Thrive July 2024

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Enjoy an omelet station, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, French toast, pancakes, fruit salad, roasted fish, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, breakfast pastries, bread pudding and dessert—come hungry!

Each year, the Banners at McNeese team strives to plan and execute the best wine tasting bash in Southwest Louisiana. They keep the party interesting by ensuring each rendition is a unique and exciting experience. “Rouge et Blanc is our region's premier food and wine event,” says Brook Hanemann, Banners at McNeese director. “It honors local culinary artists, supplies irreplaceable funding for the arts, and it’s swanky and fun!”

at Rouge et Blanc 2024

The theme at this year’s Rouge event is an exciting “Vintage Vieux Carre: Old French Quarter Elegance.” Patrons will step back in time to a bygone era, surrounded by sumptuous old world French Quarter flair, all nestled beneath the sprawling oaks of the McNeese Quad. “The venue will be adorned with lush flowers from SWLA's premier designer Chris Allen of Paradise Florist, hanging chandeliers, and posh nooks and crannies with velvet lounges where you can savor an array of wines and delectable dishes from our local star chefs,” says Hanemann. “Stroll through our garden spread as the melodies of French Quarter-style music fill the air, transporting you to a place where history, revelry, and elegance intertwine. Let the spirit of the Vintage Vieux Carre captivate your senses and inspire your generosity and support of the arts here in SWLA.”

winemaking but that does not make us experts on the subject!” says Hanemann. “Clair helps us craft the Rouge experience in several meaningful ways. Most notably, she choreographs an intentional flow to the Rouge layout. Patrons may choose to enter and seek out their favorite distributors first; or they may follow the path our sommelier creates which leads them from bubbly to fortified in a way that will prevent patrons from blowing out their palates by starting with something heavy.”

While Rouge et Blanc patrons may come for the experience of the party, the wines are certainly a main attraction. Randy Partin, assistant director at Banners, says the variety of wines each year is comprehensive and represent vineyards in the U.S. and from around the world. ‘With over 300 labels offered over the past two years, there has not been a single wine repeated. Every year offers something different.”

Hokus Pokus will be the exclusive retailer at this year’s event. “We are excited to be working closely with them this year,” says Hanemann. “Our goal is to create links for direct wine purchases on the Hokus Pokus website. We intend to open sales a week prior to the event and keep them open a week after the event. We listen to patron requests and do our best to constantly upgrade the Rouge experience according to the tastes and needs of our patrons. One request we have gotten repeatedly is that we extend the time available for ordering. This model also helps those who cannot attend this year but still wish to earn Imbiber access for next year.”

Sommelier Clair Bankston has once again joined the Banners team to further elevate the Rouge et Blanc experience. “As promoters, advocates, and producers of the arts, Banners staff have a great love and appreciation for the art of

Patrons also love Rouge et Blanc for the fabulous food offerings. Food from 20 or more local establishments will be onsite, from savory to sweet. The full list will not be finalized until early August, but expected vendors include the following: Area 337 / Encanto; Big Easy Foods; Coushatta Casino; Fontenot Beef; Paul's Rib Shack; Hi-Licious Street Kitchen; Newal's Kebab House & Grill; Main Squeeze Juice Co; Mac Box; Villa Harlequin; Crust Pizza; Chicken Salad Chick; Coffee 30; Restaurant Calla; 121 Artisan Bistro; The James 710; Luna Bar & Grill; 1910; Zeus; Toga Grill; and CAMPP at MSU. That’s a lot of great food! Like last year, a “Best Bite” prize will be awarded.

Hannemann says they limit the number of Rouge tickets sold to enhance the experience of the ticketholders. “We don't want people waiting in long lines. We curate the event to be lively but also easy to navigate and enjoy. Gold members get the special perk of having a full hour with exclusive dedicated access. This will be our second year offering this powerful perk. Last year it was a huge hit.

Need more reasons to attend Rouge et Blanc? Hanemann says we live in a culturally rich region that is home to amazing arts and artists, but we do not yet have the infrastructure to support full time professional artists and arts support systems in the way that we deserve. “Rouge helps make that possible. It is vital to the health of diverse arts within our community. In short, it is a must-attend event because without it, our region would lose the main lifeline that funds year-round outreach and multi-discipline world class programming in our five-parish area. And besides, what better way to be a philanthropist than to Party with a PURPOSE in style?!”

Rouge et Blanc 2024 Preview

The Vino

Distributors Come to Rouge et Blanc from Across the Country

The wines offered at Rouge et Blanc come to the event via distributors who curate their products from around the world. The list of wine distributors and the varieties of wines they will bring had not been finalized at the time of this writing, but the following distributors are Rouge et Blanc veterans and are expected to return this year.

Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) boasts roots extending before Prohibition. RNDC is one of the nation’s leading wholesale beverage alcohol distributors, specializing in wine and spirits. The privately-owned company is the second largest beverage alcohol distributor of premium wine and spirits in the U.S. and operates through 42 U.S. office and warehouse locations across 34 states and the District of Columbia. In 2021, the company was ranked 25th on Forbes' list of America's largest privately held companies.

International Wine & Spirits is one of the largest, fastest growing, privately held wholesale, wine, food, liquor, beer and mixers distributors in Louisiana and distributes to businesses in almost every parish in the state. Family-owned and operated and based in New Orleans, La., the company was founded in 1980 by Ferdinando and Ivana Taviani. Their portfolio includes wines from locations such as France and Italy, complemented by a variety of exceptional wines from Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, among others.

Southern Glazers is the largest wine and spirits distributor in the United States with operations in 44 states and Washington, D.C. It was the 10th largest private company in the United States in 2022. Southern Wine and Spirits was founded in 1968 in Miramar, Fl. by Jay W. Weiss, Harvey R Chaplin, and Howard Preuss. In 2016, the company merged with Glazer's, changing the name to Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits, forming the biggest wine and spirits distributor in the country. Southern Glazer's represents approximately 1,500 wine, beer, and beverage suppliers from around the

Mystic Vine showcases the true essence of fine wine and spirits. For over 10 years, the company has provided Louisiana restaurateurs and retailers premium access to small, independent, and character-driven wines and wineries from across the globe. Their roots go deep in Louisiana as does their commitment to providing stellar service, consumer education, and the evolution of the fine beverage business. Mystic Vine is the import and wholesaling arm of an old legacy and family-run company, Si Sherman Inc., founded in central Louisiana in 1940 with the repeal of prohibition.

Neat Wines is a premier wine and spirits distributor based in New Orleans, focusing on high quality, handcrafted products. Owned and operated by industry veterans, their goal is to provide their colleagues in the industry access to highly sought-after, small production wines and spirits from around the world.

Fleur de LA Imports, based in Covington, La., imports and distributes a pronounced portfolio of wines & spirits from prestigious wine regions and distinguished distillers from all around the world.

Located in Hammond, La., Artisan Fine Wines represent growers and producers committed to creating quality wines that are true to their roots. Their wines are distinctive, each telling the story of its unique environmental origin.

Uncorked Fine Wines is a fully integrated wine and spirits wholesaler and importer based in Bedford, New Hampshire, distributing within the heart of New England. Since their inception in 2012, they’ve built a portfolio of over 600 award-winning wines and are continually looking for new products to introduce to their growing, discerning clientele. Uncorked recognizes that good wine is not limited to specific regions or countries. They can be found in places where you would not expect to find them and made from grapes with which you may not be familiar. Uncorked is committed to introducing patrons to fabulous grapes, wineries, and harvests—ultimately just wonderful wine in your glass!

Based in Chantilly, Va., Select Wines, Inc. was founded in 1987 and is a premier distributor and wholesaler of craft beers and fine wines. They work with over 200 brands from around the world. While their market focuses on Northern Virginia, they are traveling all the way to Louisiana to share their wines with Rouge patrons!

Want to ensure you can enjoy your new favorite wines all year long? The best way to make that happen is to purchase wines at the Rouge et Blanc event, while 1. They are still available, 2. They’re still in stock, and 3. The names are still fresh in your mind.

Better yet, consider becoming a Rouge et Blanc Imbiber. See page 9 for perks and details.


The Ultimate Experience

“Real connoisseurs don’t drink wine: they taste secrets!”

So you’ve attended every Rouge et Blanc event for a decade or more and that four-hour tasting extravaganza is one of the highlights of your social calendar year. Are you ready to take your Rouge experience to the next level?

Become an Imbiber!

There are many perks to being a Rouge Imbiber and Gold ticket holder. First, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase tickets early next year, so you’re guaranteed a spot at the party.

Avoid those longer lines and enjoy earlier access to the booths, as Gold ticket patrons enter the event through the VIP gate and receive special goodies like an extra-large wine glass – the perfect Rouge souvenir. Imbibers are also eligible to purchase a reservation for one of four VIP tables (while they last).

To become an Imbiber, patrons must purchase $250-$499 in wine during the Rouge et Blanc event cycle. For even more perks, purchase $500 or more in wine to qualify as an Imperial Imbiber.

Patrons with Imperial Imbiber status qualify to attend the excellent Saveur du Lac pre-tasting event, a same-day high end sampling of wines over $75 in retail, paired with a gourmet taste of some of the best in Southwest Louisiana cuisine.

Special ticket bundles are also available to purchase for Imperial Imbibers, which include early pre-sale access to extra Red tickets for friends and family who’d like to attend. If you want to promote the arts in SWLA while also indulging in unforgettable spirits and vibrant social connection,

Tickets go on sale to the public on August 16 at 9:00 a.m. For more information, contact Banners at McNeese office via, (337) 475-5997,

Wining & Dining | Rouge et Blanc 2024 Preview

The Behind the Party

Everyone knows Rouge et Blanc is one of the best annual events on the Southwest Louisiana party scene. But do they know WHY Banners at McNeese works so hard to plan this amazing event year after year?

The answer is simple – so that Banners, a financially self-sustaining organization within McNeese State University, can continue to provide the community with access to exceptional arts and humanities programming and education through arts integration that is unique to the area. Banners’ programs focus on lifelong learning and an appreciation of cultural diversity, working to enhance the quality of life in the communities of Southwest Louisiana.

When you purchase a ticket to Rouge et Blanc, you support community services provided by Banners. For example:


Through their Cultural Season, Banners presents a series of performances each spring. Those performances include classical and jazz music, readings, dance companies, illusionists, academic lectures, film, world music, and more. Each Season’s line-up is chosen by a group of volunteers who review possible artists and choose the best options for our community. Their volunteers also participate as ticket takers, hospitality providers, outreach assistants, and photographers.


One of the most important responsibilities of Banners is to engage local students in educational programming through arts and humanities performances. Banners Engages includes live presentations at no cost to public and parochial schools, appearances at Parish Public Libraries, demonstrations to students of McNeese State University, and other community venues. This program works to increase the number of students who experience live cultural programming, increase the number of hours of arts and humanities programming, and supplement the curriculum with prepared

materials. It helps to ensure that children develop creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking. Studies have also shown that children involved in the arts are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, be elected to class office within their schools, and win awards for school attendance. Each year, more than 17,000 students reap the benefits of having Banners educational outreach performances as part of their learning environment. With approximately 60 outreach programs annually, Banners brings arts and humanities to K-12 schools throughout Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jeff Davis Parishes and the students of McNeese State University.


Banners is honored to partner with local leaders, sponsors, educators, organizations, and artists to help raise the quality of life for our citizens through interaction with the arts. By joining forces with area donors and philanthropists like Reed Mendelson Jr, we can offer free arts access to first responders, educators, military, seniors, and youth. We partner with state and nation-wide organizations to create positive change in our arts landscape such as the creation of new legislature creating our state's first ever arts license plate which in turn provides a new revenue stream for the arts in Louisiana.

When you support Banners at McNeese by attending Rouge et Blanc or purchasing a season subscription, you help to make a lasting impact on our rich culture, making SWLA a great place to visit and live.

Party Responsibly

The Rouge et Blanc staff and Thrive magazine want you to have a great time at this annual premier party. But we also want you to be safe. We strongly encourage you – if you’ve been enjoying the wine all afternoon -- please don’t drive yourself home. There are plenty of other options.

Have a designated driver in your group.

— Arrange to have a friend or family member drop you off at the event and pick you up when it is over.

— Hire a chauffeur. Many young drivers appreciate the opportunity to earn a little extra cash.

Make it fun by asking friends to join you in hiring a limo service.

— Call a cab. Yellow Cab offers a Safe Ride Home rate within the Lake Charles city limits; 337-433-8282. Or check online for other taxi options – there are several.

— Vouchers for Uber and Lyft will be available on-site for patrons of the event (limited quantities). Use the app on your phone, an Uber or Lyft driver will deliver you back home ($15 vouchers – rider is responsible for any overage). Also, QR code on signage throughout the site make ordering an Uber or Lyft easy.

