LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - As high school seniors move their tassels over this month, education and city leaders are concerned many may head out of the area for college.
Thursday night the mayor of Lake Charles, McNeese and SOWELA administrators, and high school students came together to talk about the reasons why some of those students are leaving for college.
LaGrange High School senior Renee Simien has lived in Lake Charles all her life.
But as mayor Nic Hunter asked why students want to leave during Thursday night's education roundtable, a lack of diversity was one of the reasons Simien and others gave.
"I definitely feel that making Lake Charles and McNeese more diverse will help kids want to stay," she said.
Though Lake Charles has a technical college and a public university, Washington Marion High School senior Kourtlen Thomas feels he needs to leave to see what else is out there.
"At the stage I'm at right now I feel like I'm not as valuable to Lake Charles," he said. "I would like to leave to learn new things from different cultures, and bring it back to Lake Charles so I will be more valuable."
As the students spoke about TOPS, school safety, and even drainage, Mayor Hunter says he understands why some are ready to go.
"For those who do want to leave Lake Charles and get an education that's okay, we're alright hearing that, but Lake Charles needs to be a welcoming center," said Hunter.
Hunter introduced a variety of new initiatives during the discussion like:
- Revival of the McLeod Lecture Series
- Feature student artwork at Historic 1911 building, City Hall or during downtown events
- Reintroduce a component of Rouge et Blanc to downtown Lake Charles
- Work with McNeese's history department and the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission on Veteran's oral histories
- Host leisure learning, occasional classes, or community workshops downtown
- Banners for both schools featured on street lamps
- Lake City Champions will attend sporting events
- "Geaux Blue Fridays" instituted at City Hall
- Consideration of McNeese & SOWELA staff for city boards or commissions
- Red White Blue & You design contest and scholarship
- McNeese & SOWELA speakers at our teen connection
- McNeese golf presence at new city golf course
- SOWELA culinary & McNeese music departments collaboration in downtown Lake Charles
- McNeese department of agriculture working with city on oak tree preservation for central school & tree planting along First Avenue
- Mayor's youth partnership will host annual roundtable discussion
While McNeese and SOWELA aren't the schools for Simien, coming back to her city is her goal in the end.
"I want to go and spread my wings so I can bring back positive things for the community," she said. "I feel like there's so much more out there. I want to bring beauty and success to Lake Charles, so I need to go and grasp it and come back to help and build my community."
Hunter says he is trying to make this roundtable discussion an annual thing. He says when they host the event next year they will have it at McNeese State University.