The legacy of three Luling residents – Michaila Bowling, Hali Coss and Lily Dufrene – will live on as the Nicholls State University Foundation is establishing a new endowed scholarship to honor the memories of the three former students who were victims of a fatal November car crash.
By all accounts the three Luling residents were the best of friends. Each a HHS class of 2021 graduate, the three friends embarked on their college adventure together and started Nicholls State University in the fall of 2021. Bowling and Dufrene were studying nursing, while Coss was an allied health sciences freshman.
Their lives were tragically cut short just after midnight in November when a two-vehicle crash occurred on LA Hwy 20 in Chackbay. The preliminary investigation revealed that 39-year-old Joey Clement of Thibodaux was driving northbound in a 2019 Ford F-150 when he crossed the centerline and struck a SUV head-on, according to Louisiana State Police Troop C Public Affairs Spokesman Trooper Ross Brennan. According to State Police, Clement displayed signs of impairment and was arrested for DWI fourth offense with additional charges pending.
The Nicholls scholarship will be awarded to female graduates of Hahnville High School who are enrolled at Nicholls full time as a nursing or allied health major. Recipients – who can be freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors – will receive a $1,000 scholarship broken down into two $500 per semester awards.
“We are very grateful for Nicholls and every person who helped create these scholarships,” Kenneth Bowling, Michaila’s father, said. “I have no doubt Michaila will be smiling down from heaven every time a young lady receives the scholarship in her name. I hope these scholarships will help fulfill a young ladies dream of becoming a nurse.”
Norah Bowling, Michaila’s mother, said she thinks Michaila would be proud of the way the community that raised her and the college that taught her is honoring her.
“Their memory will always be alive because of the support of the community and Nicholls’ generosity,” she said. “Michaila would be as proud as we all are now. I honestly think she would be in tears to see how much their lives meant to the world. She would be honored.”
Traci Dufrene, Lily’s mother, said she hopes that the scholarship brings awareness of the lives and futures that are lost because of drunk driving.
“Lily did not get a chance to live out her dreams, but I know that she is happy to be helping others achieve theirs,” she said. “I am humbled, grateful and proud that we are able to honor her, Hali and Michaila with the scholarship.”
The idea for the scholarship originated from Paige Bartolo and Madelyn Coss, who wanted a way to remember the friends and family they lost.
“Each of the girls was studying to help people, and even though they were not able to this is a way they can still help and will always be remembered,” Coss, Hali’s older sister, said.
Bartolo said the three girls were her best friends.
“They worked really hard in their classes and cared about helping people,” she said. “This scholarship will continue to honor them as long as Nicholls exists.”
The university has also inscribed the three girls names into bricks surrounding the eternal flame.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Dr. Raquel Engolio, nursing department head, said. “It is not often that we can contribute to something that will live on with a positive legacy for generations to come. It feels incredible to help contribute to their memories.”
Nicholls Foundation Executive Director Jeremy Becker said the university has had a strong start in raising money for the endowed scholarship, but that the goal has not yet been met. Contributions from the community are welcome to help grow the scholarship to its full potential.
“This scholarship is going to honor these three girls for as long as Nicholls State University exists,” he said. “Their names will now be able to help recruit future students to come to Nicholls to our prestigious nursing and allied health programs, and live out the futures these girls would have.”
To support the scholarship, use the Donate Now option at nichollsfoundation.org and mention the girls’ names in the comments section or contact Becker at 985-448-4006.