In February, Leadership Lafayette XXXIII was introduced at LIA’s 2020 Annual Meeting. We gathered nearly 150 people together to celebrate our new brand, recognize the work of our founders, and welcome the largest Leadership Lafayette class in history into our program. Little did anyone know that just one month later, both our community and the world would be facing a pandemic that completely altered LL XXXIII’s experience.
Nine months later, gathering looked very different for LL XXXIII. Leveraging technology, we hosted a hybrid graduation to celebrate both the many successes and challenges the class experienced. While many aspects of graduation had to change to celebrate safely, we kept a long-running tradition of inviting two class members to capture the essence of the program year.
This year, the class selected Terry Dugas and Brandon Journet to share their perspectives. We hope that you can find the same inspiration that we did in their words below:
Class Speaker, Terry Dugas, shared:
I want to thank my classmates for voting for me to be one of the speakers at our graduation event. This is a huge honor and I appreciate it so much.
Before I begin, I want to make sure everyone knows that his year would not have been successful without Ashley, Holly and Andre. I don’t think I can thank each of them enough for their dedication to providing us with the best possible program during this incredibly difficult and challenging year.
All that being said, I do have one small, simple, teeny tiny complaint.
During one of our class days, a particularly hard and inedible sandwich was served for lunch and its memory stuck with me through the rest of the year. I won’t go too far into detail, but the experience made a considerable impact on the class day.
As I thought more about it and reflected on the year, I realized that if anything represents our class over this entire experience-its that sandwich.
Our class is tough. Like that sandwich.
We stuck together. Like that sandwich
No matter how hard we were pressed, squished, or otherwise made to change our shape-we remained whole, just like that damn sandwich.
This year presented unique and new challenges for each of my classmates, and through it all we each still found ways to engage with each other, to volunteer, to join boards and committees, to start new jobs or grow in our current positions and so much more.
Each person in Class 33 embodies the best of our region. Many of them are so smart and have ideas that will push us forward. Many of them are focused and will organize and mobilize to improve life for our citizens. All of them have big hearts and have shown just how committed they are to making the world around themselves a little better.
Whenever my family accomplishes something or something big is happening, or we reach the end of something long, we share this quote with each other. Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s a reminder of the good things promised to us, and of how we can be that good to someone else. I wanted to share it with my classmates on our graduation day to remind us that more prosperity and success is on the way.
In conclusion, class 33 truly is the key. Each of them is the key to a brighter Acadiana and it is my privilege to be counted among them. I consider each of them to be classmates, friends and great potential love interests in a Lifetime Christmas move, not Hallmark, because I’ve been in our group chat long enough know none of them are wholesome enough for that. I love each of them dearly.
We have SO MUCH to be proud of, and I know that there is so much more to come.
It’s the 33 for me!
Class Speaker, Brandon Journet, shared:
THIS ALL STARTED WITH SIMSOC
- For the majority of us, I think it’s safe to say that it was our collective first memory of Class 33.
- Looking back. I think about the riot that Will was SO hellbent on planning.
- I mean, that would be a DREAM compared to what 2020 actually had in store for us.
It has been a WILD year.
HONESTLY, I’M HUMBLED THAT YOU GUYS ACTUALLY CHOSE ME TO SPEAK
- But I was nervous.
- Because I didn’t know if I could come up here and paint this beautiful picture of a year filled with all these amazing memories.
- I didn’t know if I could come up here and pretend like we all got together and had the time of our lives.
Plus, you guys would totally know I was lying.
BEFORE WE EVEN REALIZED OUR YEAR WOULD BE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN IT WAS ALREADY HALFWAY OVER
- Most of us weren’t even worried about class in the beginning.
- Because we were worried about our families.
- We were worried about our jobs.
- Our grandparents.
- Each other.
BUT THE MORE I STARTED TO THINK ABOUT IT
- We may have missed out on a lot of the traditional class sessions.
- But somehow…. someway…. WE FOUND A WAY TO STAY TOGETHER.
- I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say … THANK GOD for the GROUP CHAT.
WE LEARNED SO MUCH ABOUT EACH OTHER
- Not just as individuals.
- But the 36 different worlds that individually surround us.
- When it came to leadership .. it wasn’t about the speakers or the agenda.
- EVERYONE … ALL OF YOU … BECAME THE EXAMPLE.