Tequila Tasting at Johnny Sánchez: A Spirited Evening of Flavor and Culture

If you’re a fan of tequila or simply curious about the intricacies of this beloved Mexican spirit, Johnny Sánchez at L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles is a great place to expand your knowledge. Known for its vibrant atmosphere and innovative takes on traditional Mexican cuisine, Johnny Sanchez recently hosted a tequila tasting that gave attendees a deeper appreciation of this iconic beverage.

Josh Babineaux, assistant manager, took guests on a journey through the rich history and diverse flavors of tequila. He introduced them to the basics of tequila production, learning about the different types of agave plants and the meticulous process that transforms these humble succulents into a worldrenowned spirit.

Participants were treated to a selection of premium tequilas, each with its own unique character and story. The lineup included Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo varieties, showcasing the spectrum of flavors tequila can offer. Blanco, often referred to as silver tequila, is known for its crisp, clean taste, typically enjoyed in cocktails like the classic margarita. Reposado, or rested tequila, is aged for a minimum of two months, absorbing the subtle nuances of oak barrels to develop a richer, more complex profile. Añejo, aged for at least one year, is the epitome of sophistication, with deep, layered flavors that are best savored slowly.

Babineaux provided expert insights into each tequila, highlighting the distinct characteristics and flavor notes that make each type unique.

Attendees were encouraged to engage their senses fully, observing the color, inhaling the aroma, and savoring the taste of each sample. This immersive approach allowed guests to truly connect with the spirit and appreciate the craftsmanship behind it.

To complement the tasting, Johnny Sánchez’s culinary team prepared a selection of dishes designed to enhance the flavors of the tequilas.

Attendees left with a newfound respect for tequila, armed with knowledge and new favorite brands to add to their collection. Whether you’re a tequila aficionado or a novice looking to expand your horizons, Johnny Sanchez’s tequila tasting events are a must-attend.

Keep an eye on the event schedule on L’Auberge Lake Charles’s social media, and when you visit Johnny Sánchez, ask your waiter for pairing recommendations. They can recommend just the right tequila to fit your taste and your meal.

Villa Harlequin Announces New Leadership and Ownership Structure

The Hunter and Sperandeo families, owners of Villa Harlequin, announce a new chapter in the restaurant’s storied history. After over five decades in the restaurant industry, Mike and Brenda Sperandeo have announced their retirement. “It has been an honor to have been a part of a multi-generational, family restaurant here in Lake Charles. This city and this community have been good to me and my family. It’s impossible for Brenda and me to squeeze five decades into a few words, but I do want to thank this community, our customers, and my staff over the years for this amazing experience and all the great memories,” states Mike Sperandeo. “At this juncture in our lives, we’re looking forward to focusing on being grandparents and all the other joys of retirement.”

At the same time of the Sperandeos’ retirement, Villa Harlequin welcomes Blakelee Kibodeaux as the new co-owner along with Nic and Becky Hunter. Kibodeaux will also serve as general manager. Kibodeaux has over 15

years of restaurant experience, working front of the house, back of the house and as general manager. His most recent employment was with The James 710 and Vic and Anthony’s. “I am thrilled to take this next step in my career. It is exciting to move into ownership of a restaurant, especially one with as much history and tradition as Villa Harlequin. I thank the Sperandeos for their many years of stewardship and I thank the Hunters for having faith in me as a partner.”

Villa Harlequin enthusiastically welcomes and invites all to visit to experience the Summer 2024 menu under the new management. Moving forward, regular hours for lunch will be Wed.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. with Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner hours will be Tues.-Thurs. 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday dinner 5 -10 p.m.

Visit and follow TheVillaHarlequin for more information.

L-R: Blakelee Kibodeaux, Mike Sperandeo, Nic Hunter

Home & Family

Healthy Start: Put Immunizations on Your Back-to-School List

As the back-to-school season approaches, it's an exciting time for families as children prepare for a new academic year. Amid the hustle and bustle of shopping for school supplies, organizing schedules, and arranging after-school activities, it’s also crucial to prioritize your child’s health by making sure their immunizations are current.

“Childhood immunizations play a vital role in protecting children from several preventable diseases and keeping the school environment safe and healthy for everyone,” says Victoria McDaniel, DNP, FNP, with Imperial Health Urgent Care. “Now is a good time to review your child’s immunization records and make sure they are up to date with any school system required vaccinations before the school year begins.”

All vaccines are tested to ensure they are safe and effective to be received by the children of the recommended age, and McDaniel says vaccines have been scientifically proven to prevent various illnesses that were once prevalent and dangerous. Diseases like measles, whooping cough, and polio, which once posed significant threats, can now be prevented through vaccination. Immunizations reduce the risk of complications and chronic health issues arising from preventable diseases.

With children in close quarters in classrooms, playgrounds, and buses, the likelihood of diseases spreading increases significantly. “Immunizations not only protect your child but also help safeguard the broader community by reducing the overall incidence of these illnesses,” says McDaniel.

Commonly required vaccines for school-aged children include:

• DTaP/Tdap (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis): Protects against three serious diseases.

• MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella): Prevents three highly contagious viral diseases.

• Varicella (Chickenpox): Protects against the varicella-zoster virus.

• Polio Vaccine: Prevents poliovirus infections.

• Hepatitis B Vaccine: Protects against the hepatitis B virus.

McDaniel offers parents the following tips for a smooth immunization experience:

Get in early. Get vaccinations taken care of over the summer before school starts to avoid the lastminute rush.

Keep records. Maintain an up-todate immunization record for your child. Schools often require proof of vaccinations.

Discuss concerns. If you have any questions or concerns about vaccines, talk to your child’s provider. They can share reliable information and address any apprehensions.

Prepare your child. Explain why vaccinations are important and what to expect during the visit to help ease any anxiety.

“Ensuring your child is up to date with their immunizations is a key step in preparing for the new school year,” says McDaniel. “By doing so, you’re helping to safeguard your child’s health and the well-being of the entire community.

Imperial Health Urgent Care has locations in Lake Charles and Moss Bluff, with school-required immunizations available. The offices are open early, late and on weekends. No appointment necessary.

Life gets busy once school resumes, so the slower days of summer are a great time to make an appointment for your child’s next dental visit. Ideally, according to Erin Moore Seale, DDS with Seale Family Dentistry in Lake Charles, a child’s dental care should begin a year prior to preschool. “Children should visit a dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or by age one, whichever comes first.”

Early dental visits are generally non-invasive and largely conversational. A first dental visit usually involves a cleaning, fluoride treatment, and a general evaluation to check for things like cavities and eruption patterns. The dentist offers parents oral hygiene tips

and answers any questions they may have. “Prevention and early intervention are the goals,” says Dr. Seale.

Dental cavities are the most common disease affecting children. Early detection of cavities or a high risk for developing cavities allows for more conservative treatment modalities such as topical application of fluoride to arrest further decay. Preventive and conservative treatments are available when problems are detected early. These treatments are economical, very effective, and lead to fewer and non-invasive dental visits.

Dr. Seale recommends parents brush their young children’s teeth

with a soft bristle brush using a rice size smear of toothpaste for children aged 0-3 and a pea size smear for ages 3 and up. When two teeth touch, it’s time to start flossing.

Even though children lose those baby teeth, dental care is important in the years leading up to permanent teeth. “In the majority of cases, maintaining baby teeth until they are replaced by permanent teeth is essential for proper growth and development of the lower third of the face,” adds Dr. Seale. “Baby teeth allow for proper development of the muscles involved in swallowing, speaking, and in obtaining proper nutrition. Additionally, keeping baby teeth

for an appropriate amount of time is the best way to maintain space for permanent teeth, allowing them to erupt in a more ideal position. We see a much lower incidence of cavities in adults whose teeth are in proper alignment.”

For more information, Dr. Seale refers parents to the website mouthhealthy. org, sponsored by the American Dental Association and provides research-based information to the public.

To make an appointment with Seale Family Dentistry, call 337-474-0212. Located at 1430 W. McNeese St., Lake Charles.


Simplify your Morning Routine

Getting everyone out the door on time each day can be frustrating. If you’re tired of manic mornings, try these simple tips to help make your A.M. routine less stressful.

Lose the Snooze – It's tempting to hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off in the morning. You crave those extra few minutes, but scientists claim it does more harm than good. You may think hitting snooze will offer a few more ZZZs and you’ll feel more rested, but that's not what happens. After you drift back off, your brain starts its sleep cycle all over again. When the alarm goes off a second time, you're likely at an even deeper stage of your sleep cycle, which results in you feeling even worse than you did the first time. Try setting your alarm a few minutes later (or getting up a little earlier) and sticking to a regular sleep schedule.

Shower Time – Consider taking your shower in the evening before heading to bed. Some doctors claim the heat relaxes you into a deeper and more comfortable sleep. If you suffer from night sweats, or just need the shower to wake up in the morning, speed up the process with a timer.

Juggling After-School Activities

Nightly Routine – To save time in the morning, lay out your clothes, jewelry, and accessories the night before. This goes for both you and the kids.

Everything in its Place –Get organized and create a permanent place for everything you’ll need each day including keys, umbrellas, jackets, purses, wallets, etc. and ensure these items are in their place the night before.

Caffeination – If you need a caffeine fix first thing, use a coffee maker with a built-in timer. Prep the machine the night before and wake up to the smell of your favorite freshbrewed blend.

Quick Breakfasts – Instead of cooking on busy mornings, opt for simpler breakfast items such as healthy cold cereals, granola bars, fruit, yogurt, and toast. Many of these choices can be eaten in the car if you’re really running late. Save the pancakes for the weekend!

Even if you are a morning person, a calmer routine will have you out the door in a flash with minimal fuss. Everyone can benefit from planning ahead and preparing for the day.

Parents want their children to be well-rounded little people who are involved in after-school sports and activities. Parents would also like to maintain their sanity. Is it possible to have both? This becomes especially challenging when there are multiple children in a family.

Consider these sanity-saving tips:

Create a family calendar. Hold weekly family meetings and have each member share where they need to be that week and write it on the family calendar. Keep the calendar in a central location where everyone can see it. If you have children who have access to electronic devices, use Google Calendar or a calendar that you can all share and see at any given time.

Accept help from others. There will be times when you simply cannot be in two places at once. Other parents feel your pain. Make arrangements with other trusted parents who have children in the same activity as yours and carpool. Maybe they can drop the kids off and you can pick them up. If you have a partner who can share some of the burden of dropping off or picking up, speak up and let them know you need their help. Local family members may also lend a hand when things get tough.

Pre-Plan Meals. One of the hardest parts of after-school activities is coming home and cooking a healthy dinner. It can be tempting to run through the drive-thru after a late practice or game, but this doesn’t do your health or budget any favors. Freeze crock-pot meals ahead of time and prepare them in the mornings, or plan simple things that can be cooked quickly when you get home from activities.

Reassess your child’s interest and have an honest conversation. Are your children truly enjoying every activity they’re involved in? Talk to them about their changing interests and plan accordingly. Be honest with your child if you’re struggling to get them to three different sports and a club all in the same season. They may need to make choices about what they are most interested in, which can open a great discussion about priorities.

Back-to-school busyness is often accompanied by the ubiquitous school fundraisers. From cookie dough and candy to wrapping paper, many parents feel the pressure of obligation, especially if a child is in a club or sport. Before your children become semi-professional door-todoor salespersons, consider these steps to feel empowered through the process, and relieve some of the stress of school fundraising.

Understand each fundraiser’s benefits and decide which one is right for you. There will likely be multiple fundraisers for your child’s school throughout the year, so ask up-front what they will be, and what each fundraiser benefits. Some parents are willing to support every fundraiser, while other parents struggle to make ends meet. If you are somewhere in between, consider the fundraisers carefully. If your child participates in band or cheerleading, you may have required sport or club-specific fundraisers that you want to spend your time and energy on. If not, you may ask which fundraiser specifically benefits purchasing technology or learning materials for students, and make your decision on which one to support accordingly.

Tax breaks and transparency. Public school fundraisers can often be tax-deductible. Many PTA/PTO organizations are set up as non-profit organizations, so request receipts from the school for tax credit. Also, sometimes a school uses a thirdparty vendor for items to sell and gets a percentage of the sales back. If the school gets 20% back from the sales your child makes, and your child is required to sell $100 worth of items, perhaps you can ask the school if you can simply write them a $20 check.

Other ways to contribute. Many parents simply cannot spend the money and don’t feel comfortable asking others to purchase items for a school fundraiser. There are other ways to support your child’s school. Consider donating your time, talents, and treasures. Volunteer at events when possible. Bake cookies for a bake sale. Donate supplies to your child’s classroom. If you’re handy with tools, volunteer to make some repairs if needed. Schools appreciate assistance in a variety of ways!

First Defense Against Child Hunger

Pearl Watson Elementary receives funds for backpack program

16% of children in Calcasieu Parish will experience food insecurity over the next year. It’s a startling number. Second Harvest Food Bank is dedicated to identifying needs in the community and using its resources to help families and children.

