Satellite Center students have gone on to become competitive chefs, theme park designers and television producers

As it prepares to celebrate 10 years, it’s easy to forget that the Satellite Center did not get off to a smooth start.

As the last item on a $28 million bond issue approved by voters in 2000, it took five years for the Satellite Center to break ground on the building. The crew expected to have the building ready for its inaugural class in 2005, but construction delays prevented the doors from opening. In a desperate bid to launch the inaugural class, the school district housed students in any space it could find.

“The TV production students were taught in the [central office] board room,” Satellite Center Administrator Lasca Anderson laughs. “I remember the [office assistants] were worried, but they came to us later and remarked how good and quiet the kids were.”

After a short time, students and faculty received relief. The doors to the Luling building would open in September of 2005, but Hurricane Katrina had other plans, and the resulting roof damage pushed the opening back to December.

In spite of this rocky start, facilitators and students stuck with it and continued to make the Satellite Center a success for many.

Part of the success comes from guiding students down a path they normally might not have considered. When Haleigh Hocut thought about going to college, she initially considered marine biology as a passing interest. As the youngest in her family, Hocut said she had watched her two older sisters drop out of college to work, and feared she might follow a similar path. She was drawn to the Satellite Center’s culinary program after a cake decorating project. Today, Hocut is a graduate of Nicholls State University’s culinary arts program, and recently represented the school at a national cooking competition. She works for the NOCCA as a chef with their “Box Car” mobile restaurant.

“The more I was there, the more I really enjoyed cooking,” Hocut said. “[Facilitator Patrick Phelan] told me ‘you have an eye for this, you should think about doing this.’”

Similarly, Elizabeth Fuselier came to the digital media portion of the Satellite Center in 2010 knowing only that she had an interest in art. She started off in animation, but said that facilitators Brian Gough and Rhitt Growl guided her to an area of design that really excited her.

Today, Fuselier is two years from finishing her bachelor’s in theme park design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.

“[The Satellite Center] really broadens your horizons and makes you see that you can go anywhere and do anything with this career,”  Fuselier said. “Now I’m at this school doing theme park design and hopefully I get to work for Disney.”

Fuselier said her experience at the Satellite Center has put her at an advantage over her peers at the California school. Many students, she said, have not even begun to work with the design programs that she used while at the center.

“You develop skills [at the Satellite Center] that nobody has when they get to college,” Fuselier said.

As a registered nurse with the pediatric intensive care unit at St. Charles Parish Hospital, Trejon Brignac said she was uncertain which path she wanted to take into the medical field: pediatrician or pediatric nurse. The Satellite Center, she said, not only prepared her to complete her bachelor’s degree, but helped her to identify where she wanted to focus her efforts through the program’s emphasis on service learning.

“I am thankful not only because this program was offered, but also for the involvement while in this program. We went out into the community to perform health screenings for elementary school to high school students,” Brignac said. “We put on health fairs in the community as well.”

Meanwhile, some alums find themselves drawn back to where they started. Derek Felton began at the Satellite Center’s television production program “before [he] even came” to the center, helping to film community events. After his time at the Satellite Center, and with the help of facilitator Bruce Alpert’s industry connections, Felton began a career at 20 that includes video production work for WGNO in New Orleans and public relations firms throughout the area.

He currently returns to help out at the Satellite Center.

“[Bruce] actually got me a job…and then he convinced me to come here—it was the best decision I ever made,” Felton said.

But one message within every alumnae story is clear—students get out of the Satellite Center what they put into it.

“If you’re going to do it, do it, like, mean it,” Hocut said. “Be there because you want to be there and you plan on doing something with what you’re learning.”

The Satellite Center plans to hold a formal celebration on Friday, Jan. 30 at the center on 285 Judge Edward Dufresne Parkway in Luling beginning at 6 p.m. The contents of a time capsule, developed and buried by one of the center’s first graduates, will be on display.

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