Leesville High School Perseveres Through It All

By: Charli Stanley

With so many high schools in the Vernon and Beauregard parish area, schools have to work hard to stand out from the rest, and you have to work hard to find that information, all while adjusting to moving to a new area. Luckily, I’ve taken the time to scrape together the information, so you don’t have to. Here, we will be taking a look into Leesville High School.

Academics:

Leesville High School’s simulated performance score for last year was quite impressive at 97.7. This score is calculated using average grades and attendance rates. Their average ACT score is 23, showing students excel at standardized testing. With a 74 percent proficiency, and 48 percent of those students proving above proficient, your children are sure to receive a satisfactory education at LHS. Advanced placement classes are offered, with a 49 percent participation rate. Dual enrollment is also offered through Northwestern State University, including the opportunity for students to earn associate degrees before their high school graduation. Speaking of graduation, their graduation rate is also satisfactory, at 95 percent.

Extracurriculars:

When asking what extracurricular activities are offered, I thought the list would never end. They offer a wide variety that is sure to encourage your children to get involved. To list only a few, they offer: Art Club, Bible Club, Black History Club, Drama Club, Environmental Club, 4-H, JROTC Color Guard & Drill, Physical Fitness and Rifle team, Quiz Bowl, Spanish Club, Student Government, Yearbook, and much more! They also offer S.T.E.M. enrichment with their Cybersecurity and Computational Thinking classes, as well as an incoming robotics course. 

Awards and Achievements:

As far as sports go, their powerlifting teams prove themselves at the competitive level, with the girl’s team winning 2nd place at state, and the boy’s team producing a state champion at the individual level. Their football team gets a taste of gold as well, having been the district 3-4A champions for 4 out of the last 6 years. LHS has had independent state champions on their track team as well. Leesville High was also ranked 31st in the state according to the list of best high schools by state by U.S. News.

Leesville High also participated in the Louisiana Forest Festival Woodsmen Skills Competition, resulting in many students bringing home first and second place in various categories such as rope climbing and match splitting. 

Students display their hard-earned awards at the Louisiana Forest Festival
Photo courtesy Lisa Haymon

Their true shining star achievement is the perseverance the school has shown as a whole through the trying times of the last few years. It was made abundantly obvious to myself that the faculty and staff at LHS are overwhelmingly proud of the resilience their students have shown, through the many trials they have been put through, as then principal Mark Mawae tells me here:

“Our students have seen their share of hardships during the last two years. From pandemics, hurricanes, tornados, ice storms, and quarantines, our students have shown perseverance through it all. They are true Wampus Cats. Unique and unlike any other. They stand out, they thrive, they dare to excel, for once a Wampus Cat, always a Wampus Cat, and I am so glad that I am a Wampus Cat.

A school that acknowledges their students’ hard work and holds their well-being and education above all, Leesville High School has proven to be an ideal community for your children to thrive in.

What Does Rosepine High School Have to Offer?

By: Charli Stanley

With how broad the selection of high schools is in Vernon and Beauregard parishes, I’m sure it can be a little daunting choosing the correct one for your students, especially while juggling all of the things that come with moving to a new area. My hopes are that I can alleviate some of that stress by informing you about some of the schools in the area and showcasing what they have to offer. Here, we will be taking a look into Rosepine High School.

Academics:

Rosepine High School, being one on the list of many, works hard to stand out among the crowd, and all of that hard work has definitely paid off. U.S. News recently published a list of best high schools in Louisiana, ranking Rosepine as #17 in the state and #1 in the area. With an A overall school rating from the Louisiana Department of Education and exemplary test scores, your children are sure to receive a proper education at RHS. Scores on the ACT average at 22, and 95 percent of their students score gold or higher on their ACT Workkeys Test. Proficiency rates are also satisfactory, with 67 percent proficiency in math and 75 percent in reading. All of this culminates at an impressive graduation rate of 96 percent. 

