Olivia Julien has a goal to spread messages of hope across the Hale Boggs Bridge, and she is one step closer to achieving that goal after this month’s St. Charles Parish Council meeting.
Julien, a 13-year-old student at J.B. Martin Middle School, was awarded a proclamation at the Sept. 6 council meeting. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and Julien is working on a project to raise awareness of suicide prevention by placing signs on the Hale Boggs Bridge. The signs would display messages of hopes and suicide prevention hotline information. Their installation is awaiting approval from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
“My goal is to inspire hope through the Hale Boggs Bridge while raising awareness of suicide in our community,” Julien said.
The idea for the signs came when Julien and her mother Adrienne Bourgeois were stuck in traffic one day on a bridge.
“We were joking that we should spread positive messages on the bridge as a joke, then we realized it could really benefit people,” Julien said.
Bourgeois and Julien presented the idea to John Dias, executive director for United Way St. Charles, who agreed to fund the project.
“She makes me proud every day,” Bourgeois said of Julien. “She grounds me daily and inspires me to grow. She constantly thinks about other people. As a mom being able to have a front seat to watch her navigate life …. it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I always tell her that we need to leave the world better than we found it.”
Bourgeois said she hopes the signs would help to reclaim the Hale Boggs as the symbol of unity that it used to be for the parish. The past few years, she said, the bridge has been the scene of several fatal accidents and suicides.
“As a mom, one of the things I get so excited about her navigating this project is that when we first had the conversation in the car it sort of tugged on my heart. Like, I thought, ‘You can teach her that sometimes ideas that God gives us were meant to acted on and cultivated … to show her ideas can turn into tangible ways to help others,’” Bourgeois said. “I can’t even find the words. It was one of those things I thought was maybe too big of a reach, but now it’s happening. No idea is too small to act on if it’s for the good others.”
Julien said if she is able to get the signs installed, she would be proud of herself for giving back to the community.
“Knowing I have the possibility of saving lives is very humbling,” she said.