Phillips 66 recently partnered with Second Harvest to provide funds for food for Pearl Watson Elementary’s backpack program. Every Friday, a five-pound pack of food is given to children to take home to help fill any food needs the children might have over the weekend. The food pack has child-friendly food such as items with pop tops and wrappers.

Scott Tyler, plant manager at Phillips 66, says that providing meals for children lowers absenteeism and decreases trips to the school nurse. “It increases the opportunity for the kids to engage in academics, which is the primary function of the school,” he adds.

Shaunte Guillory, principal at Pearl Watson Elementary, describes the work that Second Harvest does as mission work. “There is a food shortage, and many of our babies are hungry. Even at lunchtime they’re asking for seconds, so we do our best to fulfill those needs. We do know a lot of our babies go home and don’t have anything to eat. It is a blessing to have such a program that allows us to fulfill that need for our parents and our families.”

Second Harvest also offers a summer feeding program in partnership with McNeese State University. There is a community kitchen on campus which distributes meals to children in Calcasieu Parish.


St. Margaret extends warm wishes for a delightful summer break to all members of our Viking Krewe, both past, present, and future. If you’re interested in learning about grade level opportunities, we invite you to visit our website or get in touch with us via phone. We look forward to seeing you in the Fall!

Dr. Eric A. Sanders
Dr. Saima Khan
St. Margaret Catholic School welcomes all children regardless of race, creed, or nationality.

What parents and students need to know

There is a monumental shift happening to the SAT in 2024.

For the first time in almost 100 years, the SAT has gone from paper to pixel! Gone are the days of #2 pencils and scantron bubble sheets. Starting this year, the SAT is officially a digital exam. Good news! The digital SAT is shorter than its paper-based predecessor and requires only two hours to complete with less than 100 questions. Also, the SAT has eliminated obscure vocabulary, removed long reading passages, and allows the use of a digital calculator on every math question. Overall, the new digital SAT will be the most student-friendly version of the exam ever created.

While many parents and students believe that the SAT is no longer important due to testoptional college admissions policies, here are three reasons your child should still take this new digital SAT exam:

1: Reinstatement of Standardized Test Scores for College Admissions

Many colleges and universities have reinstated the SAT requirements for college admissions. These include universities such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Caltech, University of Texas at Austin, and dozens more. Counterintuitively, many of these universities found that removing standardized test score requirements from college admissions disadvantaged low-income students the most. Almost every week, there is a new university that is reinstating SAT score requirements for college admissions. Keep an eye on the news!

2: Higher Acceptance Rates At Test-Optional Universities

Studies have found that students who submit an SAT score when applying to a test-optional university often have a much higher chance of gaining admission than students who do not submit test scores. Although many universities publicly state that they have “test-optional” policies, their admissions outcomes do not support these policies. Students who submit a test score often have 2-3x higher acceptance rates than students who do not submit a test score, even when applying to “test-optional” universities.

3: Eligibility For Billions of Dollars in Merit-Based Scholarships

There are billions of dollars in merit-based scholarships that are awarded to students based on their academic merit every year. These scholarships are often awarded by colleges or private foundations, and can significantly reduce a student’s cost of college. Without a test score, your student will not be eligible for many of these merit-based scholarships.

Prepping for the SAT

There are two keys to preparing for the digital SAT. First, ensure your student has completed hundreds of high-quality practice SAT questions prior to test day. The best way to do this is by downloading the College Board’s Bluebook Application – the official digital SAT testing application. Second, be certain your student learns high-yield strategies to help them answer questions more accurately and efficiently on test day. These strategies can be learned through online digital SAT courses and books.

Dr. Shaan Patel, MD, MBA is the Founder & CEO of Prep Expert, a perfect SAT scorer, and author of Prep Expert Digital SAT Playbook: Winning Strategies To Achieve Your Dream Score.

navigating the college application process

It’s July, and school might be the furthest thing from your mind, but if you’re in high school or are the parent of a high schooler, now is the perfect time to start thinking about college.

While it’s never too early, Tracey Churchman, a former high school counselor turned college application consultant, says that the summer before the junior year is the best time to start. “This allows the student and their family to make college visits during their junior year of high school. Students can create their list of schools to apply to based on research and visits. Don’t wait until senior year!”

Churchman emphasizes the importance of campus visits, especially in this modern era, as understanding a school’s on-campus culture and evaluating the living environment can be integral to a student’s success. She also recommends doing online research on colleges of interest as well, using not only the school’s website but other resources such as US News, Niche, and Forbes to get the best overview of the college.

“Remember facts like campus size, academic majors, extracurricular activities, financial aid—all of that information is available on the internet and will allow you to come up with questions for people on campus such as admissions officers, faculty members, and even current students.”

If some colleges are too far away or there are too many to physically visit, students can seek alternate ways to tour campuses, such as virtual tours or finding videos on YouTube.

A student’s ACT score can also be a factor. Churchman recommends taking the ACT early, if not during freshmen year, then by the end of a student’s sophomore year. “This allows the student to have a baseline score and make plans for ACT improvement. Students should do their best to attain the desired ACT score before their senior year.”

When it comes to applying to colleges, Churchman stresses organization and adhering to deadlines. “The application process can be overwhelming, so start early. Set deadlines for completing essays, collecting recommendations, and filling out forms.”

Most college applications are done online and tend to be standard to make the process more streamlined for students. They also usually have builtin checks to ensure that all the necessary information is being submitted, which can make things less stressful.

Students should be aware of how each college accepts transcript submission as well as how they handle letters of recommendation. These tend to be

online as well, but some colleges still prefer paper documents for certain things.

Churchman recommends not only submitting things early when possible, but also saving a copy of each piece of the application in case a problem arises. And if a student is unsure of anything, they shouldn’t hesitate to call the admissions office for help. “Monitor your email. Check it regularly so you don’t miss anything important regarding your applications.”

The number of colleges a student should apply to varies, with some places recommending upwards of 20. Churchman says 8-10 is more realistic, and the students with whom she’s assisted over the past few

years average around eight schools.

Scholarships these days are tied to college applications, with some schools adding additional major-based scholarships into the student’s admission portal once it is set up. Otherwise, Churchman points out, there are tons of outside scholarships that are available. “It just takes time and research to find them.”

As they say, it’s never too early to start, so now’s the time to get looking into your college future.

Tracey Churchman is the owner of Churchman College Consulting. For more information, find her on Facebook.

SOWELA First Louisiana Community College to Offer Evidence-based Culinary Medicine Program

Culinary medicine

offers both chefs and healthcare professionals nutritional knowledge to address chronic diseases.

SOWELA Technical Community College recently received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System Board of Supervisors to add a new culinary medicine concentration to the

culinary arts degree and a technical diploma in culinary medicine.

SOWELA is the first community college in Louisiana and second higher educational institution in the state to offer an evidence-based culinary medicine program.

“Food is a central focus in Louisiana, and the culture and tradition of Cajun cuisine is known throughout the world,” said SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall. “However, the act of choosing and preparing food can have positive as well as negative effects on individual health. The

addition of a culinary medicine concentration into our regular culinary program allows the college to help promote healthy lifestyles through the science of nutrition and food preparation.”

Culinary medicine is a growing field that blends the art of preparing and presenting food with the science of medicine to target disease processes or overall health. The emphasis is on hands-on participation, including meal preparation and cooking skills, in a kitchen setting while discussing ingredients related

to health. Culinary medicine is a form of preventative medicine or management of various diseases. The program considers food access, environment, and individual and cultural preferences while providing social support, meal preparation and health literacy.

"I am excited about the new culinary medicine program at SOWELA,” said Dr. Danette Null, LSUHSC Family Medicine Residency Program director. “Food is medicine, and our health is directly linked to what we eat. The culinary medicine program will help doctors, nurses,

dieticians, and other healthcare providers learn innovative ways to promote the health of their patients and family members. Having this program here in Lake Charles is a key component in moving SWLA towards a healthier mindset and way of life. I look forward to participating in the program. My hope is that we will be able to incorporate this knowledge into the training of our Family Medicine residency physicians."

Culinary medicine tracks allow culinarians and healthcare professionals to take modules for continuing education units (CEUS). These CEUs are available through an agreement with the Culinary Medicine Specialist Board.

Focusing health care on lifestyle and nutrition is critical to reducing the burden of chronic disease and healthcare costs. The goal of empowering individuals and families to eat healthier is far less costly than the medications and invasive procedures needed to manage chronic disease.

Culinary medicine classes begin in Fall 2024. It is the third specialty option for the culinary degree, including Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts.

SOWELA’s Culinary Arts program prepares students to work in service, production and baking areas of the food service industry. The curriculum follows American Culinary Federation guidelines for approved chef training, accreditation and National Restaurant Association Pro Management Certification. Students learn in the first-ofits-kind Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center, which opened in 2023 and houses new, state-ofthe-art kitchens and baking lab.

For more information, visit www. or contact the One Stop Enrollment Office at (337) 421-6550 or Fall 2024 registration is currently open and scholarships and financial aid are available for those who qualify.

SWLA Women in Industry Award Scholarships

SWLA Women in Industry, a program under the Lake Area Industry Alliance (LAIA), recently awarded $1,000 scholarships to four female high school seniors. The scholarships were given to women pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“We launched SWLA Women in Industry in the fall of 2023 and held our inaugural event earlier this year,” said Stephanie Huck, communications representative with Cheniere Energy. “We want to inspire and encourage female students to pursue careers in these STEM fields. Our local industries are made up of hundreds of female employees who work in a variety of fields, including laboratory, engineering, and operations. There are a lot of opportunities for

great jobs right here in our region.”

One scholarship recipient is Kahlia Clark. Clark graduated from Starks High School and will attend McNeese State University to study medical laboratory science in hopes of becoming a physician’s assistant. She said being awarded the scholarship was “validating and encouraging.” Clark’s desire to pursue medical science began in childhood when her mom, a nurse, educated her on the human body. Clark emphasized

Kahlia Clark Lily Boyd
Taylor Hutchinson
Tulona Hossain

the scholarship will help her pay for college tuition, books, and also look good on her resume

Clark applied for the SWLA Women in Industry scholarship earlier this year at the program’s first annual meeting. She said she is “not used to walking into a room where 99% of people are female,” and while her dad is a plant operator, there are no women in her family in industry. Clark said she now has a better understanding of the opportunities local industry provides and “wouldn’t write off” an opportunity if it would present itself.

Huck said she would “love to follow Kahlia through her career,” and even if Clark doesn’t end up in an industry job, “that’s not the point.” She emphasizes that 30 years ago a woman in industry was virtually nonexistent, so providing women with the resources they need to excel is a passion of hers.

Megan Landry, operations manager for Sasol and a McNeese graduate, said when she was Clark’s age she had “no industry connections,” so she seizes every opportunity she can to inform others about industry jobs and “empower women in STEM.”

Landry allows people to shadow her because “I didn’t know what chemical engineering was going to look like until three years into college.” She emphasized that programs such as Women in Industry allow experts to share their expertise and knowledge with the future workforce.

Jim Rock, executive director of LAIA, said the scholarships are another way to serve and give back to the community in addition to their regular e-recycling, Chem Expo and Partners in Education events.

Judge Lynn


- 4:00pm

Places & Faces

While classroom teachers and administrators fortify the frontlines of any educational system, they don’t do their jobs alone. Schools would not be able to operate without the tireless efforts of their support staff. In this year’s Education Superheroes feature, we recognize the contributions of these quiet but vital staff members. Indirectly and in a variety of ways, these people also enrich a child’s education.

Brenda Cates began her career as a "lunch lady" when she subbed as a cafeteria tech at Frasch Elementary

in 2004.

A year later she was hired full time and in 2017 was promoted to cafeteria manager. Her responsibilities include planning breakfast and lunch for the students, ordering supplies, maintaining inventory, filling in on the line when they’re short-handed, and leading monthly staff meetings. “Everyone on my team knows they are a big part of my kitchen, and we all make decisions together,” Brenda says. “It’s teamwork!”

Brenda says her role goes beyond merely feeding the children. “How you greet the children sets the tone for their day. I remind my ladies we are here to be positive and serve good meals to our little customers with a smile.”

The Frasch kitchen is well-known for their homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast and fresh hot homemade rolls at lunch, Brenda says. Students and staff alike love her gumbo, with Cajun pasta a close second. “And of course chicken nuggets and mac & cheese,” she adds.

Brenda finds joy in seeing the children each day and getting to know them and their personalities. “It makes my job so rewarding when they tell us we’re good cooks and they love our food. They thank us every day for preparing their meals.”

After working in Frasch’s cafeteria for over two decades, Brenda has gotten to know thousands of students. “Every time I'm in town and a child from school sees me, they wave and say, ‘Mom, that’s our lunch lady,’” she says. “I see high school students who still remember me, after all these years. I’m proud to have been “lunch lady” to so many students for over 20 years.”


Cafeteria manager, FRASCH ELEMentary

Brenda Cates, back left, with her team and students.

