, you may contact Alan Niette, Community Outreach Coordinator, at or 318-238-9236.


To the City of Natchitoches:

My name is David Kees, Jr. (many of you may know me as “DJ”), and I consider it a privilege to announce my candidacy for Mayor. The decision to run was not made lightly. Now, more than ever, Natchitoches needs a Mayor who can recapture the public’s trust. Your next Mayor should have a servant-leader mentality, clarity of purpose, and the ability to unite rather than to divide.

If elected as your next Mayor, these are some of the things I will strive daily to accomplish:

Renewed faith in the City’s government and its leadership
Renewed faith in the pillars of our community: schools, churches, and families
Renewed faith in our police force and all first responders
Renewed faith in each other as friends and neighbors

As we move forward through this campaign together, I will elaborate on how I intend to accomplish these goals.

We have a lot of work to do. Every community, whether large or small, must overcome enormous challenges. We are no exception. I believe Natchitoches has the strength, resilience, and talent to thrive when facing those challenges.

The reason I believe we can thrive is simple: us. We have some of Louisiana’s greatest people living right here in the City of Natchitoches. Our people are as gracious, welcoming, and loving as anybody you’ll meet in any part of the country.

Natchitoches may be world famous for meat pies, Christmas lights, and Front Street. But those are just things Natchitoches HAS, not what Natchitoches IS. Natchitoches IS its people. When I travel outside of our hometown, I no longer tell people, “I’m proud to be FROM Natchitoches.” I tell them, “I’m proud to BE Natchitoches.”

No matter the outcome on April 4th, my hope is that all of us are forever proud to be Natchitoches.


David “DJ” Kees

Shining Stars Indeed!

A standing room only crowd of friends, family, faculty and school board members joined together as the Natchitoches Parish School System celebrated academic excellence at its Shining Star Ceremony Thursday, January 23 at the NSU Middle Lab auditorium. The ceremony honors young scholars in grades 3 to 8 who scored among the top 5% of the students in their respective schools during the year’s state testing. One hundred fifty-eight young men and women earned honors.

In addition to the top 5% honors, awards were given in several other areas related to student achievement. Ten students earned perfect scores on their test. Fifty students were named as “Triple Advanced” students, earning the highest rating of Advanced on 3 of the 4 tests given. Three students earned Advanced ratings on all 4 tests.

After the awards were presented, the students and their families were treated to a well deserved pizza party. The Natchitoches Parish Journal wishes to congratulate the young men and women of our community’s public schools who so ably rose to the challenge with some truly amazing results. We would also be remiss if we did not take note of the many dedicated and able teachers and school staff members whose efforts bring out the best in our children each and every day. Lastly we would like to commend school board members Harris, Phelps, Broadway, Guidroz, Benefield, Palmer and Metoyer who took the time to attend the ceremony and shake the hand of every child. Ceremonies like this which celebrate scholastic excellence are a superb way to remind the larger community of the great things happening throughout the system.

McCutcheon Honors Recital to be held Tuesday

NSU– The School of Creative and Performing Arts at Northwestern State University will hold the annual McCutcheon Honors Recital on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall Admission is free and open to the public. A reception for the participants will follow the recital.

Each year student winners are chosen from each musical area for having the most outstanding undergraduate Fall jury performance. These students represent the following areas: woodwinds, brass, strings, piano, percussion and voice. Those performing are Ramon Barralaga of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, piano; Lane Clevenger of Bush, trumpet; Valentina Herazo Alvarez of Cartagena, Colombia, voice; Jami Rivers of Bossier City, oboe; William Sprinkle of Arlington, Texas, violin, and Steven Wimberley of Pineville, percussion. Barralaga performed in the 2019 McCutcheon Honors Recital.

The recital was established to honor Jim McCutcheon, a retired band teacher, who was active in instrument repair at NSU. McCutcheon wanted to do something to recognize outstanding student performance at Northwestern State and began offering a financial prize to those students selected to perform in the recital. After his death, his wife, Jo Lapeyrouse, chose to continue this tradition and has funded a scholarship in his name.

Spanish classes at St. Mary's utilize synchronous teaching/learning

By Jeannie Petrus

¡Buenos dias clase!
(Good morning, class!)

