One hundred and thirty seniors from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) graduated during the school’s 37th Commencement Ceremony on May 15, 2021 in Prather Coliseum on the campus of Northwestern State University.
For students, faculty and staff seated in the coliseum, the day of Friday, March 12, 2020 seemed like an eternity ago. On this day the faculty and staff said goodbye to students as they left for virtual learning at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19. What they assumed would be a few weeks soon turned into months. And through it all, every member of the LSMSA family mourned what was missed.
Executive Director Dr. Steve Horton addressed the crowd on a Saturday afternoon in May of 2021. Friends and family were allowed to attend thanks to decreases in pandemic restrictions. Masks were still mandatory, but it was a small price to pay to have everyone together to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates.
“Regardless of what obstacles are thrown at us, we always persevere, and as a result, we are home again,” said Horton.
LSMSA’s commencement began in Prather in 1985 with 172 members of the first graduating class. Horton began the 37th commencement by recognizing some of the senior administration who have helped to make things possible. They include: Chief of Staff, Director of Operations, and Senior Class Sponsor John Allen; Director of Academic Services Dr. Kristi Pope Key; Director of Enrollment; and Student Services Emily Shumate.
Being a student at the Louisiana School can be stressful, but at the same time it’s extremely rewarding. Aubrey Prewitt spoke to the resilience of her fellow students as she delivered the Senior Address.
“We missed out on a lot…but we’re still here,” she said. “We are the first class to survive nearly a year of online classes, a global pandemic, multiple hurricanes, a Louisiana snowstorm and more. It wasn’t the ideal senior year by any standard, but we made it.”
The past year is far from the only difficult time the graduating seniors will face in their lives. They will run into roadblocks, hardships, and stress in their lives. But just like the school’s alma mater says, “We are eagles soaring strong and true.”
“Though we are now leaving our nest, we can do anything we put our minds to,” Prewitt added.
Dr. Darrell Bourque, professor emeritus in English from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette and a former Louisiana Poet Laureate, was the keynote speaker. He echoed Prewitt’s sentiments that LSMSA students are exceptional humans. They see the possible and the probable where others do not. He then offered a few simple yet impactful pieces of advice as the graduating seniors go out in the world to “do their work.” Take care of the planet. Be considerate of the welfare of the future generations to come as they are in your hands. Beware of inflexibility, which will break you.
Of those students moving on to the next stage of their lives, 63 percent will attend 18 colleges and universities in Louisiana while 37 percent are headed to 44 different universities throughout the US and abroad. Collectively they have been awarded over $27.8 million in merit-based scholarships. This is in addition to nearly 3,200 hours of college credit through articulation agreements and dual enrollment credits, which over 60 percent of students took advantage of.
“We are so proud of you,” said Horton. “What you have learned about the subjects you studied. What you have learned about your abilities and potential. What you have learned about life. We are proud of you individually and collectively as a community…Know that we hope we have given you what you need to thrive in your next steps in life…I want to challenge this class to continue to excel, to continue to learn and serve, and to know that LSMSA will remain here for you, with you. Go forward with this foundation, go forward and excel.”
East Baton Rouge
St. John The Baptist
West Baton Rouge