The REALITY that we EXPERIENCED in 2020 were the lessons that other Leadership groups had to learn about in a classroom setting.
STATE GOVERNMENT DAY
- It was a HISTORIC election year.
- and THIS class is proud to claim Katie Bernhardt… the LEADER of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
- And we can talk about Lauren Gardner representing us in the Department of Justice?
- We watched state leadership bring us through COVID-19.
- Stefanski and Governor Edwards begged us to put on masks, and no matter how mad people got … they never backed down.
- Whether you agree with them or not …. That’s leadership.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT DAY
- Boy were we ever engaged.
- I think we watched enough council meetings to learn that Will Thiele has the perfect voicemail voice.
- We also learned that if your partner calls you can get TEN minutes instead of just FIVE.
- We watched Lisa help launch a campaign for city marshal.
- THEN … watched people like Jamie, Fumy, Sally, Corey, Cynthia and half of our classmates come together to assist anytime she was in need.
- 33 and 32 worked in harmony and now they’re headed to a runoff on December 5.
WE DIDNT DISCUSS RACE THROUGH DATA AND STATISTICS
- in 2020 the discussion was literally Brought to our front door through events that unfolded right here in our community.
- Having Dorian’s insight on all of this was priceless.
- And we gained even more appreciation and respect for the work that he does daily in the trenches.
- We had individual discussions …. Personal discussions … uncomfortable discussions.
- But all in all, they were necessary discussions.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS DAY
- How ‘bout an unprecedented pandemic year?
- It almost feels like EVERY class was health day because we learned a LOT about COVID… like a LOT.
- We were also fortunate learn firsthand through the experiences of classmates like Mick, Terry, and Brennon.
- Health and wellness was SO COOL that LIZZY decided she wanted a part of the action.
- I don’t know about you guys, but I learned A LOT about education through the eyes and hearts of Lindsay, Rachel, Brandi, Michelle, and Vanessa.
- We also learned a LOT from their body language.
- To watch them lead the way and tackle so much uncertainty was pretty amazing.
- There was no lesson plan for COVID.
- And they’re still figuring it out!
- Guys like Will Ness come to mind.
- He was so helpful to so many of us when it came to getting assistance for our businesses during the pandemic.
- And if you were wondering where Jacob, Jake and Jude were for 3 months in the group chat..
- They were busy keeping our local small businesses afloat through PPP and other programs.
- Also 2.4% … who knew?
ARTS AND CULTURE DAY
- Nothing will show you the true worth of our arts and culture like having it taken away.
- Enough said.
COMMUNITY NEEDS DAY
- I think this is where every single person in this room showed some type of leadership.
- Not just the people who work daily in a non-profit role.
- Community needs were fulfilled on the NUMEROUS days where SO many of you volunteered.
- Too many people to name, but if you put on a vest and almost passed out at one of Randi’s food drops then raise your hand.
- If you’ve ever joined Katy and Parish Proud to literally CLEAN UP our community, raise your hand!
- And Bobby, somebody told me you were so down to pressure wash all the I-10 exits …. That’s amazing man.
- Speaking of bobby, with the help of his trailer we saw Mellissa and Lindsay head west to help out in Lake Charles after the storms.
- And with as many hurricanes as we had — thank GOD for Jonathan Bostick! Rob Perillo, eat your heart out.
- Monica led us individually through her coffee chats.
- Evan found a new coast … and a new boo.
- Rusty got the band back together!
- Dustin found inspiration through the people in this room to make a HUGE impact for veterans.
- And can we talk about the leaders on our graduation committee who worked behind the scenes to pull this off?
- Jamie, Karli, Corey … all of you guys .. thank you for making it possible for us to safely enjoy this special moment.
- Speaking of making things possible … how about Ashley Mudd.
- She’s incredible.
- So is her team.
Ashley, I still don’t know how you did it … but because of you:
- We learned about leadership by watching our classmates lead.
- By watching leaders lead.
- Say it with me… Because that’s what leaders do.
- Leadership is being uncomfortable.
- Leadership is solving issues daily.
- Leadership is working while others sleep.
- Leadership is never saying or accepting “I can’t.”
- And we didn’t.
- And I’m so proud of us for that.
- And I truly can’t wait to see how we continue to put that leadership into action.
- Because I know our Lafayette community will be better for it.
Better because of Class 33
The class of 2020…
the BEST CLASS EVER
…not because we said so, but because we HAD to be.