It’s the greeting that takes place every day at the start of St. Mary’s School’s Spanish I and II classes.

The only difference is that their teacher is 276 miles away.

Brooke Axsom is the Spanish teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School, who teaches Spanish I and II via Zoom from her home in Frisco, Texas. It’s called synchronous learning and it could be the future of education as well as the future of global business communication.

“Synchronous learning allows me to teach from my home in Texas, while communicating in real-time with the students at St. Mary’s in Natchitoches,” said Axsom. “They can see me and each other through the cameras on their computers and hear me through headsets or earbuds. I can see and hear them through my computer at home.” (A proctor is always present in the classroom.)

It all started at the end of the 2018-19 school year, when Axsom’s husband was offered a job in Texas and she had to leave her eight-year tenure as the Spanish teacher at St. Mary’s. After a long search to find a qualified Spanish teacher in the Natchitoches area ended nowhere, the principal, Andrea Harrell, had an idea.

“I was aware that Axsom had been teaching English remotely to students in China through the VIPKids program at the same time she was teaching at St. Mary’s,” said Harrell. “I asked her what it would take for her to teach remotely at St. Mary’s like she taught students in China.”

Together, Axsom, Harrell, and the technology director Donnan Brian worked on the logistics of synchronous learning. Brian set up the computers to integrate with Zoom, the leader in video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars.

“I felt it was important to choose an online platform that would be beneficial for students to be familiar with as they attend college and prepare for future careers,” said Axsom. “Not only are the students learning Spanish, but they are experiencing online classes that are being used by more and more universities (NSU, LSU, La Tech, etc). They are also learning the technology used in future career experiences such as conducting a webinar as executives, collaborating with colleagues as medical professionals, and video conferencing as business leaders.”

Harrell said that while the technology is impressive, the student engagement is even more impressive.

“I wish everyone could see this type of teaching/learning in progress,” she said. “Axsom is a great teacher already, but when she incorporates what she can use through Zoom, it’s amazing.”

At the beginning of each class, students individually log into Zoom on their computers, and begin their Bell Ringer (initial task to get the class started) in Google Classroom. After completing the Bell Ringer, the students answer roll call through video conferencing using their Spanish chosen name. The class recites the Our Father prayer in Spanish and class begins.

At home, Axsom uses Chatbox, a messaging platform where students create and automate personalized, results-oriented conversations across texting, chat, and social channels; and

chroma key, or a “green screen” to project images from places anywhere in the world.

• “Where am I today?” she asks the class as she appears before the Angel Falls in Venezuela. The students respond individually through Chatbox.

.• On the Day of the Dead, she dressed up as Catrinia, a Mexican representation of death. Students gasped as they turned on their cameras to find her in complete face and neck paint.

• On the day after the LSU Championship game, Axsom appeared on the screen with a virtual background of the trophy ceremony. Then students savored the glory of last night as they watched highlights and interviews broadcasted in the Spanish language.

As she initiates a conversation in Spanish with the students, she can see up close the faces of every student. She can see the confidence or the confusion in the faces as they engage in her conversations. The students can ask question or make comments in the Chatbox at any point during the lecture.

“I usually address the question as they pop up on my screen,” she said. “Chatbox has been an incredible tool for student engagement and to check for student comprehension mid lesson.

And if that’s not enough, students can also participate in class at home if they are sick.

“I had a student attend class while home sick with the flu,” she said. “There is an option for students to sign in from anywhere and in his case, he didn’t want to be seen . . . so he didn’t have to be. He could hear me and I could hear his responses.

The students said they love learning Spanish in this technological environment.

“I feel like I’m using Facetime in class,” said Jessie Lucky. “It’s fun.”

“I like the technology of a class like this,” said Dagan Watson. “It keeps me interested and engaged the whole time.”

“I like that we are learning the technology of taking classes in college and the technology that we will be using in the business world,” said Karson Eversull.