For the past 10 years, Tyrone Wilrye has maintained the everyday functions at Our Lady Queen of Heaven (OLQH), from fixing leaks to building furniture.

Surrounded by the students, he loves watching them learn and grow. In addition to maintaining the physical building, Tyrone says he strives to sustain a peaceful culture at the school, even when things are not going smoothly. “I create a positive environment that opens lines of communication with the students.”

Megan O’Quin, director of advancement at OLQH, refers to Tyrone as “the keeper of all things” and says he is always there to help when needed. “He is an integral part of our campus – known and loved by all faculty and each and every student. His roles on campus are wideranging and he is always there to help in times of need. Tyrone checks on our facilities in rain, winds, flood and ice. He comes to school after school hours and weekends to meet workers to repair plumbing, AC, pest control and so on. If a ball goes over the fence or on the roof,

he is the one to get it. If you need to know where anything is stored, just ask Tyrone! When reminded of a task or asked to do anything, he simply responds, 'I got it' and you know it will get done. Tyrone has a servant’s heart and truly loves each member of our school community. We are grateful for his service to school.”

Tyrone loves his job and feels pride when students return to the school years later and seek him out. “I love to see them come back and share their successes with me.”

tyrone wilrye Maintenance man, our

lady queen of heaven

Tyrone Wilrye, lower right

After college, Sara Jolie, a 1993 graduate of Sam Houston High School (SHHS), began her career teaching Pre-K at the West-Cal-Cam Child Development Center.

In 2000, she returned to her high school alma mater as a Family and Consumer Science teacher. She earned her library certificate in 2012 and is now a library media specialist at SHHS. She says she became a librarian because the library is the heart of SHHS, it allows her to interact with all faculty and students, and she loves to read. “I enjoy assisting students in the search for their next great read! There’s nothing like skimming the stacks, running my fingers over the spines of thousands of books, and then pulling one I think a student will love.”

Beyond books, Sara serves as advisor of the PILOT Club and Peer Support Team, which she created in 2014 with colleague Ken Brown in response to the death by suicide of one of their students. The PILOT (Peer Initiative Leaders of Tomorrow) Club is a student-led teen advocacy group. Members experience a place where all students are welcomed and respected. Their goal is to spread kindness, encourage empathy, and learn about suicide awareness and prevention, bullying prevention, where and how to seek help, and how to support students' mental wellbeing.

Sara has earned numerous awards during her career; most recently, Teacher of the Month at SHHS in Jan. 2024, and the 2023 PACERS National Bullying Prevention Center UNITY award. Through the library as well as her extracurricular projects, Sara has created a supportive and inclusive environment for students. “Education is more than academics,” she says. “It's learning to become a better citizen, discovering new skills, forming relationships, and giving back to your community.”

sara jolie


sam houston high school

Sara Jolie, center, with a group of students.

Karen Raduenz has been a school bus driver for Calcasieu Parish School Board (CPSB) for 25 years.

Her career behind the wheel began when a friend of hers told Karen she was going to a class to learn how to drive a school bus and suggested she come with her. School bus drivers have holidays and summers off, and the hours are great. So Karen signed up, took the classes, passed all the tests and then shadowed another bus driver for 15 days. “The first time I had to drive that big bus by myself, I was so nervous,” Karen says.

Over two decades later, and Karen is a seasoned pro. But the job nonetheless has its challenges. “You definitely need to be able to multi-task while driving a bus, with all the chatter, the bus radio, watching the traffic and making sure everyone is sitting down and safe,” she says. “In my driving career, I never had too many problems with the children. If I did, I would talk to the child about it, and if that didn’t resolve the issue, I would take it up with the administrator.”

Karen drove a general bus for many years, and currently she drives the special education bus. “I love my students. They make me look at life with a different perspective.”

Karen has an aide on the bus with her and says she couldn’t do her job without the help. “We work together as a team, setting the tone on our bus to be a positive environment. We promote respect, kindness, caring, and being a friend. We don’t allow the students to talk negatively to each other. We have an open-door policy that allows students to talk about their feelings. If they have any issues, they feel comfortable sharing them with us. If it’s something we can’t deal with, we encourage them to speak with their parents or the staff.”

“I love my job,” Karen adds. “When I decide it’s time to turn in my keys, I want to carry on a legacy of being kind, caring and loving.”

karen raduenz

bus driver, calcasieu parish school board

Karen Raduenz on her bus with her granddaughter.

Places & Faces

New Documentary Highlights Lake Charles Native and Pixar Legend Ralph Eggleston

The magic of Disney and Pixar is coming to Lake Charles in July thanks to the Movies with the Mayor Summer Series hosted by the City of Lake Charles and Mayor Nic Hunter. The series will also include a special tribute to Southwest Louisiana native and Pixar legend, Ralph Eggleston, at the Aug. 10 event.

Eggleston was a 1983 graduate of Sam Houston High School and later graduated from the California Institute of the Arts. In 1992 he joined the animation team at Pixar during the development of Toy Story. During his expansive career, Eggleston won numerous awards as an artist, illustrator, animator, art director, writer and producer.

The Ralph Eggleston documentary was produced by Calcasieu Parish School Board Television Production students at College Street Vocational Center under the direction of Britney Glaser.

“When Mayor Hunter contacted me about this project, I knew it would be a perfect fit for my students,” says Glaser. “Every year I teach my students about Ralph because they get to see that someone from our community believed in their dreams enough to keep chasing them. Ralph was transformative in the film industry and is the epitome of ‘making it’.”

Because students in each of her classes helped

with the project, Glaser oversaw the continuity process, ensuring that the vision stayed clear as each student picked up where another left off. Four students were selected by Glaser as project leaders: Via Foreman, Joel Garland, Tyrese Green and Layla Benoit.

As student director, Foreman worked alongside Glaser to coordinate scheduling interviews with people in Southwest Louisiana and all over the country who were influential in Eggleston’s life. This included former teachers, mentors, coworkers, friends and family.

“I interviewed Ralph’s brother Vaughn Eggleston, his former art teacher Lewis Temple, and former English teacher Christine Fournet,” says Foreman. “I also handled the bulk of the interview filming and editing and searched for archived footage of Ralph.”

Other interviews in the documentary were conducted by Garland. He says, “Through this project I learned about Ralph as an artist and as a person. I hope viewers will see how we have told a story that features Ralph’s incredible talent, but

more importantly his passion to use that gift to bring a smile to everyone’s face.”

Editors Green and Benoit selected music, Pixar film snippets and archived footage of Eggleston for the film. Both students are eager for the documentary to inspire their peers to remember that no matter who you are or where you are from, your hard work can impact generations to come.

Throughout the project, Glaser and her students learned that Eggleston included hidden Easter eggs referencing himself, Southwest Louisiana and his family through many of the Pixar productions he worked on. The entire group agrees they will now watch these films with a fresh set of eyes!

Movies with the Mayor is free and open to the public, with concessions available for purchase. An adult must accompany all minors. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. for all screenings with each feature presentation beginning at 5 p.m.

For more information, call 337-491-1280 or email

FOR ALMOST 60 YEARS , the McNeese Foundation has served a vital role in supporting the mission of McNeese State University. As a new phase begins, we are excited and positioned to continue meeting the philanthropic needs of our donors and the growth demands of our university.

The Foundation staff welcomes Dr. Wade Rousse as the new president of McNeese State University and look forward to working with him on endeavors that will make this “Brand New Day” the start of a bright future for our students, faculty, staff, and the entire community of Southwest Louisiana!

It’s a brand new day at McNeese with a new president.

As the 8th president in McNeese State University’s 85-year history, Dr. Wade Rousse takes on the leadership role at a time when the university is emerging from four challenging years following a historic series of natural disasters that devastated the campus. In addition to overseeing the ongoing rebuilding process that is approximately 50 percent complete, he is also faced with addressing declining enrollment and the state’s cumulative disinvestment in higher education.

It may sound like a daunting scenario, but Dr. Rousse is embarking on this new chapter with the characteristic energy, drive and passion for which he has become known. “This is an unprecedented time for transformative change at McNeese,” he says. “The challenges we face are daunting, but they also create incredible opportunities to reshape not only our campus, but also the overall student experience.”

Dr. Rousse’s background makes him uniquely qualified to take the helm at McNeese at this moment in its history. He brings 26 years of combined experience in industry, government, and academia to the president’s office. After three years as a student at McNeese, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in business from Nicholls State University, a master’s in business administration from the University of New Orleans and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He spent the first part of his career in the private sector in the marine transportation industry. He worked his way up from an hourly laborer to becoming a partner at Maritime Logistics, and eventually played a key role in successfully selling the company. After advancing his academic degrees, Dr. Rousse was a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and on staff at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago while serving as a visiting lecturer of economics at the University of Illinois – Chicago. He was an associate dean at The W.A. Franke College of Business and the interim director of the Alliance Bank Economic Policy Institute, both at Northern Arizona University (NAU). In 2019, Dr. Rousse returned to McNeese State University where he served as dean of the College of Business, vice president of University Advancement, and then executive vice president, before being named president.

Thrive spoke with Dr. Rousse about stepping into the role of university president.

Where did your story begin and what led to your interest in education?

I grew up in Golden Meadow, a small town in Lafourche Parish. From a very young age, the importance of education was a focus in my life, thanks to my mother. When I say we were poor – we were poor – but we

were rich in love and that made all the difference. I remember our conversations over dinner were always about education, from what I had learned that day to what I was going to study in college. Going to college was never a question; it was always part of our plan. I got a partial football scholarship to McNeese and I’ll never forget the day my parents dropped me off on campus. Mom was so emotional and crying. In hindsight, I can imagine how she felt and I’m forever grateful for the sacrifices they made to get me to that day.

Returning to McNeese was full circle for you. How does that feel?

When I think of my undergraduate college years, it’s always McNeese I think of, although some changes in circumstances led to me finishing my degree closer to home at Nicholls. The three years I spent at McNeese provided the foundation for everything that came after in my life. Coach Sonny Jackson was an incredible mentor who made sure I stayed focused on my education and getting a degree. Returning here in 2019 felt like coming home – and it still feels that way. I’m so excited about taking on this new role and being able to give back to the university that gave me my start. My entire journey has been preparing me for this position, and I could not be more excited about what lies ahead.

What are your immediate priority goals for McNeese?

There are many, but here are my top 3:

1) Enrollment. We must stabilize enrollment to stabilize the budget. The primary university objective will be recruitment at all levels: high school graduates, online students, adult learners and more. We must focus on growth strategies that create exceptional McNeese student experiences. This will increase enrollment, retention and community engagement.

2) Retention, which is a shared responsibility of everyone who works here. Improving campus morale through improved communication and shared governance will play a big part in this. We will be very entrepreneurial in our leadership style and creative in structuring the university so there are true metrics for success – like those in other industries. The objectives will be clear and quantifiable, benefiting our entire team.

3) Job placement. I’m a firm believer that the market dictates the value of your product and for us, that’s job placement. We will be laser-focused on tracking and improving this metric.

How will you improve the campus experience for students?

Ask me again in a few months! I’ll be getting some first-hand experience after my wife Angela and I move into a campus dorm in July. I feel strongly that I need to be on campus to fully

understand what the student experience is – the good and the bad. Southwest Louisiana is truly a special place, with a warm, welcoming, familylike culture. As the regional university, McNeese’s campus should epitomize that by providing experiences that create the foundation for a successful life. Angela and I are a great team, and we are excited about immersing ourselves more into student life so we can work to improve that experience for our students.

What do you expect McNeese will be like in five years?

McNeese will have a reinvigorated student experience on campus, along with a very engaged community that is drawn toward us and our campus through a variety of cultural, academic and athletic events. We will have a dynamic, market-driven curriculum in place that gives our graduates the skillset to be gainfully employed on day one after graduation, and more importantly, to possess the curiosity to be pioneers in their discipline and continue to learn throughout their career. Job placement rates will have increased to actively support the workforce across Southwest Louisiana. I feel like this economic impact is the true benchmark of our success – a curriculum that is successful in fulfilling existing needs in our region. This will strengthen our economy, our community and our university.

Street Named for Outgoing McNeese President

Tyler Marcantel Promoted to Office Manager at JD Bank

JD Bank announces the promotion of Tyler Marcantel to Office Manager of their Sale Road Branch, 119 W. Sale Road in Lake Charles. In this role, Marcantel will oversee daily branch operations and serve as a consumer lender. “Tyler has proven to be an asset with JD Bank and his promotion is well deserved,” said Oliver Clark, SVP regional retail manager. “Tyler is experienced in customer service, customer solutions and consistently exceeds expectations.”

Marcantel joined the JD Bank team in 2020 as head universal banker for the Sale Road location. A native of Kinder, Marcantel obtained an of Science in Business Administration and Management from SOWELA. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from LSU-A and expected to graduate in 2025. He is a graduate of the 2022 Louisiana Bankers Association’s Leadership School.

