Parish and CPEX looks to local students for direction

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Honors students at Donaldsonville High School gathered at the school library to participate.

Ascension Parish Government and Ascension Parish Public Schools partnered recently to provide a unique educational experience to high school students around the parish.

CPEX, the government partner in creating a new master land use plan, made presentations on land use and zoning laws in front of high school juniors and seniors.

"It's important to kind of think out of the box," CPEX Director of Planning Janet Tharp said. "Downtown Donaldsonville has what we call all the bones of a place, all the great buildings and structure to be a more walkable community."

Tharp took the reins to present ideas for growth and development to the students. This was followed by the same process parish citizens followed recently at town hall meetings. Students looked at the best models available and were able to write sticky notes to add their thoughts on future land development.

"It was a public workshop showing them much like what we're showing the kids in the classroom," Jerome Fournier, Ascension Parish Planning and Zoning director, said. "I thought we had some really good feedback, and I thought we had some really good interactions with the population there."

This was done to allow students to become better educated on the process work of parish government as well as stimulate discussion on where they would like to see future growth and development in the parish.

A session was held at Donaldsonville High School on Thursday, September 27 and at Dutchtown High School on Friday, September 28.

"I think it's a good exercise for us to participate in because we're going to be the ones who settle down with families and jobs more than the older people in the parish, so we should be the ones to determine what we want," Hailey Junca, a Dutchtown student said.

A surprising note was that Dutchtown students wanted more development on the West Bank. They also showed interest in more industry and more rentals so they can live in Ascension Parish and commute to college. Donaldsonville students were concerned with transportation. They want development like shopping and walkable roads.

CPEX and the planning department are taking the students' participation just as seriously as the adults, since as Junca pointed out, those people will be the ones living in the parish with families and jobs by the time the 20-year plan is fully in place.

St. Amant and East Ascension students also participated that week.