Agenda for January 27 City Council Meeting – TONIGHT WITH OPEN HOUSE

The Natchitoches City Council invites the public to a viewing of the recently renovated City Council Chambers building, formerly known as the Natchitoches Arts Council before its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Jan. 27 beginning at 4:30 pm. The pre-council meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and end at 5:30 p.m. to discuss non-agenda items. The City Council meeting will begin promptly at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to both the pre-council meetings and council meetings with the understanding that items not on the agenda will not be discussed at the scheduled council meetings, but the public is welcome to discuss any topic at the pre-council meetings. The City Council Meetings are held at the Natchitoches Council Chambers at 716 Second Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana.



Purpose: The City Council to review a decision of the Natchitoches Planning and Zoning Commission at the December 3, 2019 meeting that denied the application regarding the St. Maurice Subdivision.

#005 Harrington Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing

Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows:

Lot Containing 1.132 Acres – Described As Situated In Block 10 Of Jacob Lieber Subdivision, No. 6 As Shown On Plat Recorded In Conveyance Book 614, Page 671, from R-3 Residence Multiple Family to R-3 Residence Multiple Family, Special Exception to operate Save the Children Head Start. (1504 Gold St.)

#006 Morrow Ordinance Amending Ordinance No. 64 Of 2001 By Changing

Zoning Classification Of Property Described As Follows:
Lot East Side Williams Avenue, 75 Feet Front By 371 Feet – 4 Inches, North By Corley And Thomas, West By Street, South By Lilly, from R-1 Residential to R-1 Residential, Special Exception to operate a Bed & Breakfast. (219 Williams Ave.)


#055 Mims Ordinance Authorizing The City To Lease A Portion Of A Building Located At 200 Rapides Drive To Youth & Families Empowerment Services, LLC, Setting The Terms And Conditions Of Same, And Authorizing The Execution Of The Lease By The Mayor, Lee Posey, After Due Compliance With The Law, And Further Providing For Advertising Of The Lease And An Effective Date.

#002 Harrington Ordinance Approving The Acquisition Of The Hanger Located On Lot 3 Of The Natchitoches Regional Airport From Harold G. Foster And Laurie M. Berry, For The Consideration Of Thirteen Thousand Dollars, Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Lee Posey, To Execute A Cash Sale Deed On Behalf Of The City For The Acquisition Of The Hanger And To Execute Any And All Other Related Documents That Might Be Necessary And Proper, To Provide For Advertising, And A Savings Clause.

#003 Nielsen Ordinance Amending Ordinance Number 042 Of 2019 Which Said Ordinance Approved The Acquisition Of A Tract Of Land Situated On The Western Right Of Way Of Sixth Street In The City Of Natchitoches, From Eagle Distributing Of Shreveport, Inc., For The Total Consideration Of Four Hundred Thousand Dollars, And Further Authorized The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Lee Posey, To Execute A Cash Sale Deed On Behalf Of The City For The Acquisition Of The Tract And To Execute Any And All Other Related Documents That Might Be Necessary And Proper, To Provide For Advertising, And A Savings Clause.

#007 Harrington Ordinance Amending the 2019-2020 Budget to Reflect Additional Revenues And Expenditures.

#008 Batiste Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches To Award The Bid For The Natchitoches Event Center Roof Replacement Project (Bid No. 0623)

#009 Morrow Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Or His Designee To Advertise An Airport Hanger Lease For Maintenance Shop, Establishing The Terms And Conditions For Said Lease Which Will Include Obligation Of Lessee To Provide An Experienced Aircraft Mechanic And Aircraft Mechanics Shop For Fixed Wing And Rotor Wing Aircraft, Authorizing Mayor To Execute Lease After Due Advertisements And Compliance With Law In Accordance Louisiana Revised Statutes 2:135.1.

#003 Nielsen Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Execute A Certificate Of Substantial Completion To The Contract Between The City Of Natchitoches And Ratcliff Construction Company For The Natchitoches Sports & Recreation Park (Bid No 0602)

#004 Batiste Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Enter Into Contract With Travelers Casualty And Surety Company Of America For The Public Official Schedule Bond For The City Of Natchitoches.


The next scheduled City Council meeting will be Monday, February 10, 2020.

Northwestern State earns doubleheader sweep over LSU-Alexandria

NSU—Freshman Olivia Alfredsson continued her strong play, as she won convincingly in her two singles matches Saturday, leading Northwestern State to a doubleheader sweep against LSU-Alexandria 6-1 and 7-0 at the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex.  It is the fourth consecutive home opening win for NSU (2-1), which remained perfect all-time against LSUA (8-0).

