As family and friends entered A. A. Fredericks Auditorium for the Natchitoches Parish Technical and Career Center’s graduation on May 15 to honor the school’s 58 graduates, the excitement was almost tangible. In fact, the excitement was contagious as an array of emotions could be read on Principal Bobby Benjamin’s face as he welcomed family members into the building.
“I am so excited for these young men and women,” he said. “I am also a bit saddened because these students are like my family. I am used to seeing them regularly, and knowing all that is about to change tugs at my heart.”
With a new name, a few new staff members, and an increase in the number of students choosing to attend NPTCC, Benjamin, a five-year principal at the school, said the mission is still to graduate as many students as they can and become the number one alternative school in the state.
Eva Scott, first year counselor at NPTCC, was amazed by the numerous programs offered at the school. “I wasn’t aware of the various opportunities that are offered at NPTCC,” she said. “Usually, you only hear about the students who are expelled. Never about the hundreds of kids that actually want to graduate. We had 18 students enter the welding program at the technical school from our campus. That within itself is a major accomplishment. Being here to witness these 58 young men and women as they reach one of life’s goals is what working within the school system is all about.”
School Disciplinarian Tara Sapp discussed the growth of the school since she started working there four years ago. “Our first graduation was held in the school gym,” she recalled. “I think we had 18 students that year. Every year since, we grew a little more, making it necessary to have our graduation on NSU’s campus. I am so proud of our kids, but I am also very proud of us as a school. Tonight, we honor our largest graduating class thus far. Fifty-eight students will leave our school this year with a high school diploma. This doesn’t just happen. We have been preparing for this for years.”
Stephanie Sewell, school coordinator, seconded this sentiment. “Our teachers have worked hard with the students and parents this year,” she said. “Tonight, is a culmination of that hard work.”
With the ceremony about to begin, it was obvious that all in attendance were ready to celebrate. Students, family members, and faculty and staff of NPTCC were full of smiles and laughter. As Benjamin stated, “Tonight is what it’s all about. It doesn’t get any better than this. With the looks on everyone’s face that entered A. A. Fredericks tonight, it is obvious they feel the same.”
Pictured on front row from left are Kolby Grant, Jimmie Evans, Destiny Brown, Jhalea Dawson, Se’Dajah Hall, Labrasiah Forest, Da’Jinea Petite, Sage Williamson, Sha’Daisha Jefferson, Celena Neal, Sierra Newton, Jewel Penegar, Damian Simmons, Kameron Medlock, and Kadarius Miller. On middle row are James Prudhomme, Royalin Clark, Jaylon Collins, Kristen Berryman, Crystal Taylor, Earlana Lucas, Gabrielle Bush, Alazia Walker, Rosa Beaudion, Jamal Pier, ZeCorey McNeal, Treyvious Blackman, Michael Smith, Kyleasha Casson, and Disciplinarian Tara Sapp. On back row are Principal Bobby Benjamin Jr., Clerence Stampley, Quasey Washington, Quindarius Demery, LaDarrion Paige, Mario Jackson, Aleasha Humphrey, Da’Jean Warren, Darrion Simmons, Tyre’c Sibley, Donald Pye, England Curry, Josiah Castorena, Demontray Pier, Shaquale Daniels, Kevin Green, and Christia’na Howard.