Before passing away following a battle with cancer in 2015, former Hahnville High School librarian Pat Pitre was known for her dedication to helping students reach their potential — and now, the school she loved so much is making a move to ensure that students continue to receive a helping hand in her name.
Hahnville High will be holding the first annual Crawfish Cook-off on March 24, with all proceeds dedicated to the HHS sponsored Pat Pitre Memorial Scholarship Fund. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school campus.
Twenty teams will compete. Each squad of four to six members will cook two sacks of school-provided crawfish, with both judges and attendees voting to determine whose dish made the best impression upon their taste buds.
“Everyone down here in this region has their own special recipe,” said Sean Dwyer, Hahnville’s staff development coordinator. “It’s a chance for people to eat crawfish, which everyone enjoys, and for the teams it’s a chance to earn bragging rights on whose methods are supreme. And, of course, whoever wins will always go down as the cook-off’s first winner.”
Dwyer said the idea was born out of the need to have a sustainable source of funding for the scholarship set up in Pitre’s name.
“Living in Metairie, I see all the crawfish cook-offs they have out there for a lot of the schools, and they’re big time draws. Everyone loves going to them and eating crawfish,” Dwyer said.
The idea was presented to the school’s Community Outreach Board and Principal Brian Lumar, and the event got the green light.
“We’re excited about it,” Dwyer said. “We’re hoping this year is only the start and that it explodes. Then next year can be bigger and better. We’d like to make a community event out of this and sustain it.”
Given how beloved Pitre was at Hahnville, it would be no surprise to see quite the turnout in the first year. The Galliano native was well known for her enthusiasm, positive attitude and the care she consistently displayed for Hahnville students.
Pitre assisted students with their senior projects by helping to set up panel presentations, as well as assisting the students with their research in the library and to add media to their digital portfolios. She would also help those struggling with deadlines to make sure they didn’t fall behind on their projects. Pitre was also in charge of organizing the school’s graduation ceremony and practice.
“She was so outgoing and friendly,” Dwyer said. “She always had a smile on her face and she was always willing to help. She was that outgoing, caring person you love to be around, and she was funny and charismatic.”
The assistance she provided students with their senior projects made the process less intimidating and more reachable, he added.
“It can be a struggle for some students. You have to write a big research paper or make a product that stretches their learning … she served as a mentor for many students who needed that support,” Dwyer said. “She never told anyone no and she poured her heart out to those kids, just being someone to offer some ideas and that voice saying, ‘You got this, you can do this.’ She was such a huge catalyst for those kids to finish up strong.”
Lumar also fondly remembered Pitre.
“Ms. Pitre had a passion for the students that shined brightly and made you want to be the best student you could be,” he said. “I think it’s because she was so good at engaging her students and challenging them to do their best. She made you believe that you were important and gave you the confidence every day to believe in yourself. The students at HHS certainly felt successful and accomplished because of her support and confidence in them.
“While we mourn the loss of a great person, we feel blessed and honored that she was a part of our Hahnville High School family.”
The Pat Pitre Memorial Scholarship is open to all students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch. These students fill out an application that has general questions about their situation and why they are seeking to earn the scholarship. Representatives from Pitre’s family choose the recipient based on their review of returned applications and who they feel is most deserving.
Cost will be $10 to eat, with children ages 10 and under eating for $5. For competing teams, the first sack of crawfish must be ready by 10 a.m. and the second at noon. Each attendee will get five two-pound servings of crawfish. Refreshments will be for sale as well.
At 2 p.m., prizes will be awarded to the selected winners, one chosen by a panel of judges and another by “People’s Choice,” voted on by attendees.
“We’ll have music playing, tents out all in front of the gym,” Dwyer said. “It’ll be a fun atmosphere and chance for people to come out, commiserate with everyone, have a good time and enjoy some crawfish.”