West Stadium Drive was renamed Dr. Daryl Burckel Drive to honor the outgoing McNeese State University President. The street runs on the west side of McNeese’s Cowboy Stadium.

Burckel started his McNeese career as a student on a football scholarship, serving as the starting middle linebacker for the Cowboys on two Southland Conference championship teams that competed in the Independence Bowl. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1980 and an MBA in 1982 from McNeese, followed by a doctorate in accounting from Mississippi State University. Burckel was honored with one of four national NCAA-Postgraduate Scholarships and holds a place in the McNeese Hall of Fame. He served in the United States Army Reserve as a captain and served in Desert Storm.

Burckel joined the McNeese faculty in 1992 and rose through the ranks to serve as the head of the McNeese Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics. He began his term as president on July 1, 2017, while continuing to teach classes as a professor of accounting in the College of Business.

Imperial Health Welcomes New Cardiologist

Cardiologist Taylor Nipp, MD, has joined the Imperial Health medical staff, and will be practicing with Drs. Jake LeBeau, Prasanna Sugathan, Parker LaVigne, Thomas Mulhearn, Brett Goodwin, Michael Turner and Corey Foster. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Dr. Nipp earned a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science from the University of North Carolina, and his Medical Degree from the University of North Carolina Medical School, both in Chapel Hill. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Nipp went on to complete general and interventional cardiology fellowships with Wake Forest University School of Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he served as the chief fellow.

Dr. Nipp has participated in and published multiple research projects in his field. He is a Fellow-in-Training of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and a member of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Nipp’s primary office will be located on the group’s main campus at 501 Dr. Michael DeBakey Drive in Lake Charles. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nipp, call (337) 312-8281 or visit

Tyler Marcantel
Dr. Daryl Burckel and family
Taylor Nipp, MD

Lakeside Bank Announces Promotions

Lakeside Bank has announced the following promotions within their management team:

Melissa Miller has been promoted to vice-president/ loan review. She is originally from Ville Platte, Louisiana, and attended LSU-Eunice. Miller began her banking career in 1984 and has over 40 years of experience. Her previous positions include assistant branch manager, loan processor, document review officer, legal secretary/real estate processor, underwriter and loan estimate processor. She joined the Loan Operations team at Lakeside Bank in 2018 and is responsible for loan review.

Sam Jimney has been promoted to assistant vice-president/information technology officer. Originally from Lake Charles, Jimney graduated from Northwestern State University with a degree in Computer Information Systems. He has over nine years of experience in his field, including the areas of desktop support, e-learning course development, and network engineering. Jimney joined Lakeside in 2021 and is responsible for network operations and technology support.

Dona Foster has been promoted to banking officer/ operations specialist. Originally from Moss Bluff, she has over 18 years of experience in the financial field. She joined Lakeside Bank as a teller in Oak Park in 2014 and now works in deposit operations as an operations specialist.

Michele Chapman Appointed as DeRidder Branch Manager for CSE Federal Credit Union

CSE Federal Credit Union (CSE) announces the appointment of Michele Chapman as the manager of its soon-to-open DeRidder branch. Bringing 18 years of financial industry experience to her new role, Chapman holds certifications in Building Cohesive Teams, Influence and Persuasion, and Skills for Success. She combines leadership, communication, and analytical skills to optimize branch operations.

Chapman will lead the branch located at 426 North Pine Street, DeRidder, Louisiana, which is expected to open at the end of August 2024.

“We are excited to welcome Michele to the CSE management team as our new DeRidder branch manager. Her extensive experience in the financial industry and commitment to exceptional member service make her an invaluable asset as we prepare to open our new branch,” said John Lennox, chief operations officer.

The Calcasieu Soccer Club (CSC) is celebrating a landmark 2023-2024 season with four teams making appearances in the Southern Regional Championship.

The 2007 Girls team went undefeated in the tournament, becoming the first CSC team to be named USYS Southern Presidents Cup Regional Champion. The team will now head to the USYS National Presidents Cup in Wichita, Kansas, July 12-16.

The 2007 Girls team includes Caroline Avery, Maggie Barrow, Addie Flavin, Sophie Fontenot, Annalise Funk, Katherine Garner, Kyndal Goodwin, Alley Habetz, Paityn Kandel, Kory LeBleu, Lilly Liles, Addison Moreno, Lizzy Mundy, Kylie Pousson, Emma Roach, Kensley Rowse, Savannah Sanford, Madison Stutes, Savannah Weldon, Baileigh Williams, and Coach Duncan McDonald.

This year’s other qualifying teams were the 2006/2007 Boys, 2009 Girls and 2010 Girls.

Michele Chapman
Melissa Miller
Sam Jimney
Dona Foster
Official Credit Union of McNeese Athletics


At a ceremony last month, Just Imagine SWLA was recognized by the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) with their Charter Award. The ceremony took place during CNU’s annual conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio. The conference brings together urban planners, architects, developers, policymakers, and advocates who are passionate about creating vibrant, walkable and sustainable communities. A group from Southwest Louisiana traveled to Cincinnati to attend the conference and accept the Charter Award. Here are a few things the group experienced and learned in Cincinnati with similarities to the catalytic projects in Just Imagine SWLA.


Twenty-eight years ago, Cincinnati created a master plan for their riverfront. It included building a new football and baseball stadium, along with rerouting a major highway, and adding beautiful public spaces. A team of local

leaders, including the mayor, county administrator, and many others from both the public and private sectors, rallied around the riverfront master plan to ensure the success of implementation. Today, the riverfront is a vibrant and dynamic area that boasts numerous public spaces, including parks, promenades, and plazas, providing residents and visitors alike with opportunities for recreation and respite along the banks of the Ohio River. Local leadership continues to work together through the riverfront master plan to make continued enhancements to this important city investment.


Cincinnati is a very walkable and bikeable city that includes a trail system integrated into the natural landscape. Along the trails, visitors find swings overlooking the waterfront, playgrounds, and public gardens. The trail system extends to certain bridges where you can safely cross over the Ohio River into Kentucky.


Cincinnati utilizes art in a variety of ways such as murals celebrating history and culture and impressive art structures that pull double duty as destination signage. Throughout the city, beautiful parks and gardens integrate unique and imaginative playground structures into the natural landscape. Some installations serve as musical instruments and relate to STEM education.

Share your ideas with Just Imagine SWLA planners! As you travel this summer, take pictures of cool and interesting things you see that would make a great addition to SWLA. Tag @imagineswla on Facebook or Instagram and tell them a little about your experience. They are eager to see what you share!

McNeese Works Here Returns!

Join other businesses and organizations across Southwest Louisiana to show support for McNeese by showcasing your McNeese workforce in your media strategy. McNeese graduates are a critical part of the regional workforce and this campaign provides an opportunity to promote the successful career paths available to McNeese students right here in our community.

It’s easy to participate. Design templates can be provided and discounts are being offered if you need photography or design assistance. Local media are also giving discounts on placement. For more information, contact Healthy Image Marketing at 337-312-0972 or

CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CRPS, CRPC Investment Advisor Representative
Butch Ferdinandsen

Summertime BOREDOM

The summer often provides people with extra time in their schedules. But what do you do with those extra minutes or hours? July celebrates Anti-Boredom Month, so find a new hobby or pursue an old interest to keep your productive juices flowing.


Cooking is a beneficial activity because everyone needs to eat. And learning how to incorporate whole grains and fruits and vegetables into your diet will help keep you and your family in optimum health. You can always run over to Grandma’s house to learn how she turns out that perfect roux every time. After all, in Louisiana, food is a big deal and family and friends bond over tasty meals. But if you don’t have a relative to teach you the ins and outs of the kitchen, there are various classes in SWLA you can attend.

If you love cooking or your cooking skills could use some finetuning, SOWELA Technical College offers a Cooking Bootcamp for only $50. The bootcamp consists of 120 hours of learning. Discover the proper methods of cooking meat, learn how to cook for vegetarians, explore food presentation and understand how to use kitchen equipment safely. Restaurant menu planning and cost management are also part of the curriculum.

If you have a love for everything Italian, Pasta Lab offers classes every Saturday at 5:30 p.m. You’ll learn how to make pasta at home with a stand mixer and pasta making attachments, the best ingredients to use and what type of equipment is needed. Students roll out pasta, infuse dough, make ravioli and more. Private classes are available upon request and can focus on a variety of subjects. Children learn about chemistry through pasta making; industry groups can take a work outing; or friends can gather and make pasta just for fun.

Don’t forget baking! Baking a tasty treat can turn into an opportunity to bond with your children over summer break while indulging in an irresistibly sweet treat.

Learn new cooking skills at SOWELA Technical College


Antique and vintage shopping is a pastime many adults enjoy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something for everyone on a thrifting trip. Every old trend eventually comes back around and with the younger generations showing nostalgia for decades past, vintage retail is enjoying a high. While you can always go shopping to find a specific item, it’s usually best to keep an open mind. Inventory is always revolving at antique and vintage stores. You never know what you might find, and that’s a big part of the

Sourcing fine antique jewelry is a sure way to make sure you and your accessories stand out in a crowd. Find stunning pieces made with a variety of precious stones and metals at Frances FitzGerald Jewelry and Antiques. The business also

sells home goods if you’re seeking to redecorate a room or office.

Recent Relics Antiques & Collectibles offers everything from gilded mirrors and candelabras to furniture and brooches, and there’s plenty of unique items to tickle your fancy. Find vintage linens or Japanese collectibles and discover your new favorite treasure at a great price. Estate sales are another great way to find vintage items. Love clothing but want to shop more sustainably? Muller’s Vintage sells pre-owned vintage clothing from many different decades. Because there are a variety of vendors, you might find anything from a leather jacket to a quirky ‘80s print jumpsuit. A limited selection of vintage jewelry and home goods are also available. Occasionally on weekends, Muller’s Vintage sells inventory collected from a recent estate sale.

Enjoy antique shopping at Recent Relics Antiques & Collectibles
Frances Fitz-Gerald Jewelry and Antiques


A great way to spend some extra downtime is to get your body moving. Yoga, Pilates and dance are great ways to have fun, get in shape and burn some calories.

Yoga is beneficial on many levels and is often recommended especially for those who struggle with emotional regulation. The practice lowers anxiety, increases strength and flexibility, helps manage stress and induces better sleep.

Edgemont Healing Center provides services to help better clients mentally, physically and spiritually. The center hosts various instructors who offer yoga classes, sound immersion, meditation, massage and art and writing workshops.

Yoga Y’all is a great place for those new to yoga. The business is a registered yoga school and offers daily beginner classes. Yoga practices offered include Ashtanga, vinyasa, yin and slow flow.

HOTWORX offers a variety of workouts including yoga and Pilates while utilizing infrared heat absorption. Workouts, consisting of either 15- or 30-minute intervals, are conducted by virtual

instructors. The facility is a sauna which helps detox the body through the heat in the room and the movement of the body through exercise.

Prefer Pilates over yoga? Pilates is a low-impact strength training regime which boosts flexibility, spine stability and core strength. Sessions can be tailored to individuals, whether going through physical therapy or looking to increase muscle tone.

Club Pilates is a new studio in town which offers nine different classes at four different difficulty levels. Classes consist of 30-minute intervals with an instructor. Expect a full-body workout with a focus on helping you feel your best.

Project Fit also offers Pilates reformers sessions, which utilize the power of a machine rather than a simple mat. A reformer provides extra resistance to muscle groups. For Pilates beginners it’s best to start off simple with a mat until strength is built up.

Dancing classes stimulate both the mind and the body. Learn how to move beautifully and with ease while burning calories and getting in shape.

Get in a good workout at HOTWORX

Places & Faces | Summertime BOREDOM

Immerse yourself in Cajun culture by attending dancing classes hosted by the Cajun French Music Association (CFMA). The lessons take place at the Cajun French Music Association Hall on a regular basis. Free dancing lessons take place at general meetings in addition to good food and lively music. Get ready to two-step with a lively partner!

Jazzercise was a popular method of exercise in the ‘80s, and interest in the workout has skyrocketed in recent years. Jazzercise is fun and burns a ton of calories in a short amount of time. Sculpt classes focus on strength training while Cardio Sculpt consists of high-intensity dancing. Power Sculpt mixes cardio dancing with strength training and toning.

Zumba of Lake Charles offers classes inspired by Latin American dance and is a great method of cardio training. Have fun with energizing music and a small group of likeminded individuals.


To maintain a balanced life, stimulate both your body and your mind. Trivia Nights are a fun way to challenge your knowledge, learn more about the world and socialize with others. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone either. As an added benefit, your brain releases dopamine every time you answer a question correctly.

Engage in brain teasers and enjoy some good food and drink every Tuesday night at McFarland’s Celtic Pub, 7:00 p.m. Crying Eagle Brewing hosts a trivia night on Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Rikenjaks Brewing Company holds a trivia night with Geeks Who Drink every Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. Trivia themes can range anywhere from general pop culture to Games of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, or Schitt’s Creek nights.