Advanced Placement courses through CollegeBoard and dual enrollment classes through Northwestern State University are offered for students looking to get a head start on earning college credits. On average, 57 percent of eligible students participate in the Advanced Placement Program, equipping students with the knowledge needed to prepare them for taking their next step in education. 

Extracurriculars:

Many extracurricular activities are offered at Rosepine High School, including baseball, basketball, cross-country, football, golf, track and field, powerlifting, softball, band, and cheerleading. Starting in the new 2022-2023 school year, RHS will also be introducing S.T.E.M. enrichment with the debut of their drone and robotics team.

Awards and Achievements:

Rosepine not only excels in academics, but also in sports. The RHS baseball team currently holds the class 2A state championship title for two years running, while the girls basketball and softball teams are both recognized on the LHSAA top 28 list.The football team was recently ranked top 10 for the 2021 season.

A word from Principal Joey Bartz: 

“Rosepine High School is such a special place, but why? The answer is simple.  Rosepine High School is made up of the most eagerly competitive people in the state.  The faculty, staff, students, and community want to win in everything they do, whether it is academics, athletics, or any other competition.  If they cannot win, they want to be the example in which others strive for. The school is heavily teacher led and has tremendous community involvement, which is a recipe for excellence.”

Rosepine is a school that leads its students to success with a principal that strives to maintain adaptability to ensure your childrens’ needs are met. It is a great option for your children to settle into after the commotion of moving.

STARBASE Polk Launching August 2022

By: Charli Stanley

FORT POLK, LA.–Moving to a new area shouldn’t mean you have to deprive your child of learning about the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). That’s why Fort Polk pushed to become one of the many DoD STARBASE program locations. STARBASE Polk is scheduled to launch in August of 2022, debuting with a fifth grade program designed to provide curriculum, materials, and equipment otherwise not offered in the average school. It will become one of many locations under the STARBASE Louisiana sector of DoD STARBASE.

Science, technology, engineering and math have always provided a foundation for innovation. The importance of STEM enrichment can be seen all around you, from the machine you use to brew your coffee every morning, to the jets you see flying high in the sky. 

Students show off the results of their latest group experiment.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Ilgenfritz

STARBASE is a Department of Defense youth program designed to serve students without access to STEM learning opportunities. There are many locations stationed at National Guard, Marine, Air Force, and Army bases throughout the U.S. Their goal is to educate by using “hands-on, minds-on” activities designed to pique interest in fields such as engineering and robotics. Students are encouraged to perform in a team-centered environment and work together to learn how to solve real-world scenarios, such as extinguishing a chemical fire or launching a rocket.

The curriculum covers many topics such as physics and chemistry, energy, technology, engineering, and mathematics applications. The program, taught by accredited military personnel, offers 25 hours of rigorous learning that promote enthusiasm in students. 

“The collaborative project-based, hands-on investigations foster curiosity and ignite a passion for learning that spills over into the regular classroom. We strive to provide a place where all students can feel welcome, valued, and capable of doing great things,” said Laurie Ilgenfritz, executive director of STARBASE Louisiana. Many testimonials state that the students were surprised to find they had a fun experience while learning important principles, and teachers loved the hands-on learning opportunities their schools were not equipped to offer.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 1, 2022, announcing the Child Development Center as the new home to STARBASE Polk. 

Once established, the program is expected to expand from fifth grade to also being offered to sixth through eighth grade in an after-school program. During the off season, summer camp is to be offered for kindergarten through fourth grade students as well. 

Fort Polk continues to push for progress in education, ensuring your children are provided with the tools they need to build a successful future. With improvements such as this, your children’s time at Fort Polk is promised to be a fun and educational experience. To learn more about what STARBASE has to offer, you can visit their website.

Vernon and Beauregard Parish Private Schools: Learning Through the Word of Christ

By: Charli Stanley

Moving to a new place with kids can be challenging. Some would argue that the most challenging task is doing so without interrupting your child’s path to a good education. In a world so full of varying values, finding somewhere that fits your lifestyle is paramount. If you want to ensure your child is taught in an educational Christian environment, Vernon and Beauregard parishes have some great options.

