Acadiana Business

Cox honors unsung heroes

by Leslie Turk

Cox Communications honored about 40 Acadiana students who have overcome personal adversity and are an inspiration to others.

Last Wednesday Cox Communications honored nearly 40 Acadiana students, grades K-12, who are leading meaningful and productive lives while overcoming great personal adversities. The 2nd Annual Cox Inspirational Heroes Awards & Recognition Program was held at River Oaks Catering and Event Center on Kaliste Saloom Road.

Cox Inspirational Heroes, from the parishes of Acadia, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion, were accompanied by their parents or guardians, teachers and school administrators. Local superintendents were also in attendance.

The public, private and parochial schools in Cox's six-parish Acadiana footprint were invited to submit the name of one student who has met special challenges or overcome some sort of adversity. They were honored as unsung heroes, inspiring both their peers and teachers through their actions.

"We know that each of our Cox Inspirational Heroes has overcome obstacles in their young lives and have done so with determination, courage and a positive attitude. That's a winning combination," Cox Acadiana's Director of Operations Julie Simon-Dronet said in a press announcement. "Education has always been Cox's cornerstone initiative, so recognizing students is a natural partnership for us. The founder of our company, James Cox, began his career as an educator, and he was also a great public servant. Mr. Cox's legacy lives on through programs such as Cox Inspirational Heroes," she continued.

A short bio was read aloud for each hero as he or she was honored on stage. Each student received a certificate of achievement and a commemorative Cox Heroes plaque.

"Although this event is to recognize some amazing students, we would also like to recognize their teachers, school administrators, parents and guardians. We know that they've helped shape the lives of these children by offering them words of encouragement and praise, and by helping to lift them up when they were down," Dronet added.

Below is one sample of these students' stories.

The Elijah Evans Story
Written by Dawn Gary, Elijah's teacher at Youngsville Middle School

I met this young man when he was in the 6th grade. His smile was infectious. I could only imagine that his life was great. I quickly noticed his happy mood and that made him more likeable and a pleasure to teach. He energized me, joined the chapter I advise the Family, Career & Community Leaders of America and became active immediately.

For a while I was unaware of Elijah's history. His limp was all that was slightly noticeable. Then, on his own, he shared a booklet he had made in elementary school about himself. It documented the tragic incident of child abuse. Elijah told me that his biological mother had placed him in a tub of scalding water at three years old. He lost his toes, was burnt on lower parts of his legs and almost lost his life. I would come to learn that Elijah had grown up with the attitude that there is a bigger plan for him.

Within the three years I have known Elijah, I have been privileged to learn part of that plan. Since Elijah was eight years old, he has dreamed of hosting a Christmas party for children in foster care. Having been in foster care for 2 to 3 years himself, he knew that it isn't always easy for foster parents to provide. Elijah not only wanted to have a party, he wanted to raise money to provide presents for each of the children in attendance not just any presents, but the presents that the children had wished for.

Beginning in July of 2011, Elijah began his crusade and spoke before many family agencies, church groups and family advocate meetings, including judges. He covered the Southern part of Louisiana promoting the need for child abuse prevention and his message was hope. Elijah, 14, is brave enough to share the severity of his abuse with his peers, adults and policy makers and has not allowed the burns that are visible to hinder his dream of making a difference.

He has tirelessly sought sponsors to help him in this endeavor and received donations in-kind and monetary. Elijah designed a T-shirt, "No Use for Abuse," and wrote a "rap" to further promote his message, sold raffle tickets, and held a Cutz Against Abuse event where he sought additional donations. Elijah has not only worked on this project while in school, but also volunteers for children's camp as a counselor and works with his church.

Elijah surpassed his goal of raising $3,000 by raising almost $5,000 and was able to have his party for foster care children and their families, feeding them lunch and presenting 72 children with $50 worth of gifts each from their own Christmas wish list.

The coolest thing that day was overhearing a little boy who was tossing his brand new football say, "I can't wait to get home to play with this!" I stopped and asked permission to talk to him and asked what he thought about this event that what Elijah was doing. The little boy startled me when he said, "I liked that he said there was hope."

Cox Louisiana's Jacqui Vines, Youngsville Middle School's Elijah Evans, and Cox Acadiana's Julie Simon-Dronet

At the end of the event, Jacqui Vines, senior vice president and general manager for Cox Louisiana, made a surprise presentation to Evans, who is now 14 and an eighth grader at Youngsville Middle School. "Eijah," Vines said, "I would now like to present to you a check in the amount of $1,000 for the Elijah Evans Fund at Youngsville Middle School. Please continue the work you are doing for foster children. It is truly God's work, and you are an inspiration."

Click here for a story KATC did on this amazing young man's ongoing efforts to fight child abuse.

Here's the list of heroes by parish:

Acadia Ashana Chentel Delafoisse, Church Point High School and Alyce Camille Bertrand, St. Francis School. Iberia Kaiden Reed, Daspit Road Elementary; Quentin Lavergne, Epiphany Day School; Ashley Mason, Park Elementary School; Laura Lipari, St. Edward School and De'Jahn Lewis, Sugarland Elementary School. Lafayette Jacob Brown, Acadian Middle School; Deiondre Williams, Alice Boucher World Languages Academy; Ashley Reynolds, Broussard Middle School; Rylan Shay Flugence, Carencro High School; Blaize Smith, Duson Elementary; Job Hammond, Early College Academy; Callie Hanchey, Green T. Lindon Elementary School; Hailey Shanae Batiste, Holy Family Catholic School; Kiiurstin Davis, J.W. Faulk Elementary School; Brittni Smith, L.Leo Judice Montessori School; Jalon Compton, Live Oak Elementary School; Derrian DeRouen, Northside High School; Wyatt Louviere, Ossun Elementary School; Ray Broussard, Lafayette High School; Blair Minnard, Ridge Elementary School; Markus Richmond, Westside Elementary School; Charleston "Terrance" Neal, Woodvale Elementary School and Elijah Evans, Youngsville Middle School. St. Martin Shae Stelly, Cecilia High School; Hunter Collins, Cecilia Primary School; Chloe Broussard, St. Martinville Primary School and Aleyah Richard, Breaux Bridge Elementary School. St. Mary Cody Ashley, Centerville High School; Bronson Kleles, Hattie Watts Elementary School; Tyler Spinella, Morgan City Jr. High School and Devon Charles, West St. Mary High School. Vermilion Raven Nicole Myers, Delcambre High School; Haylie Mouton, Forked Island-East Broussard Elementary School; Halle Theall, J.H. Williams Middle School and Da'Savion Thompson, Seventh Ward Elementary School.