For those who like to sing, karaoke is a fun pastime offered by numerous local bars. Karaoke originated in Japan and is especially widespread in Asia. This activity boosts mental and emotional health and helps relieve stress. A decent karaoke session can also increase memory retention, improve creativity and increase listening skills.

Frosty Factory offers karaoke Thursdays through Saturdays, The Spot hosts karaoke with DJ Rooster every Sunday night, and The Social Club has Friday night karaoke with DJ Rooster from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Karaoke is for everyone, whether you have the voice of an angel or struggle to hold a note.

Learning or engaging in a new skill provides a healthy addition to our lives. Whether you take some of the suggestions above, join a book club, learn a new language or play an instrument, there are plenty of ways to have fun (and eliminate boredom) this summer!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of SWLA’s largest fundraiser will be held August 17, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Petro Bowl, Lake Charles. Their goal is to raise $130,000 and awareness for critical youth mentoring programs in seven parishes.

Event highlights include a fun Battle of the Bands theme featuring classic '80’s and '90’s rock. Teams are encouraged to wear their finest ‘battle of the bands’ attire paying tribute to their

Bowl for Kids’ Sake 2024 Registration NOW OPEN with Battle of the Bands Theme

favorite rock bands. Prize packages donated by local businesses will be awarded to the Top 8 fundraising teams.

Register a team of six for $360 and a fundraising goal of $500 (registration fee counts toward fundraising total). Registration includes two beer tickets and a snack for each bowler.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana (BBBS SWLA) is celebrating 45 years (1979-2024) of facilitating meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers and children ages 6-18 in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis, and Vernon parishes. The region’s largest

donor and volunteer supported mentoring network has a proud history of defending the potential of marginalized youth by creating and growing innovative mentoring programs with a focus on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI).

BBBS of SWLA believes that one-to-one mentoring relationships will ignite the power and promise of youth so they can achieve their full potential.

For more information and to register, visit www.

Enjoy a trivia night or concert at Crying Eagle Brewery

Big Brothers Big Sisters of SWLA is committed to igniting the power and promise of youth through one-to-one mentoring relationships. By matching community members with the leaders of tomorrow, the organization believes youth can achieve their full potential, reach higher aspirations, develop greater confidence, build better relationships, avoid risk behaviors and accomplish educational success.

Aiden is eagerly searching for a Big Brother who loves adventure! Aiden’s passion for basketball, video games, and drawing keeps him busy, but he’s always ready for more fun outside. If you can keep up with his energy and share his love for active play, Aiden can’t wait to meet you!

Brendon is excited to find a Big Brother who loves skateboarding, drawing, and delicious meals at Panda Express! Brendon’s creativity and adventurous spirit are looking for a match who can join him in his favorite activities. If you’re ready to share some awesome times, Brendon is waiting to meet you!

Tyrell is looking for a Big Brother who enjoys fun and games as much as he does! Whether it’s playing catch, football, or a round of card games, Tyrell is all in. He dreams of becoming a football player or wrestler and needs a Big Brother who can keep it real and share his ambitions. Could that be you?

The “dog days of summer” bring the hottest weather of the season. This period serves as a crucial reminder that pets are also susceptible to the Southwest Louisiana heat and humidity, facing an increased risk of heat stroke.

“Pets will naturally seek methods to cool off during hot weather,” says Dr. Adam McMahan, veterinarian and owner of Bayou South Animal Hospital. “If pets are housed outside, it’s important to provide them with resources such as shade and abundant water.”

Pets most susceptible to heat stroke include animals with shortened muzzles like bulldogs, pugs, or Persian cats; overweight pets; those with thicker coats; and pets with respiratory problems. Dr. McMahan adds that older animals are also at increased risk. “They are weaker and might experience an adverse response to increased temperatures more quickly than younger animals. The same goes for kittens and puppies who have not yet reached maturity.”

Heat stroke can also affect other pets, including rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, and other small mammals. “Pet owners often think they can bring these pets outside to get some sun, but these pets can overheat and decline rapidly,” says Dr. McMahan. “The best place for them during the hot summer is indoors in the air conditioning."

Recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion in pets is crucial. If your pet has been out in the heat and exhibits frantic breathing, a bright red tongue, lethargy, vomiting, or staggering, it may be suffering from heat stroke.

In severe cases, your pet’s lips may turn pale blue or gray. If you notice any of these symptoms, Dr. McMahan advises moving the pet into the shade or indoors with air conditioning immediately. “Apply cool – not cold – water to your animal to gradually lower their body temperature and seek immediate veterinary care.”

Dr. McMahan offers these additional tips for keeping your pets safe in the summer heat:

• Provide access to shade at all times. If possible, keep them indoors during the hottest parts of the day.

• Supply fresh water. Keep the dish or water bottle out of direct sunlight. Adding ice to their water bowl can help keep it cooler for longer.

• Limit activity when temperatures are high. Walk dogs in the early morning or late evening when the sun is less intense and bring water for them.

• Use sunscreen. Pets can get sunburned too. Use sunscreen on sensitive skin areas, but ensure it is specifically labeled for use on dogs and cats to avoid harmful ingestion.

• Protect paws. Walk your dog on grass or dirt to avoid burning their paws on hot pavement.

Dr. McMahan emphasizes the most important rule: never, ever leave your pet in the car when temperatures are high, even with

the windows open. “The No. 1 cause of heat stroke in dogs is being left in a hot car. The internal temperature of a car can quickly increase by 40 degrees or more above the outside air temperature, especially in direct sunlight. No pet owner should ever take this risk.”

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion, contact your veterinarian immediately.

For more information, call Bayou South Animal Hospital at (337) 480-1500 or visit www.

Dr. McMahan with one of his patients

Summer Color is Hot!

If the summer heat is making your landscape look a little drab, our fully-stocked retail nursery is blooming with color. Stop by to pick up trees, shrubs and bedding plants. If you need help with planning and installation, our team can help. We’ll even deliver!

Mind & Body

Unlocking the Healing Power of Platelet

Rich Plasma (PRP) for Shoulder Pain

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy is an effective treatment for shoulder pain due to rotator cuff tears and labrum tears, as well as various musculoskeletal conditions.

Brett Cascio, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Cascio Sports & Orthopaedics and Imperial Health, explains that PRP is a concentrated solution derived from the patient's own blood, enriched with a higher-than-normal concentration of platelets. “These platelets contain growth factors and bioactive proteins crucial for tissue repair and regeneration,” he says. “When injected into damaged tissues, PRP leverages the body’s natural healing processes to accelerate recovery, reduce pain, and improve function, making it an appealing option for many types of acute and chronic shoulder pain, tears, and frozen shoulder.”

Shoulder pain can result from various conditions, including rotator cuff tears, tendinitis, bursitis, frozen shoulder/adhesive capsulitis, and arthritis. Dr. Cascio says traditional treatments like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections may offer temporary relief but often fall short

of providing long-term solutions. “In many cases, surgery may be needed to repair the injured joint after other treatments no longer provide relief, but PRP injections have given us a new, very effective treatment option that can delay, or even eliminate, the need for surgery. PRP addresses the underlying issues causing pain by enhancing the body’s natural healing capabilities.”

PRP therapy involves drawing a small amount of the patient’s blood, which is then spun down to concentrate the platelets that contain growth factors and other bioactive proteins that play a crucial role in tissue repair and regeneration. The concentrated PRP is then injected into the affected area, such as the shoulder, where it promotes healing of the damaged tissues.

Dr. Cascio says he is seeing a 70% rate of patient satisfaction with PRP in his practice. “Not only are patients experiencing reduced pain and improved function, but they also love the simplicity of the process. The treatment takes

about 15 minutes in the office and involves just a blood draw and injection. Ultrasound is used in some cases to guide the injection. There’s no missed work time, nor is a sling or narcotic pain relief needed. Most patients report significant improvement a few weeks after their injection, with full results within six weeks. Best of all, the results can be long-lasting.”

PRP injections can be used to treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal injuries. “This is a game-changer for how we treat many sports injuries,” adds Dr. Cascio. “By harnessing the body’s own healing power, we’re able to help athletes of all ages return to their sport or other activities.”

Learn more about PRP injections at or call (337) 508-1000.

SAVE YOUR EYESIGHT by Avoiding Digital Eye Strain

Computer screens are everywhere you look, whether it’s at work, at play, from your desk, or from your couch. The daily workday demand of staring into a computer has created its own hazard: digital eye strain. It’s time to give your vision a health break.

Whether you're an office-based professional or an avid gamer, prolonged screen time can lead to discomfort and even long-term damage to your eyesight. The good news is that there are strategies you can deploy to offset computer eye strain and safeguard your ocular health, says ophthalmologist William B. Hart of Hart Eye Center. “Your eyes are irreplaceable,” Dr.

Hart says. “Treat them with care and prioritize their well-being in your daily routine.”

REMEMBER: 20-20-20

Dr. Hart recommends frequent breaks to reduce computer eye strain. Follow the “20-20-20 rule,” he says — every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at an object at least 20 feet away. Doing this allows your eyes to rest and refocus, preventing fatigue and discomfort. Set reminders or use software that prompts you to take regular breaks and stretch your legs, promoting overall well-being. And remember the importance of simply blinking! Dr. Hart notes that staring at screens diminishes

the natural blink rate, which leads to dry eyes and irritation. Being mindful to blink and lubricate your eyes can alleviate dryness and maintain optimal eye moisture throughout the day.


Blue light is a major contributor to computer eye strain. Digital screens emit high-energy blue light, which can penetrate deep into the eye and cause retinal damage over time. Investing in blue lightblocking glasses or screen filters can mitigate exposure and ease strain. Also, many devices now offer built-in blue light filters that can be activated during extended screen sessions, helping to protect your

eyes without compromising color accuracy.


Your workstation setup can play a pivotal role in preventing eye strain. Specifically:

• Position your monitor about an arm's length away from your eyes, with the top of the screen at or just below eye level. This ensures your gaze is directed slightly downward, reducing strain on your neck and eyes.

• Invest in an adjustable chair with adequate lumbar support to maintain a comfortable posture and minimize the risk of musculoskeletal issues.


Adjust your screen's brightness and contrast settings to suit the ambient lighting conditions and reduce eye strain. Lighting can significantly impact your visual comfort, so:

• Avoid harsh overhead lighting that creates glare on your screen.

• Choose soft, indirect lighting that illuminates your workspace evenly.

• Add a desk lamp with an adjustable arm to customize the lighting.


Dr. Hart says nurturing healthy habits can support eye health:

• Stay hydrated to maintain adequate tear production and lubrication. Dehydration exacerbates eye strain.

• Incorporate eye-friendly nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, and E, and zinc into your diet to support eye health.

• Prioritize regular eye exams to detect any underlying issues early on and tailor preventive measures accordingly.


Computer eye strain is a new concern in our modern-day digital landscape, but Dr. Hart notes that it’s not an inevitable consequence of screen use. You can minimize strain and safeguard your eyesight by taking regular breaks, adopting healthy habits, making ergonomic adjustments, and optimizing the lighting.

For more information about eye health, visit, call 337-439-4014 or visit the Hart Eye Center page on Facebook.

Meet the Newest MeM of our PhysiciaN tea

Dr. Taylor Nipp, Cardiologist

You may be suffering from digital eye strain.

an exam today at 1920 W. Sale Rd. • 337-439-4014

Imperial Health is proud to welcome cardiologist Taylor Nipp, MD, to our medical staff.

Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Dr. Nipp earned a Bachelor of Science Biological Science from the University of North Carolina, and his Medical Degree from the University of North Carolina Medical School, both in Chapel Hill. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He then completed general and interventional cardiology fellowships with Wake Forest University School of Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Dr. Nipp will be joining Drs. LeBeau, Sugathan, LaVigne, Mulhearn, Goodwin, Turner and Foster in the Cardiology Department of Imperial Health.

To schedule an appointment with Dr.Nipp, call (337) 312-8281. Accepts all major insurances and Medicare.

shelf the

This month, we’re launching a new column called The Bookshelf, where we’ll feature one or two writers and their published books each month. For starters, we spotlight two Southwest Louisiana authors, Pamela Thibodeaux and Hannah Pettefer.

Pamela S. Thibodeaux has been writing romance novels since 1982 and has published 15 books to date. Her tagline, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ defines her life, writing, and coaching style. She is active in the SWLA writing community and is the founder of Bayou Writers Group. Pam has a “Tempered” series, and the sixth and final installment, Tempered Journey, hit shelves last year. The story is a later-in-life romance that shows the power of love to heal the loneliest of hearts.

Synopsis: As a registered nurse and energy medicine practitioner, Pat Greene has spent her entire life in service to others. But when her BFF finds true love for the second time, Pat finds herself surprisingly envious. Has her call to service—which she will never regret— somehow caused her to miss out on something special? The loneliness she’s kept at bay gnaws at her heart. While in Bandera, Texas, she has a chance encounter with the one man she’s ever truly loved and is shocked to discover he’s not the man she thought he was. There’s no mistaking the allure the handsome cowboy holds for Pat, but the idea of giving up a lifetime of missionary work sets off a firestorm of doubt and indecision.

