Natchitoches Teens named LPB Young Heroes

Natchitoches area students Allison Callender (Junior at Natchitoches Central High School) and Mason McCart (Junior at St. Mary’s Catholic School) were honored by LPB as Young Heroes on April 21 in Baton Rouge. These outstanding students are role models in their communities and join nearly 200 former honorees.

The teens were given a tour of the LPB facilities, where they met other Young Heroes from around the state and were honored by the Mayor of Baton Rouge. After breakfast at LPB, the Young Heroes were taken to LSU where they met LSU football staff and Coach Kelly, along with being given a behind the scenes tour of the training facilities, locker rooms, and the Young Heroes were given a chance to “slap” the “win” bar as they ran onto Tiger Field!

Leaving LSU, the Young Heroes traveled to the governor’s mansion for lunch and a meet and greet with Governor Edwards where they were presented with a certificate of achievement from the governor. Students were also treated to a motivational speech from past winner Savannah Green, daughter of Coach Scott Green, from NCHS.

Lastly, the Young Heroes had the opportunity to tour the state capitol, visit the observation deck, watch the House of Representatives engage in the legislative process and then be recognized from the House floor for their accomplishments. The end of the day was momentous as each Young Hero was presented with many gift items including a Mac Book Air to be used as they continue to pursue their dreams.

Allison is the daughter of Doyle and Paula Callender, of Pleasant Hill. She is a cancer survivor who has beaten long odds to become a happy high school student who encourages others.

At four years old Allison was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma and given a 30 percent chance of survival. At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she endured six rounds of chemotherapy, stem cell extraction, surgery, 13 rounds of radiation, bone marrow transplant and five rounds of experimental antibody treatment. After 18 months, Allison was sent home with no signs of disease.

Allison has overcome the effects of treatment including losing part of her hearing, frontal lobe damage due to radiation, loss of kidney function, removal of her gallbladder, and several other issues over the years since treatment. Despite these obstacles, Allison has been active in her community. Described as having “a light that shines so brightly,” she is a competition dancer and teaching assistant at Renee’s Dance Studio of Natchitoches, a National Champion clogger, as well as a volunteer with the Wallace Baptist Church Youth Group.

Allison has also worked to support the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Shreveport/Bossier and Lake Charles. She and her family have participated in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon and in numerous walks to raise money for cancer research, as well as other childhood diseases. Her other service projects have included: Christmas Shoe Box packing, The Christmas Cheer Food Drive for the NW LA Food Pantry, Fill the Pantry for the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, Coke Tab drive for St. Jude. Allison is involved at school through LEO Club and Beta, and she also serves as the athletic trainer of the NCHS Lady Chiefs Soccer team.

Mason is the son of Jon and Carmella McCart of Natchitoches. He created “Cooking for a Cause,” an organization that has raised thousands of dollars to assist hundreds of people. Mason developed his idea to utilize his passion for baking to assist others during the pandemic. He bakes and sells cookies and donates the money to local charities. This inspired an anonymous donor to contribute an additional $5,000.

Mason has been approached by students at other schools asking for assistance in starting their own chapters. To date Cooking for a Cause has raised nearly $15,000. He started the initiative as a one-man operation but quickly formed a club to assist, which has grown to close to 30 members of friends and classmates.

Mason is the Beta President for the State of Louisiana and District VII President for the Louisiana Association of Student Councils. He holds leadership roles in St. Mary’s Future Business Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Council and National Honor Society organizations. He is a member of the City of Natchitoches Mayor’s Youth Council. Mason is a member of the SMH varsity tennis, track, cross-country teams and serves as the school mascot with the cheer team. He has been an altar server with his church since the second grade.

Recognizing that many teens struggle with emotional, psychological, and social well-being, Mason started a blog to uplift his peers through words of encouragement and to help raise awareness and support for mental health. Many students have reached out to Mason letting him know that his blog positively influenced their lives.