Hello, I’m Frank. I currently serve as the 7-8 Grade Residential Coordinator at St. Joseph’s.
In April, St. Joseph’s traveled to New Orleans for a donor luncheon. Each time St. Joseph’s host a donor luncheon, two students are chosen to travel along. This gives our students a unique opportunity to see the country and meet many people who so generously support them!
Let me tell you a little about the preparations on our end…
The process of picking two students and getting them ready for the donor luncheon started about two months ago. Nate, our 4-6 grade Residential Coordinator, distributed applications to the high school boys. It was a hard decision, but Jason and Richard came to the forefront as the best candidates for the trip. They were excited for the opportunity, as were their families.
Then the work started!
We met at least once a week to go over general public speaking skills and help Jason and Richard hone their answers into complete sentences. At first, I was a little worried that they wouldn’t be able to pull off coherent statements that actually answered the questions, but as we worked and practiced, they improved!
As time went on, the boys started to practice speaking into the microphone and then finally with the PowerPoint. Our last practice was terrible, but I know that a full-blown dress rehearsal is always terrible right before opening night!
The boys had never been to New Orleans, so once we checked into our hotel we walked the French Quarter for the next several hours. We enjoyed dinner at a local spot where the boys both tried fried alligator for the first time. They both liked it!
When we got back to the hotel, the boys went to bed. I stayed up practicing the talk I was giving the next day and worrying whether or not the boys would totally freeze and give one word answers.
The next day brought the first Donor Luncheon. The tables were set, donors arrived and then it was go time for the talk! I was so nervous that I skipped a part in the beginning of my talk, but nobody seemed to notice.
When the boys got up to speak I was nervous for them, but they both took their spots and acted like old pros. They answered the questions with ease and grace and interacted with the audience like they had done this a hundred times before. I checked in with the donors who were sitting at their tables and they confirmed the boys were great to visit with! The next day went just as well. I was very proud of the work both boys put into their talks and how it had paid off for them.
The two things the boys asked to do was to take an air boat tour of the swamp and hold a baby alligator. Laura arranged for the tour and we all went after our first luncheon. Our tour guide, Captain Bebop, grew up near the swamp and had been giving tours for the last seven years. The boys really engaged with him and enjoyed the ride. We were even able to see live gators swimming around!
After some time, Captain Bebop pulled into a secluded area just out of the swamp and showed us where the female alligators make their nest. He then started to rummage around under his seat. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but then he pulled out a 1-year-old baby gator for us to hold. The boys were excited to hold the dangerous little creature. They really got a kick out of it!
When our tour was over, Captain Bebop put the baby gator away and started towards the dock. About half way in, the engine started to cut out. I thought that the Captain was just trying to scare us in the middle of the swamp, but I soon learned I was wrong. After our engine completely quit working, I asked the captain if he was just messing with us and he said “No, the boat ran out of gas!”
Captain Bebop called into the docks and they brought another boat out to get us. We made it back to shore safely and back to our hotel shortly after.
The rest of the trip went great and they boys got to see a lot of New Orleans, try some different food and experience a big city. It was fun for me to get to experience this trip through their eyes. I was humbled by their willingness to try several new things and the boys were humbled by our donors and their willingness to support our mission.
Jason and Richard were delighted at all the new things they experienced during the trip. Best of all, they created many memories that they will never forget!