Trailblazers documentary premieres to capacity audience

It was a standing-room only audience last month when St. Charles Parish Public Schools hosted the world premiere of Trailblazers, a documentary of the 1965 desegregation of the school system, at the Dr. Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center in Luling.

Prior to the documentary’s showing, premiere attendees participated in a meet and greet reception and gallery walk of original documents associated with desegregation from 1965 and the following years.

The documentary’s creation started years ago when Ulysses Frontha, a former Destrehan High School student and teacher, approached School Board Member Ellis Alexander with the idea of recognizing the first African-American students who volunteered to attend previously all-white schools in St. Charles Parish. Alexander requested a school system committee to be formed to develop plans for a celebration, but the celebration was delayed by several years due to the pandemic and Hurricane Ida. The committee ultimately determined that a video was needed to be able to tell the stories of these students – a documentary that current and future students, as well as the general public, would be able to view and learn from regarding the school system’s past and how it has led the system to where it is today.

In 1965, St. Charles Parish Public Schools became one of the first five school systems in Louisiana to voluntarily begin desegregation through the Freedom of Choice Plan. This plan allowed African-American students to transfer to previously all-white schools within the parish. Approximately 43 students throughout the parish transferred schools in the middle of the 1965-1966 school year, and that number more than doubled to 112 students in the following school year.

Dr. Ken Oertling, superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools, addressed the guests in attendance and thanked them for their contributions.

“These former students of St. Charles Parish Public Schools were certainly trailblazers who paved a path to our current school system’s success and mission,” he said. “As a school system, we prioritize equity and inclusion of all students regardless of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, physical and cognitive abilities, cultural ideologies, or any other factors that marginalize individuals. As these trailblazers demonstrated many years ago, every student is entitled to equitable educational opportunities so each is prepared to be successful in whatever occupation or life they choose.”

The documentary is available for viewing at https://youtu.be/xKausU63AwU, and current and future students will have access to archived, full-length versions of each interview from the documentary.

 

About Monique Roth 831 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*