From left to right: Coach Jabain August, Phillip McCoy, Deion Williams,
Brianna Ritchie, Keyiada Wilson, Arielle Harrison, Sha’Niya Latson, Madison Ritchie, & Mrs. Racheal Chapman. Not pictured, Namaya Levine.
Pastor Walter August Jr., second from left, meets with the Abbeville High students
during their recent trip to Houston. August invited the teens to take part in “High School Students Summit Retreat.”
Along with their counterparts from Houston, the Abbeville High students toured NASA.
‘Special’ trip to Houston: Abbeville High students take part in Summit
World travelers will tell you that a trip can be a life-changing event.
That can even be true for trips that are not necessarily a world away.
Last month, eight students from Abbeville High School spent five days in Houston as part of an extension of Pathways to Success, the program that for the past few years has brought speakers and mentors into Vermilion Parish schools to work with students. Phillip McCoy, Deion Williams, Brianna Ritchie, Keyiada Wilson, Arielle Harrison, Sha’Niya Latson, Madison Ritchie and Namaya Levine attended the trip.
“It was a great experience for our students to reflect on their futures and gain some tools to help them achieve their goals,” Racheal Chapman, a family and consumer science teacher at AHS, who served as a chaperone, said of the trip.
Walter August Jr., an Abbeville native and pastor of the Church at Bethel’s Family in Houston, has been heavily involved and helped to organize the Pathways to Success program. August invited the eight Abbeville High students to attend his “High School Students Summit Retreat.” The eight students earned the invitation after August came to Abbeville High for a program at the end of last school year.
“The way they were able to qualify for this trip,” Chapman said, “was from the day that Pastor August was here in May. He told all the students at school that all they had to do was write a one-page essay of what they learned from the speakers and sessions, and what changes they were going to make in their lives to do better.”
August picked up the eight students at Abbeville High and headed to Houston. Once there, the students jumped right into the summit. Paired with students their age from the Houston area, the Abbeville students heard from various speakers and took part in goal-building activities and talked about plans for their futures. They toured the federal office building in downtown Houston, as well as NASA and a museum.
“It was about exposing them to different settings,” Chapman said.
In that regard, only a couple of the eight students had previously been that far away from Abbeville.
“It was great exposure,” Chapman said. “It was very eye-opening for these kids. They got a lot of great experience.”
That included aiding in the Church’s effort to help Houston’s less fortunate.
“They were involved in preparing food boxes for the homeless that were distributed from the church,” Chapman said. “They worked in the food pantry to assemble the boxes. They helped serve hot meals to people who could not afford meals. They got to be there for all of that. They got first-hand experience at serving those less fortunate.
“It was a really great experience for them to get their hands in there and serve the community and I think it really built their character a lot more.”
Chapman said after only a few days into the new school year, she can “absolutely” see a clear difference in the students.
“You can tell their confidence level was rising during the trip,” Chapman said. “As a teacher, I learned a lot. It helped me see things in different perspective to see these kids interact with each other. Things are so much more difficult for teenagers than it used to be. It helped me see how I can do my job better. Everybody won here.
“It was amazing.”
Deion Williams, a senior at AHS, feels that way after taking the trip.
“I have learned a lot at the summit,” Williams said, “but one major thing that stuck with me was, ‘Being a Leader.’ As I look around in my community, there’s not many young male leaders setting examples for the kids younger than them. One leader that pushes me to be a better person and a role model is my mom. She made too many sacrifices to get me where I am now. That’s why I’m willing to take this responsibility because this is the first step in making an impact in others’ lives to do better.”
Sophomore Phillip McCoy came back with more confidence.
“The trip really was a special thing for me,” McCoy said. “It helped me to learn that I really need to believe in everything I do. It helped me to focus on what was important and to set goals for myself which will push me to strive for excellence. The trip helped me to learn that you can have fun, just make sure you take care of your more important things first. My favorite part was helping to get all the donation items ready. Seeing everyone work together was an amazing experience.
“To all the speakers, chaperones, and Pastor August, who gave their time to allow us to have a life changing experience, I am extremely thankful for all of you.”
Chapman thanked the Vermilion Parish School Board for supporting these outside programs.
“We want to express our gratitude,” Chapman said, “to the School Board and our Principal (Lyndelle Theriot) for giving these kids a chance and letting these programs come in to help them grow.”