Cornerstone Christian Academy

Photo by Lisa Causey Cornerstone Christian Academy in DeRidder offers an education that aligns with Christian and family values.

Serving students ranging from Pre-K to 8th grade, CCA is a Louisiana Department of Education approved non-public school dedicated to providing effective education that aligns with Christian and family values. By using BJU Press curriculum and materials, students are guided by their teachers to become better equipped for upcoming high school standards. 

Academically, Cornerstone’s standardized test scores are above average. After taking the ACT Aspire exam, proficiency was proven with an average of 90 percent in reading and 85 percent in math. Students are also given the IOWA Assessment to study growth and achievement.

Along with weekly chapel and daily Bible time, CCA offers a plethora of extra curricular classes and activities such as: family and consumer sciences, Spanish, art, library, P.E., and opportunities for STEM enrichment year-round. 

If tuition assistance is something you’re interested in, Cornerstone Christian participates in the Louisiana Scholarship Program as well as ACE Scholarships

A word from Principal Lisa Causey sums up what CCA is all about. “Cornerstone Christian Academy is a Christian school based on a biblical worldview with Kingdom Education as a priority. Our children come first, and we strive to ensure that the school works in partnership with the family and church to grow Ambassadors for Christ and to spread the gospel along with utilizing rigorous curriculum and highly effective teaching to equip our scholars for the future.” 

You can check out CCA’s  website for enrollment and application information, or make the short drive to Deridder (approximately 20 minutes from Fort Polk) to check things out for yourself.

Faith Training Christian Academy

If you’re looking for somewhere that serves students through high school, look no further. FTCA, located in Leesville a few miles from Fort Polk, is a K-12 school with a goal to “provide a sound education based on the biblical worldview” through utilizing Abeka curriculum. 

FTCA academics present strong, with an overall average ACT score of 23 and a 99 percent graduation rate. Yearly competition in regional and state literary rally gives the students a chance to display their gained knowledge through a series of tests competitively compared to those of other schools and has yielded placement for many of their students.

The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) offers scholarship opportunities for the 57 percent of their graduates who decide to continue their education at a college or university.

Along with mandatory Bible class, there are many other extracurricular enrichment opportunities available such as athletics, fine arts, and music. As a part of the Association of Christian Educators of Louisiana, their athletic teams hold multiple state championships in basketball, softball, and track.

“We are very blessed to have many Fort Polk families in our facility,” said principal Deana Cole. FTCA’s mission is to educate students while equipping them with the knowledge to fulfill God’s purpose and glorify Him, she added. 

You can learn more on their website.

Finding a school that prioritizes your family values and education doesn’t have to be hard. Cornerstone Christian Academy and Faith Training Christian Academy strive to ensure they meet even the highest of standards.

Kisatchie National Forest: Nothing but Pine Trees!

By Charli Stanley

Growing up in the middle of the woods, I always heard things like “How do you not get lost out here?” and “Everything looks the same; it’s just a bunch of pine trees!” If you’re new to Louisiana, I’m sure the same thought has run through your mind as well, but there is much more to this pine forest than meets the eye. Now, before reading on, I feel the need to warn you, some of the names used in this article are a little hard to say and may come off as intimidating, but bear with me, I’ll try my best to help you through it. 

Cypress knees peek out of the water at Little Cypress Pond in Kisatchie National Forest. Photo by Charli Stanley

Kisatchie (kuh-sa-chee) National Forest is a 604,000 acre forest that spans across seven of Louisiana’s sixty-four parishes. Due to the large scale of the forest, Kisatchie is split into five Ranger Districts, which are then split into smaller units. 

The name Kisatchie derives from a Caddoan tribe of Kichai (kee-chai) Indians who once called the banks of the Red River their home. This land was rich in timber, and the resource was milled and abused until the Forest Service was able to obtain some units of land in the late 1920’s, allowing the forest to begin the long road to recovery. It officially gained the title of National Forest in 1930.

