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FUTURE, HERE WE COME: Class of 2020 closes historic year with drive-thru celebration

LAPLACE — It wasn’t a traditional graduation ceremony, but it was special nonetheless.

More than 500 seniors from all four St. John the Baptist Parish high school took a “ride of fame” during a massive drive-thru graduation celebration Friday in the New Wine Christian Fellowship parking lot. It was an occasion marked with valedictorian speeches, confetti cannons, honking horns and cheers.

Many seniors opted to ride on top of their cars like royalty. Window paint and posters on the side of their cars told a visual story of their high school achievements and future plans. School administrators and parish officials waved signs to tell seniors, “You are awesome” and “We are so proud of you.”

Administrators and officials hold signs to show their pride for the resilient Class of 2020.

A host of community sponsors banded together to shower the seniors with gift bags, monetary gift cards, certificates, cotton candy, donuts, snowballs and other trinkets. One lucky senior from West St. John won a raffle drawing for a new car.

In an opening ceremony for each of the four school celebrations, Pastor Neil Bernard prayed that, even though senior year didn’t go as planned, the 2020 graduates will find blessings, favor and guidance as they continue on to the next phase of their lives.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard gave the graduates three helpful tips for a successful life. First, she reminded the students that they each have a personal brand based on how they present themselves to the world.

“Never allow anyone or anything to jeopardize your personal brand or its value,” Hotard said. “Surround yourself with those who will lift you up and encourage you, and when it’s not positive, take a pass on it.”

Secondly, Hotard told students they should never be afraid to reinvent themselves. Some people know exactly where they are going after high school and some are still figuring it out, and both are okay.

“Should you get on your life journey and find out that your passion has changed, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself,” Hotard said.

West St. John senior Derrius Taylor is covered in confetti as he picks up his senior gift bag.

Her third piece of advice is to not fear change or adversity.

“As unfortunate as it seems, this academic year has taught you one of the most valuable lif,e lessons – how to overcome change and adversity,” she said. “You could have given up gotten lazy or turned online lessons on mute. You chose to push forward.”

Corey Butler, interim superintendent of St. John Parish Schools, said he hopes this is an experience students can learn from, grow from, and use as motivation to shape a bright future.

Representatives from St. Charles Catholic, Riverside Academy, West St. John and East St. John addressed the graduating class before seniors collected their gift bags, cotton candy, donuts and other treats.

West St. John valedictorian Tierny Sterling took a moment to appreciate that all of the seniors were alive and healthy. People always told her that senior year would fly by so fast that she would blink and miss it, but she never anticipated actually missing pivotal milestones.

“Nevertheless, I know for sure that the Class of 2020 will now be making sure that anywhere they go, they will be making memories and cherishing little moments in life,” Sterling said.

She told her class, “Stay true to yourself, because you will have to live with what you become.”

East St. John valedictorian Mariah Amugo said the Class of 2020 has the potential to be phenomenal after high school.

“Many of the members of the Class of 2020, including myself, own businesses outside of school and make their own money,” Amugo said.

She was proud to balance being a student athlete, running a business and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Her advice to her classmates is to “never settle.”

“Keep striving for greatness, whatever your goals are,” Amugo said. “Do everything in your power to make it happen. Stay classy and stay humble.”