“We had two good matches which were very much needed at this time of year,” head coach Patric DuBois said. “LSUA has a good team and we had a lot of very good matches. They showed they are very well-coached and it showed from the start.”

A week after narrowly falling to the reigning Louisiana Player of the Year, Alfredsson dominated in her matches, allowing just one total game to be won against her in two convincing victories. She defeated Katheryne Campos 6-0, 6-0 and Marie Cool 6-0, 6-1, at the No. 4 spot in the rotation.

At the No. 1 spot in the rotation, freshman Mariella Minetti won all four sets en route to a sweep. Against Darija Mladenovic in the first match, she won 6-1, 7-5, coming from behind to win the second set to earn the sweep. In the second match, she controlled from the start, defeating Miljana Milojevic 6-1, 6-3.

Ela Iwaniuk continued her strong play from last year, earning two wins, not allowing her opponent to win more than three games in any set. At the No. 2 spot, she earned a 6-3, 6-2 win in the first match and she defeated Mladenovic 6-3, 6-1.

“I was trying to keep the baseline and not letting them push me back, staying aggressive,” Iwaniuk said. “Overall, I think the girls tried to work on their little details they needed to work on, so that is why we succeeded.

Judit Castillo Gargallo won convincingly at the No. 5 spot in each contest, dominating Cool at 6-0, 6-1 in the first match and Carolina Guerrero 6-4, 6-2 in the second match. Her two singles victories moved her to a tie for 20th with Kim Tollett for singles wins with 44.

Patrycja Polanska controlled the match in the first contest, winning 6-3, 6-1, and won a tight first set in the second match against Patricia Martinez before Martinez retired.

After falling in the first match, freshman Gig Kanaphuet fell behind 5-2 in the second set before rattling off 11 consecutive points to win 7-5, 6-0, to earn her first victory with the Lady Demons.

In doubles, NSU was victorious in all six matches, earning both doubles points. In four of the six, the Lady Demons won in decisive fashion, not allowing more than two games to be won by the Generals. The second match was when NSU really flexed its muscle in doubles.

At No. 1 doubles, Iwaniuk and Emilija Dancetovic and at No. 3, Alfredsson and Castillo Gargallo each won 6-0. At No. 2, Polanska and Minetti won a tight match in the second contest following a 6-2 win in the opening match.

“We did a lot of good things today, but we certainly have plenty to improve upon. We have a very tough match at North Texas next Saturday, so hopefully this will be a springboard into our preparation this week for that match.”

NSU hits the road for the test at UNT next Saturday, which begins a three-match road trip for the Lady Demons. The next home contest will be Feb. 14 when NSU battles Alcorn.

Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

“A Glimpse of Shreveport” Everyday Shreveport of 1918 on Display at NSU's Cammie G. Henry Archive and Research Center

NSU’s Cammie G. Henry Archive and Research Center, housed in the university’s Watson Library, hosted an opening of its latest exhibit at the archive Thursday, January 23. The exhibit is titled “A Glimpse of Shreveport” and is composed of a remarkable series of photographs of day to day worklife in a variety of businesses in the city. The photographs were taken by an unknown photographer in late 1917 and 1918. The photos show everything from welders to clerks, all in amazing detail. One can easily read the time from clocks in the photo’s background as well as the date from calendars. The location of several of the businesses photographed may be deduced by looking at what is visible through the windows in the background of the shot. In one case, Shreveport’s First Methodist Church can be clearly seen through a window, enabling a viewer to find the location of the business shown. The photographs are a fascinating resource for local history buffs.

The photographs were commissioned by the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and were intended to highlight the economic progress of the city. Of the 400 original photographs, 250 remain today. The first few pages of the collection list facts about the Shreveport of a century ago. For example in 1918, the city boasted of 37 miles of paved roads with 42 more on the way. All of the businesses and industries in Shreveport were listed. One of them, Allen Millwork, is still in business, albeit under a different name. The business still uses the wooden carts shown in the 1918 photographs to transport materials within the facility.