The ache of loss still haunts Craig Harris a decade after his wife’s death. Has his loyalty to her memory closed off his heart? Is he bound to an existence without the soul-deep joy he knows a woman’s love can bring? When he meets Pat Greene, he is bowled over by an instant, powerful spark of attraction—the kind he hasn’t allowed himself to feel for years.

She’s second-guessing her life choices. He’s been widowed for over a decade. Will a case of mistaken identity bring two lonely souls together?

Find this and all of Pamela’s books on Amazon. For more information, go to

If you had told Hannah Pettefer she would publish a book at age 26, she would have laughed. But one breakup, a career roller-coaster, and some audacious trust later, she “accidentally” wrote an entire non-fiction book on what it means to truly trust God. Since then, she’s been actively sharing her story of faith throughout the community, as well as readers around the world. In Open Hands, released earlier this year, Hannah unpacks the deep, messy stuff in a beautiful way. The book starts by detailing what trust is and what it means to trust God. Using scripture and personal stories, Hannah takes a familiar subject and fills it out with truth and depth. She compares the concept of trust to the picture of holding things loosely. This is possible because of the trustworthy hands of God and the humble hands of Christ. The last section of the book practically applies the concept to broad areas of struggle, such as waiting and daily habits.

“We plan and prepare our lives to meet our goals and fulfill our desires,” Hannah says in the book’s introduction. “But little do we know that we are hurrying around when our Savior invites us instead to sit down. Open up those hands. And trust. We are called to keep our plans in open hands.”

In addition to being a published author, Hannah also runs her own business, Magical Moments, works with her dad at Paul’s Rib Shack Barbecue, and teaches ballet at Sarah Quinn Jones School of Ballet.

Open Hands, published by Hope*Books, is available on Amazon, OpenHandsBook. com, Paul’s Rib Shack Barbecue in Lake Charles, and at Imperial Calcasieu Museum’s Gift Shoppe.

Find Hannah at or on Instagram/TikTok at @princesshannahwrites.


The Center for Orthopaedics provides national-level sports medicine expertise right here in Southwest Louisiana. Our team of doctors offer experienced care and will help you develop a game plan to prevent future injuries.

Whether you’ve been injured on the court, at a gym or in your own back yard, trust the CFO team to give you an accurate diagnosis and get you safely back in action.

Hannah Pettefer

Selecting a Swimsuit

How to Choose the Right Style for YOU

Choosing the right swimsuit for your body type is essential for feeling confident at the beach or pool. If you’re still working on your beach body, one swimsuit might enhance an area you would prefer hidden while another swimsuit will make you look suave. There are a variety of different shapes, cuts and styles which can boost your mood and express your personality as well.

While bikinis have reigned as the go-to swimsuit for years, onepiece suits have never gone out of style and are currently gaining in popularity. One-piece suits offer an air of mystery. You’re showing skin but still leaving some things to the imagination. So if you want a more modest fit, a one-piece is a great option. One-piece suits also tone the tummy. Swimsuits fit snug, hence the toning aspect, but some brands

have taken that idea a step further. Shapewear suits have a market of their own.

Simply because you’re more covered doesn’t mean a one-piece suit must be boring. Styles range from tank top iterations to one-shoulder suits. A one-piece can include cutouts for a little surprise. Long sleeve one-piece swimsuits have the advantage of covering your arms and back, so you waste less time spraying on the sunscreen. Bust shapes are where you see the biggest diversity among one-pieces. Silhouettes range from relaxed ribbed tank to a bustier top to deep V-neck. Pick

your preferred cut with a color or pattern that speaks to your personal sense of style and get ready for a great summer day.

Bikini styles vary more than one-piece styles because there are two separate pieces. Each piece can be customized on its own. Athleisure within swimwear is a trend this year. Brands are banking on the appeal of gym wear on the beach. Walk into your favorite store and you’ll find cropped tanks and matching shorts for that game of beach volleyball.

If you want to stick with a classic bikini style, there are still plenty of options. For well-endowed women, look for a bikini top with an underwire and a shape that gives more support. Styles can range from a classic bra-like top to a deep scoop neck or a balconette shape. If you’re less worried about support, popular styles include triangle bikini tops and push-ups. Tankinis are perfect if you want a two-piece set but prefer the coverage of a one-piece.

Bikini bottoms don’t have to be in the traditional bikini cut either. While the bikini cut is the most popular cut, highrise briefs offer more coverage and have become popular the last few years. A string bikini fit is the most daring as the bottoms skimp on fabric, just covering the nearbare necessities. A skort bottom is another choice if more modesty is desired.

Whatever your body shape or personal style, there is an ample selection in stores to purchase for a late summer get away.

for over 30 years

A Bit BRAZEN A New Boutique on the Downtown Block

If you type the word “Brazen” into Google, Oxford Languages defines the word as “bold and without shame.” Crystal Robbins, owner of Brazen Boutique in downtown Lake Charles, says she was brainstorming names for her store when a friend suggested the word. The definition cemented the idea of what she wanted her business to represent.

Robbins grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and moved to SWLA when she was 17. Growing up in a big city gave her a unique perspective on how to diversify the clothing market in Lake Charles. Robbins said she “outgrew what we had here” and found herself shopping online and out-of-town more than she liked. Her goal with Brazen is to “bring a different aesthetic to Lake Charles.”

Robbins encourages women to “step out of their comfort zones” and “put something on they’re not used to wearing.” She provides a small, curated collection of clothing consisting of neutral tones and outfits that can go from day to night with the addition of accessories. Robbins wants women to get “more use of what they’re buying.” While she gets new inventory every day, she never wants anyone to feel overwhelmed by choices when they walk in the door. Customers can browse or Robbins will make recommendations based on what the client says they are looking for.

Robbins says she has always loved the downtown vibe and knew if she opened a store, she wanted it to be downtown. She passed by her current location, 313 Broad St., in September 2023, and when it became vacant in December, she inquired and signed the lease. Brazen opened in March, and Robbins took part in Spring Art Walk, which was a big success. She invited collaborators to join her – one individual did onsite permanent jewelry and another created trucker hats.

Robbins appreciates that downtown festivals provide the opportunity to pick up “organic foot traffic.” On other occasions, people stop in after grabbing lunch or a cup of coffee. Robbins emphasizes that she wants the shopping experience to be personal. Because she works for herself, she serves all customers and makes a point of conversing not just

about clothing needs but about life too. There is even a “husband area,” a zebra print chair in the corner for husbands to comfortably wait while their wives shop.

Brazen carries sizes XS to 3X. Robbins encourages women to stop by if they see something they like on her social media. The goal of having a storefront was so women could see how clothing looks on their bodies. Credit goes to her friends and husband for helping her accomplish her dream of owning a clothing store, Robbins says. If the community wants to see what’s new at her shop, Robbins advises people to visit once a week. Small events are held regularly to encourage locals to get downtown and into Brazen.

Money & Career


While national and international banks get a lot of attention, more people are flocking to local banks conveniently placed within their communities.

A 2024 report by the Wall Street Journal acknowledged that customers are moving their funds to local banks to get better rates and engage with bank staff. As the banking industry continues to become more digitized, customers want the assurance that they can go to their local bank, discuss problems and opportunities, and make sure they are getting top notch service. After all, where clients decide to store their money is an important decision. Local banks strive to earn their clients’ trust and focus heavily on customer service to set them apart from larger institutions . . . and the approach is working!

b1Bank Opens New Branch

In a modern age when technology is transforming the banking and customer service experience, Baton Rouge-based b1BANK is doubling down on its community presence and relationship-driven approach in Lake Charles. A new larger branch was recently unveiled at 825 Ryan Street, just a short distance from the bank’s previous storm battered building.

The new showpiece banking center includes additional parking, a drive-thru, and an interactive teller machine (ITM) which provides customers with access to a live teller before and after normal business hours. ITMs use a combination of touch screens and video technology to offer a virtual version of the in-person banking experience with additional transaction capability.

b1BANK has been part of the Lake Charles community since 2009 and representatives say it is committed to fostering economic development in the city, and especially the

downtown corridor.

“We have experienced significant growth in the Lake Charles market and required a larger facility to better serve our current clients’ needs and the community,” said b1BANK market president Jeffrey Davis. He adds, “As we continue to grow, it is important that we remain active in efforts to rebuild and revitalize downtown Lake Charles.”

The new building design reflects some of the compelling historic architecture already present in the downtown area while incorporating modern building technology to

help prevent damage from future storms. The larger branch and recommitment to the Lake Charles market comes at a time of incredible growth for b1BANK – it’s almost quintupled its asset size over five years. Davis says leadership across the board is intentional about making sure the rapid expansion doesn’t negatively impact its culture by remaining laser focused on five guiding principles: relationship driven teamwork, thoughtful and disciplined decision making, meaningful communication, doing the right thing the right way, and striving to be the best through continual improvement.

“We have thrived in recent years with this focus on local decision making, investing in the community through hands-on volunteerism and the development of entrepreneurs, and offering innovative technology to meet the specific needs of our customers,” says Davis. “It’s our belief that banking should be uncomplicated.”

Community involvement is not just a catch phrase at b1BANK. Employees are given paid time off during the workday to help area nonprofits by volunteering for causes they value. The b1FOUNDATION was launched to support this community engagement on a larger scale. It also supports financial literacy and education outreach programs.

b1BANK was established in 2006 as a community bank to support entrepreneurs and small community businesses with uncomplicated products and services. The company has seen tremendous growth and now has nearly eight hundred employees and operations across Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. In April, the company announced an agreement to acquire Oakwood Bank in Texas, adding a total of six full-service banking centers in Dallas, Oakwood, and Snyder to its portfolio. The purchase will increase b1BANK’s total assets

UNCOMPLICATED BANKING in Lake Charles, Louisiana

At b1BANK we understand the important role local business plays in economic development. We are growing and investing directly in the Lake Charles community and we look forward to serving you at our newest location in downtown Lake Charles.

Find out more at

to approximately $7.4 billion and deepen its customer base in one of America’s strongest markets.

The newly opened b1BANK branch is located at 825 Ryan Street in Lake Charles. Operating hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information at

Banking on a Legacy of Community Service


In 1949, First Federal Bank of Louisiana opened its doors with a purpose of empowering people and places to realize their potential. Today, it continues to work towards a mission of empowering individuals and businesses to realize their dreams and attain their goals with meaningful financial products and services.

“Seventy-five years ago, community leaders in Lake Charles came together with a vision for a savings and loan institution that would galvanize the regional economy and invest money locally,” says Erica McCreedy, First Federal Bank of Louisiana marketing manager.

First Federal Bank of Louisiana is a billion dollar bank, headquartered in Lake Charles. “We

haven’t been bought and haven’t merged with a larger bank, and that’s rare these days,” says McCreedy.

In a generation of mergers and acquisitions, the opportunity to bank with a locally owned and operated financial institution remains important to the health of a local economy.

“Local community banks are vital because they understand the needs of the community,” explains McCreedy. “First Federal Bank of Louisiana is a mutual bank, which means we’re chartered to benefit the local community. Our money is invested locally; we sponsor your kid’s softball team, we fund affordable homeownership programs, and we donate to programs that help women, minorities, veterans, and those experiencing homelessness.”

Adapting and evolving as the world changes is vital in any industry, but when it comes to banking, it is personal. It is about each individual family’s bottom line. Looking to their customers for what is the next desirable product or offering is something McCreedy says has guided First Federal Bank of Louisiana through the decades.

“We remain proactive in ensuring we are meeting the needs of all customers, and many of our employees are customers, so they have a great understanding of what the community needs.”

In some cases, they have found success by sticking to their roots. “We stay strong after 75 years by ignoring the fickle trends in banking and staying true to our core values,” adds McCreedy.

In celebration of the bank’s 75th anniversary, they have recently introduced a new product offering. “We recently rolled out our new Kasasa Cash and Kasasa Cash Back checking accounts, which can give you high interest or cash back each month,” says McCreedy. “These accounts are great for younger customers who want more out of their checking account.”

McCreedy says a revamp of some of their digital banking offerings is also in the works, providing customers with the type of digital banking experience they typically seek from larger banks.

For more information on First Federal Bank of Louisiana, visit

Honestly, I would say we’re 75 times better than ever!

Since 1949, your stories have written our history, so count on us for the next 75 years — we’re here for it all.


When teenagers leave the nest to embark on the next phase of their lives at college, parents often spend time worrying about the decisions they’ll make away from their watchful eyes. Will they study enough? Make new friends? Use good judgment when facing peer pressure? Find the right career path?

Meanwhile, a handful of other important questions often go unasked and unanswered: Do they know how to manage their money? What will they do with all the credit card offers headed their way? Will they end up with a heavy load of debt?

