By Pamela Seal 
Diocese of Lake Charles  

Graduation for the St. Louis Catholic High Class of 2021 on Tuesday, May 18, was about more than diplomas, awards, and scholarships. It was also the culmination of perseverance and faith during a senior year like no other.  

On Aug. 27, 2020, which was supposed to be the first day of classes for the new school year, Hurricane Laura destroyed the Bank Street school with 150-mph winds. Little did the seniors know their junior year — which ended abruptly because of COVID-19 — would be the last time they would ever walk the halls of St. Louis High.  

“When I found out about our school, my heart just dropped,” said Caroline Broussard. “I immediately started crying as I was looking at the photos on Facebook and texting all my friends.”  

The St. Louis Catholic High School Class of 2021 celebrates
at the conclusion of their commencement ceremony in the
Burton Coliseum on Tuesday, May 18.
(Photo credit: Morris LeBleu / Diocese of Lake Charles)

Jaide Navarre said she was terrified when she learned of the destruction. After the news sunk in, she quickly shifted gears to organize a cleanup crew. “I was on the phone for about 12 hours calling teachers, friends, and people that needed help,” she said. “We all got together. It was very bonding and didn’t seem as tragic as I thought it would be in the end.”  

Terry Sherman attended public elementary and junior high schools prior to starting at St. Louis his freshman year. “When I got there, they treated me like family,” he said. “After I heard the school was destroyed, I thought, where am I going to go now? No one will ever treat me as good as they did at St. Louis.”  

Within six weeks of Laura making landfall, Hurricane Delta slammed the already crippled region on Oct. 9. Less than two weeks later, students finally started the school year at a temporary campus set up on the school’s football field. Bishop Glen John Provost praised Principal Mia Touchet, the staff, teachers, and advisory board for making it possible for students to return so quickly after back-to-back hurricanes.  

“Even though we weren’t using the original school, just pulling up in the same parking lot and being next to the school was comforting,” said Caroline.  

A big part of high school are the memories, and the seniors were determined to adapt to the hand dealt by Mother Nature.  

“Homecoming was weird, but we made it work,” Caroline recalled. “We hosted it at the Lake Charles Country Club’s tennis courts so that it was outside and would be COVID friendly. Instead of having Twerp Week, we decided to have Scholar Week celebrating academics complete with a Scholar Week Court and pep rally.”  

“We celebrated Mass outdoors instead of in the school chapel,” said Terry. “They did everything they could to make some of the usual events happen for us.” The chapel and being able to eat lunch with his friends in the cafeteria were a couple of things Terry missed most about the school. “On the temporary campus, we had to eat in our classrooms, so I didn’t see a lot of my friends.”  

Caroline said one of her favorite memories of the old school was their school dances. “It was so much fun all being smooshed together in the cafeteria.”  

Even though each day was filled with uncertainty as the students navigated the unusual school year, one thing that remained constant was God’s guiding hand. 

Terry said he enjoyed going to St. Louis so much he was determined to find a way rather than switch to a school in Houston where he had evacuated.  

“I was driving from Houston to Lake Charles every day, getting up between 3-4 a.m. for about a month, because our house was destroyed,” he said. “When a couple of my friends realized what I was doing, they said there was no way they were going to let that happen. I lived with friends for about four months until FEMA finally helped my mom get a trailer and move back to Lake Charles. My friends were a huge blessing.”  

Jaide noticed how God always provided even when it was not the ideal situation. “Seeing the way everyone was able to lend a hand regardless of their own situation has been heartwarming and encouraging,” she said. “Going through this challenging time and seeing what is important has made our school overall become closer.”  

As chair of the Scholar Week committee, Caroline was tasked with planning a Twerp Week pep rally. It rained so hard the day before, plans had to be changed at the last minute. “We decided to host it on the deck and have students watch it virtually,” she recalled. “It ended up being an awesome event. We have been through so much this year, but we are thankful for the trials. I think that is God’s way of strengthening us.”  

“Even though there were a lot of struggles this year, I really did have a great senior year,” said Caroline. “I am grateful for the extra efforts to keep all of us together on the same campus. There is no way I would have had the amazing senior year I had if not for the temporary campus.”  

Jaide said she also is grateful for the way her senior year panned out. “If I could redo my senior year and have it gone down differently, I would not have it any other way,” she said. 

As for Terry, he feels like he has lived through the worst of the worst and won’t ever question what God has in store for him. “There will always be obstacles in life,” he said, giving credit to his mom for his strong faith. “I was blessed to be able to come back to St. Louis and play basketball for the Saints. You never know when something is going to be taken away from you.”