Chef Terryl Jackson of the Flat Town Culinary Academy (right) places a special chef’s har on the head of Jeremy Bradley (left). Bradley is the only student at the Ville Platte Girls-Boys Place to complete all three years of Jackson’s academy. (Photo by Mable Foreman)
The power of youth
Over its history, the City of Ville Platte has had its many racial and other socio-economic divisions that have kept its residents apart. Over the last few years; though, these divisions had been bridged due to some youth power.
This youth power emanates from the Ville Platte Girls-Boys Place where children from all of the city’s backgrounds enjoy a space to have fun and learn new skills during the summer.
At the end of the summer, a banquet is held as children from the Girls-Boys Place prepare and serve the meal for members of the community. During this year’s banquet that was held last Friday night, several people from the community were recognized who, through their efforts, have contributed to the growth and the success of the different programs that are offered.
“Last year, we had some things that we needed to take care of to get up to code,” said Terryl Jackson who heads the Flat Town Culinary Academy program at the Girls-Boys Place. “We needed a fire suppression system, and we needed new door handles. Darryl Davis nearly single handedly got all of those things done.”
“On the day before he passed away,” Jackson continued, “the items for the last project that he was supposed to complete were delivered here at the doorstep of this place. So, because of that, where we are sitting is now called the Darryl Davis Dining Hall.”
Jackson went on to recognize others for their efforts to get the kitchen of the old nursing home up to standards where food can once again be prepared. “Last year, all of the food that was cooked wasn’t cooked on site,” he stated. “It was not cooked on site because we didn’t have a system in the event we were to have a fire.”
“This year we have a state-of-the-art brand new system, and it’s thanks to people from our Wine 101 class,” Jackson continued. “Last year, we announced a wine class to introduce people to wine. While we were doing this fundraiser, Phillip Buller with Modern Woodmen of America gave us matching funds. We were able to put this brand new state-of-the-art fire suppression system that cost in excess of $4,000.00.”
Freddy Holmes, who volunteers to head the music program, also recognized a member of the community for his contributions to the Girls-Boys Place. “During this summer, I ran across John Vidrine who brought to my attention that his brother Barry had passed away and that he was a musician himself. I had the opportunity to speak with John, and we were talking about music and some of the instruments that his brother had like some guitars.
So, John donated to the Girls-Boys Place Barry’s lead guitar and bass guitar.”
Holmes went on to share some of the growth he has seen with the students during his two years leading the music program, especially from Chloe Adcock. “I ran across one little girl who was here last year,” he said. “I couldn’t get her to do anything last year. She didn’t want to sing and didn’t want to talk to me. But, then, she comes around this year and was asking me for the microphone because she wanted to sing. This year she just blossomed, and I could see the growth in her singing. She is doing a great job for us.”
“This year we have also had a lot of other kids who have done some tremendous things in our music department,” Holmes continued. “We have some who never played drums before. I actually taught them the basics of playing the drum set, and, everytime they came into the music room, I had to run them off the drum set. Everybody wants to play the drum set now. I’m really proud of them, and they’ve done a tremendous job this summer.”
The night ended with Jackson recognizing his culinary students. He called the group some “wonderful aspiring chefs.” He added, “This group is probably the best group in all three years. The only problem with that is they think they’re superstars already.”
He then transitioned each of the students to the next level of the culinary academy by giving them either a chef’s jacket or a chef’s hat. A special chef’s hat was given to Jeremy Bradley who had been in the academy all three years.
Jackson stated, “All year long, I told him that he has to be first in the building and last out of the door and that the other students shouldn’t be hearing my voice. They ought to be hearing his because if he wants to be like me then, at some point, he’s got to sound like me.”
Director of the Girls-Boys Place Dianna Johnson thanked the staff including Nick Bellow, Connie Broussard, Johnell Celestine, Gabbie Chapman, Jared Ski Doucet, Melanie Delahoussaye, Renotta Edwards, Melanie Fontenot, Tyron Jones, and the many volunteers who have made this year possible.
She commented that she wished for the residents of Ville Platte to not despise small beginnings “because growth is evident.”
“It truly takes a village to raise a child, and together we can make a difference,” she concluded.