College freshmen, who have yet to accumulate debt and are often in need of extra funds, are a prime target for credit card offers. “Credit cards are enticing for anyone, but especially for college students

because they are in a vulnerable position. They have limited access to funds, but plenty of wants and needs,” says Aaron LeBoeuf, chief lending officer with Lakeside Bank. “That credit card offer will be very appealing as they want to spend more than they have.”

Although credit cards get a bad rap, they are not inherently bad, says LeBoeuf. The key to mastering credit cards is to use them only when needed, pay as much on them

as possible every month (ideally the entire balance), pay on time and never max them out. “It’s easy for college students to overlook the fine print that contains the enormously high interest rates when you are focused on a low monthly payment,” says LeBoeuf. “Many students may not realize they can get a credit card with a lower rate from a local bank, in most cases. These are the kind of conversations parents need to have with their teens before they enter college.”

Lakeside Bank offers student checking, debit card and credit card options for just this reason. “Our accounts offer a range of benefits to make gaining financial skills easy and affordable for students,” explains LeBoeuf. “These accounts can be set up with parental access so parents can monitor activity and guide their teen as they navigate money management during the college years.”

LeBoeuf offers some additional financial guidelines parents should consider discussing with their college freshmen:

• Financial decisions they make today could affect them for years to come. A balance of $1,500 on a credit card could theoretically take years to pay off if it’s not managed properly.

• Explain how to read and understand credit card offers.

• How to create a budget and stick to it – this may mean doing without things they want.

• Never use a credit card for daily needs, like groceries or textbooks. Credit cards should be limited to emergency use only as students gain money management skills.

• Never use a credit card as a source of cash. Many cards offer cash withdrawals on your line of credit, but fees are usually much higher for these amounts. This also reinforces the bad habit of living beyond their budget.

• Encourage them to build a rainy-day fund for emergencies, if possible.

• Choose the right bank. Banks have varying offers for students.

• When in a bind, avoid the lure of quick cash, payday loan offers.

• Ways to save money, such as coupons, generic brands, used textbooks, thrift shops, and so on.

“Remember,” stresses LeBoeuf, “the college years are a time of transition to adulthood. Of course, you want to help them as much as you can while they get their education, but don’t take care of everything for them. You won’t be doing them any favors if you shield them from making some tough financial decisions. One of the most important lessons parents can help their college student learn during this time is how to manage their money responsibly.”

Learn more about Lakeside’s student accounts at

Our goal at Lakeside Bank is to provide our customers with the BEST possible banking services every day. Lakeside’s excellent performance has been recognized year after year by national banking organizations, but nothing means more than our community trusting us and choosing us as BEST Bank in Southwest Louisiana. We are honored to be in the TOP 5 of the American Press People’s Choice Awards and ask you to please take a moment and vote for us online at the address below or by using the QR code on your smartphone.


Remember the days of manually balancing a checking account? Armed with paper, pen, and maybe an adding machine, you’d start with the balance, add all deposits, and subtract all withdrawals or purchases. Missing just one transaction would throw off the entire exercise. Today’s consumers enjoy mobile banking apps, online portals, and self-service options. Digital technology brought significant changes to the banking and financial industry. Who doesn’t enjoy the

convenience and real-time access to their accounts? Still, it is nice to know that there are human beings employed as tellers, loan officers, and financial advisers at your local bank.

“Having a banker you can speak to, face-to-face or on the phone, makes a huge difference,” says Ken Hughes, president and CEO of Merchants & Farmers Bank. “We still see that as part of our role as a community bank here in Calcasieu Parish. We face unique challenges here from the impact of weather to economic issues. Our customers want to be able

to pick up the phone and get an answer from people they trust.”

To stay competitive, banks must leverage the power of innovative technologies to enhance customer experiences, optimize operations, and drive growth. However, a community banker also understands the interactive nature of banking is one way to create customer loyalty. Furthermore, like digital, the age of AI is upon us. This will also have a transformative impact on the industry, affecting roles in virtually every part of the bank. Consumers are still more likely to respond to a human voice, to people they know . . . something community bankers understand. While acknowledging that banking technology has simplified people’s lives, Hughes recognizes just how important that human factor can be. “We work to maintain our human contact. Our customers know that it’s important to keep your money with the folks you want to borrow from. It streamlines things.”

“We recently introduced interactive teller machines that allow you to speak to a live teller and the response has been great,” says Hughes. “It lets us expand our hours of operation and people like having some human interaction.

There’s something reassuring about that.”

Savvy consumers have become accustomed to researching financial issues from shopping interest rates to updating one’s credit score. Financial knowledge at our fingertips is one step in the realization of one’s goals like purchasing homes, automobiles, and making wise investments. Armed with that knowledge and being able to discuss these things with someone trustworthy, someone familiar, is a commodity few consumers want to forfeit.

“I think our loan officers enjoy what they do because they’re a significant part of helping people fulfill their dreams. Whether it’s finally being able to do that business expansion you’ve been working toward, or getting approved for a home renovation, working with bankers who are right here makes a big difference.”

With the increasing digitization of banking services, cybersecurity and fraud prevention have also become critical priorities. Banks are investing in technologies that safeguard customer data and protect against evolving threats, both essential elements of banking with someone you trust. In a world that is constantly changing, having a familiar bank that has been

around for nearly a century, right in your own community, is often an overlooked asset. It is not one that Hughes and his staff take for granted.

“In recent years, bank mergers and acquisitions seem to be happening every time you turn around. But Merchants & Farmers Bank is still locally owned and focused on local customers. That’s been our approach since 1928. It’s the professionalism of our team that allows us to provide superior service and maintain our independence. We’re very proud of that. We like to say, ‘If you’re bad with names, don’t worry; ours won’t change.’”

Money & Career

Charles and offers no-cost confidential consulting. New entrepreneurs and existing business owners in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jefferson Davis parishes are encouraged to contact the center at 337-475-5529 or online at lsbdc-at-mcneese-state-university.

Southwest Louisiana Secures LHSAA Boys Basketball, Swim, Baseball, and Softball Championships for Two More Years

Continuing the tradition of being the Youth Sports Capital of Louisiana, SWLA secured the hosting rights for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) Boys Basketball, Swim, Softball, and Baseball State Championships for an additional two years. The announcement comes after a majority vote by the LHSAA, solidifying Southwest Louisiana as the premier destination for high school athletics in the state.

LHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships will take place from March 10-15, 2025, and March 9-14, 2026, at the Burton Complex in Lake Charles. The 2025 event will mark the twelfth consecutive year the championships have been held at this venue, with 40 teams competing for the title. The tournament historically draws about 18,000 attendees over its six-day duration.

LHSAA Softball State Tournament is scheduled for May 2-3, 2025, and May 1-2, 2026, at the Frasch Park Softball Complex in Sulphur. This event has been a staple at Sulphur Parks and Recreation for 23 consecutive years, with nearly 13,000 spectators attending in 2024.

LHSAA Baseball State Tournament will be hosted from May 13-17, 2025, and May 12-16, 2026, at McMurry Park in Sulphur. Since 2014, Sulphur has hosted all classes of the Baseball State Tournament, drawing about 15,000 fans each year. The 2025 tournament will introduce a new format, including semifinals and finals for two divisions and two classes, and finals only in a best of 3 series for six divisions.

LHSAA Swim State Meet will be held from November 20-23, 2024, and November 19-22, 2025, at the Sulphur Parks and Recreation Aquatic Center. This event marks the 19th consecutive year that Visit Lake Charles has won the bid, attracting around 6,000 attendees over four days.

“We are incredibly proud to continue our long-standing partnership with Visit Lake Charles and the communities of Sulphur and Lake Charles,” said Eddie Bonine, executive director of LHSAA. “These championships are a highlight

for student-athletes and their families, and the facilities and hospitality in Southwest Louisiana consistently provide a first-class experience for everyone involved.”

“The LHSAA championships are a significant economic driver for our region,” said Eric Zartler, senior vice president of sports at Visit Lake Charles. “These events fill hotels, restaurants, and retail stores, generating a substantial impact on our local businesses and creating jobs. We are committed to providing a worldclass experience for the athletes, their families, and the entire LHSAA community.”

"At Sulphur Parks and Recreation, we're thrilled to extend our role as hosts for these prestigious championships,” shared Laurie Koelzer, executive director of Sulphur Parks and Recreation. “Our team's experience and dedication ensure a smooth-running event that creates lasting memories for athletes, families, and fans."

Jason Barnes, director of Burton Complex, echoed the sentiment. “We are honored to once again host the LHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships. We are committed to providing an outstanding venue for these talented athletes and ensuring a fantastic experience for all attendees.”

Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese Receives Excellence and Innovation Award

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at McNeese State University was honored with the 2024 Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Center Award.

Susan Thibodeaux, director of LSBDC at McNeese, and Dean Day, business consultant, were recognized for their outstanding performance and the unwavering support offered by the center through all the adversity the Southwestern region has faced in the past four years. In the previous fiscal year, the LSBDC at McNeese supported 430 clients, 26 new business start-ups, $13,679,000 in capital infusion, held 27 training events and assisted in the creation of 46 new jobs.

The LSBDC at McNeese is in the SEED Center on Ryan Street in Lake

CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital celebrates one year of opening Mother Baby Clinic

CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital is celebrating one year of providing lactation support and education for new mothers in its Mother Baby Clinic.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they want due to issues with lactation and latching.

Leslie Bradley, a registered nurse and lactation consultant with CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital, said there is a lot to learn and manage when becoming a new mother, which is why the clinic plays a vital role.

"One of the toughest challenges of becoming a new mom is learning to properly breastfeed," she said. "We provide individualized support for new mothers to ask questions, making their transition more seamless.”

The clinic is designed to provide follow-up services to new mothers and to help educate them on their new journey. Services include baby weight management, breastfeeding support, latch assistance, flange fitting and pumping, as well as one-on-one consultations.

New mother Hannah Lejeune experienced the services provided by the Mother Baby Clinic after discovering her newborn daughter’s lip, tongue and cheek tie.

“I felt like I was failing not being able to get my daughter, Delilah, to latch properly,” she said. “Even after my first visit to the clinic, I felt more confident feeding her. The services were so helpful I continued to go over the span of a few months.”

Lejeune said she regularly made appointments to go back to the clinic to check her baby’s weight and ask additional questions.

“My original plan was to breastfeed until Delilah was 6 months old,” Lejeune said. “In the beginning, I got to a place where it became so hard, I wanted to quit. The nurses at the clinic gave me so much help and support that now I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.”

The clinic is led by registered nurses who are all internationally board-certified lactation consultants and available by appointment with a

physician referral. Referrals are accepted for all mothers and babies, no matter the birth hospital.

"Over the past year, we have had the privilege of educating and helping new mothers in our community, bridging the gap between their home and the pediatrician," Bradley said. “As the first of its kind in Southwest Louisiana, the clinic is dedicated to empowering mothers with the knowledge and resources necessary for a successful breastfeeding journey.”

LCMHS Earns 2024 Great Place to Work Certification

Lake Charles Memorial Health System (LCMHS) has been certified by Great Place To Work. The award is based on what current employees say about their experience working at Lake Charles Memorial Health System. This year, 75% of employees said it’s a great place to work – 18 points higher than the average U.S. company. LCMHS is named as one of only three healthcare entities in Louisiana that hold this prestigious title.

"Great Place To Work Certification is a highly coveted achievement that requires consistent and intentional dedication to the overall employee experience," says Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place To Work. She emphasizes that certification is the sole official recognition earned by the real-time feedback of employees regarding their company culture. “By successfully earning this recognition, it is evident that Lake Charles Memorial stands out as one of the top companies to work for, providing a great workplace environment for its employees."

“We are thrilled to become Great Place To Work-certified,” said Devon Hyde, president and CEO of LCMH. “Our team is the heart and soul of our culture, and their feedback is invaluable in shaping our journey toward excellence. It’s through their dedication that we can provide quality healthcare to all people in SWLA.”

According to Great Place To Work, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at certified workplaces are 93% more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits and have a fair chance at promotion.

The 39th Annual

Thank You!

The CITGO Lake Charles Refinery hosted the 39th Annual CITGO MDA Golf Classic in support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) on May 6 at the Lake Charles Country Club.

The tournament and other fundraising activities raised $578,000 to support research and services for those affected by muscular dystrophy.

Since 1985, CITGO Lake Charles has engaged vendors and partners to raise more than $7 million to support MDA’s mission to empower people living with neuromuscular disease to live longer, more independent lives. We thank our generous vendors and partners that made this year’s event a resounding success.

Pictured: Liz Ortega, MDA Director, Corporate Partnerships; Mike Kennedy, MDA EVP, Chief Financial Officer & Chief Operating Officer; Sterling Neblett, CITGO Vice President & General Manager; Missy Amidon, CITGO Public Affairs Manager; Brody Ladd, CITGO MDA Golf Classic Ambassador

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