While it may seem like pine trees are all you can see within the dense forest, there is a lively ecosystem of wildlife teeming within. Plenty of game available for seasonal hunting include whitetail deer, turkey, quail, squirrel, and more. Other species you may observe include turtles, foxes, otters, and frogs. More dangerous animals lurk as well, so keep an eye out for wild boar, black bears, snakes, and bobcats. The most elusive animals of the forest are the escape-artist horses that decided domesticated life wasn’t for them.

Butting borders with Fort Polk is the 85,000 acre Vernon Unit of the Calcasieu (kal-kuh-shoo) Ranger District. Within the Vernon Unit are nestled four of its own recreation complexes: Little Cypress, Blue Hole, Fullerton Lake, and Government Pond. Fullerton Lake Recreation Complex is home to one of the many sawmills that once flattened the lush forest. Ruins of the mill can still be found along the 1.6-mile Fullerton Mill Trail. 

Today, the forest is used for a plethora of activities, from hunting on designated grounds, to hiking through the pine-lined trails, or even camping on the shores of one of its many lakes. Miles-long ATV trails snake through the thick woods, kayaks can be rented for a day on the water, or you can even grab your pole for a day of fishing. If outdoor recreation is your style, Kisatchie has endless opportunities for your enjoyment. For more information on openings, closures, and announcements, check out their regularly-updated bulletin.

Louisiana’s Lone Cave

By: Charli Stanley

If you’re looking for a reason to get out of the house on a beautiful day, look no further than Wolf Rock Cave. Only a short drive from Fort Polk’s south entrance lies the only known cave in the entire state. This Louisiana wonder makes for a great opportunity to learn more about the history of the area while soaking in some of that famously warm, southern air. 

Darkness sits at the back of the winding tunnel through Wolf Rock Cave. Photo by Charli Stanley

Just a short hike from the parking area, through the trees, you can see two rock overhangs jutting out the side of a hill, overlooking Bundick’s Creek. Between the two overhangs is a distinct crevice that runs the length of the hill, a result of hundreds of years of erosion. 

Local lore claims the cave was discovered by some boys fishing on Bundick’s creek. They heard a faint whimpering coming from the darkness. Upon further inspection, they discovered a litter of wolf puppies, and so was born the name “Wolf Rock Cave.” 

Evidence indicates that this cave was once used as a rock shelter during the Late Archaic period. Early inhabitants are believed to have used the nearby resources of the area to make tools necessary for survival, while also seeking refuge within the walls of the cave. This brochure, created by the U.S. Forest Service, can provide more information on the kinds of tools that were essential to these early Archaic Indians. 

A little more recently, during the 1950’s and 60’s, the cave was frequently used as a camping spot for local hunters and fishers. On quiet nights, it was used as a hangout for the local teens until it became part of the Forest Service’s jurisdiction when it was determined within the boundaries of Kisatchie National Forest in the late 70’s. It is said that until this point, the cave led to two large rooms in the very back end, but it was deemed too dangerous for tourists to travel that far into the cave, so the rooms were sealed off by a controlled explosion.

It hasn’t always had the title of being the only cave in the state though. Before 1942, there was Murrell’s Cave. This network of caves is believed to have been used by the outlaw John Murrell as a hideout. His stolen goods, such as gold and silver, were much sought-after by treasure hunters and curious explorers, so the caves were closed off to prevent people from getting lost within the walls of the cave. Today, not much remains of the bandit’s trusty hideout, and the land it once sat within is now privately posted.

Wolf Rock Cave is still open to explore inside if you don’t mind crouching down to crawl through the damp, muddy bottom. There are also trails atop the overhangs to explore, but beware, the terrain is a bit rough, so bring your hiking shoes and make sure you have good footing before you take that first step.

Maybe if you’re lucky, you might even stumble across an old arrowhead, I hear the area is practically littered with them. As tempting as taking a souvenir may seem, please refrain from doing so, and remember to only leave footprints to preserve the area’s authenticity for future explorers to enjoy.