Terrebonne Parish has not yet finalized a date for its high-school graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus outbreak, but a few select graduates got to walk the walk Thursday night.
Forty-seven students from its four public high schools who pledged themselves to military service after graduation were honored in a special commencement ceremony at Tom B. Smith Stadium. Family and friends attended and recruiters from each branch of the military handed the graduates their diplomas.
A handful of students were not able to attend, and 4 missed because they were already shipped off. Evette Boudreaux, Alana Hodovsky, James Thibodaux Jr., and Donna Windwehen, all having joined the United States Marine Corps, were already in training. A spokesman for the Marines said the students had fulfilled all the requirements for graduation. The intention was to have the students return to walk across the stage during graduation, but the pandemic threw everything off.
The ceremony was put together in a week, according to Terrebonne Superintendent Philip Martin. Parents were notified last Saturday, and the only uncertainty was whether the graduation would be indoors or outdoors. According to Martin, he wanted to have more time to announce the graduation, but three more students were to be shipped off on May 22, so they held it Thursday to include them.
About 200 family and friends were in attendance. The graduation was brief, lasting only 30 minutes in total, but the gesture was appreciated by the students.
"I'm really glad the parish decided to do this for us," said South Terrebonne graduate Houston Boquet. "Yesterday I wasn't really upset about it, because yesterday was our actual graduation day. I heard today was going to be held and I was excited. I feel a lot better."
Boquet has enlisted in the United States Air Force, but said the pandemic has thrown off "ship dates." He wants to learn air traffic control, from there get a degree and eventually become a pilot. In the meantime, said Boquet, hopes to find himself piloting an A-10 in the Air Force.
"It's low strafing. It comes in, attacks, and goes back up," he explained. "It's got a 30mm machine gun on the front. The jets actually built around the gun…the gun is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle."
Nearby, Curlisha Robinson entered the stadium with her family. Graduating from Terrebonne High School, she said she intends to make a career of the Navy, because it will fulfill her goal of travel - she wants to see Hawaii and Italy.
According to Robinson, finishing her high-school education during the pandemic wasn't difficult. She actually enjoyed carrying out her assignments remotely.
"The work was easier online," she said. "Because you can do your own research and stuff, and I understand more if I am reading."
Having graduated under the strange circumstances that COVID-19 imposed on her class, Robinson was asked if she had any advice for future students. She advised that when it came to online coursework, not to procrastinate.
As she headed across the football field to meet up with the other graduates her father Curley Callowey beamed with pride.
"It's breathtaking," he said. "I'm proud. All this is her idea, this is something she wanted. I feel like she'll succeed because it's something she wanted, that she's passionate about. So it's going to be easy for her."