The collection narrowly escaped the trash pile. The collection’s owner, Edward Chopin, was helping friends move about 40 years ago. As he was leaving the house, he noticed what looked like a scrapbook on a pile of items left at the curb. He turned it over and saw the title “A Glimpse of Shreveport” with the photographs inside. It was to prove a fortunate discovery, preserving an irreplaceable link to our area’s past. The exhibit was previously on display at Centenary College and will be at the Cammie Henry Archive for all to enjoy until March 27. The archive is housed in the 3rd floor of NSU’s Watson Libray and is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 5:00pm and 8 am to noon on Friday. The exhibit has no admission charge. “A Glimpse of Shreveport” is a truly remarkable window to the past and is a delight to look through.

Notice of Death – January 26, 2020

Billy Giddens, Sr.
March 20, 1942 – January 24, 2020
Service: Monday, January 27 at 10 am at Montgomery United Methodist Church, located at 1128 Caddo Street in Montgomery

John Gill “Bud” Rachal
October 10, 1949 – January 17, 2020
Service: Saturday, February 1 at 11 am at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, located at 911 5th St. in Natchitoches

Jessie Mae Thomas Manning
March 5, 1942 – January 24, 2020
Visitation: Friday, January 31 from 5-8 pm at the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home, located at 318 North Street in Natchitoches
Service: Saturday, February 1 at 11 am at the Friendship Baptist Church

James Pickett
January 25, 2020
Arrangements TBA

John L. Brooks
January 25, 2020
Arrangements TBA

Billy Gibson
December 25, 1950 – January 19, 2020
Service: Saturday, February 1 at 12 pm at The Camp, located at 1026 Hampton Road in Natchitoches

James Moody
January 17, 2020
Service: Saturday, February 1 at 2 pm in the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home Chapel

Yvonne Miller
October 23, 1943 – January 22, 2020
Visitation: Friday, January 24 at 5 at Warren Meadows Funeral Home in Many
Service: Saturday, January 25 at 10 am at Warren Meadows Funeral Home
Interment: Oxley Cemetery

Women's Basketball — Dupuy resigns as Lady Demons coach; Swinson named interim head coach

Northwestern State head women’s basketball coach Jordan Dupuy has submitted his resignation and will be placed on leave for the remainder of his contract, which expires on April 30.

A mutual decision was reached between Dupuy and the NSU administration to move in another direction that would be in the best interest of the program.

The announcement comes one day after the Lady Demons’ 72-56 loss to Southeastern Louisiana at Prather Coliseum. That defeat dropped Northwestern State to 5-13 overall and 2-7 in Southland Conference play.

Dupuy was in his fourth season as the Lady Demons head coach, compiling a 36-60 overall record.

Aaron SwinsonAssociate head coach Aaron A. Swinson will serve as the team’s interim head coach and will hold that role through the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Northwestern State returns to action Wednesday, hosting New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. in Prather Coliseum.


Photo: Jordan Dupuy watches his team during Northwestern State’s win against Grambling on Dec. 4.

Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services


Boil Advisory – Payne Subdivision

For Immediate Release

Payne Subdivision within the City of Natchitoches Distribution System did experience a low pressure problem on January 24, 2020 in the above mentioned area of the water supply system. This drop in system pressure below 20 pounds has been caused by a water leak in which the water supply had to be shut off for a period of time.

Because of this drop in system pressure, the water within our water distribution system is of questionable microbiological quality.

Therefore, as a precaution, the City of Natchitoches Distribution System is issuing a BOIL ADVISORY effective immediately for Payne Subdivision. This BOIL ADVISORY is to remain in effect until rescinded by the Water System.

It is recommended that all consumers in the Payne Subdivision disinfect their water before consuming it (including fountain drinks), making ice, brushing teeth, or using it for food preparation or rinsing of foods by the following means:

Boil water for one (1) full minute in a clean container. The one minute starts after the water has been brought to a rolling boil. (The flat taste can be eliminated by shaking the water in a clean bottle or pouring it from one clean container to another, or by adding a pinch of salt to each quart of water that is boiled.)

Again, please be sure to disinfect your own water prior to consumption until you have been advised otherwise.

This Boil advisory does not affect the remainder City of Natchitoches Water Distribution System.

Natchitoches Water System
PWS ID# 1069007
Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana