LAPLACE — “RACA” is an acronym the River Parishes will soon be familiar with.
Chartered in January, the Omicron Psi Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity is investing in the future of the region through “Recruitment And Career Advisement” at local high schools. The fraternity brothers recently hosted career fairs for students at East St. John and West St. John High, showcasing local career opportunities and community college resources.
Jaye Watson, president of the Omicron Psi Lambda chapter, said it’s important to reach not only the seniors, but also the underclassmen who may not have started thinking about life after high school.
“This is the type of event where we try to give them an early introduction to every career opportunity, as well as colleges and universities and other types of industries,” Watson said. “Most of these kids aren’t going to start thinking about what they can do until senior year. We want them to know there is a place for them in this parish. Where are you going to get your labor force from? It’s going to come from these high schools.”
Watson said the fraternity plans to expand RACA to include more opportunities throughout the region, eventually tying in the entire St. John, St. James, St. Charles, Ascension and Tangipahoa corridor that comprises the membership of the Omicron Psi Lambda Chapter.
“At our district convention, Alpha Phi Alpha gave away millions in scholarships. We are hoping we can do something similar in the River Parishes,” Watson said.
Lance “Mack” McCormick, director of education for the Omicron Psi Lambda chapter, said RACA is also a way to form meaningful community partnerships.
“The intent was to get both employers and educators to come talk to the kids about different careers that they have available post-graduation. We know that not everybody is going to a university, so we are trying to catch that last percentage,” McCormick said. “We want to form relationships so that when schools have events, we always show up. We want them to start recognizing us. We want everyone sitting at graduation knowing what they will do.”
The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. John Parish Government and the St. John Parish Fire Department were among the local employers represented at the recent career fairs. Students learned that the parish offers a wide range of positions, from office staff to equipment operators and more, with exceptional government benefits. Likewise, representatives from the St. John Sheriff’s Office told students they do not have to be patrol deputies to find employment with the SJSO. Several desk positions exist, including information technology.
Eric Whitfield shared that the St. John Parish Fire Department is looking to hire more applicants from within St. John Parish to continue investing in the community.
According to the Alpha Phi Alpha brothers, students seemed particularly intrigued by information pertaining to River Parishes Community College and Delgado Community College, two hidden gems in the local educational landscape.
Both colleges offer vocational and technical training and participate in the Louisiana Transfer Program, allowing students to save money by completing their first two years of schooling at the community college level before transferring to a four-year university.
Adolfo Rodriguez of Delgado Community College had no idea how many resources were available until he started working on the campus. With a semester tuition price less than half that of LSU, Delgado has a variety of programs that can help even future doctors and lawyers take the first steps toward a fruitful career.
With a Reserve campus located practically in East St. John’s backyard, River Parishes Community College offers everything from two-year associate’s degrees to weeks-long vocational trainings that can get students to work straight out of high school.
RPCC representatives shared information on the three-week scaffolding program and the new solar technology program.
According to Cherri Wells, director of career success, RPCC programs are approved by the LA Workforce Office.
“As long as they are 18 and not working, they will pay for your tuition,” Wells said.
Students were also invited to RPCC’s Career Fair and STEM night scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. June 16.
East St. John Principal David Lewis was pleased to see RACA spring into action on campus this week. The initiative was particularly close to his heart because he pledged into the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in the fall of 1988 at Dillard University.
“Being a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, it was in my heart to use the community as a landscape to get our youth involved in different departments as well as careers that are essential to St. John Parish,” Lewis said. “I want to get involved with my brothers to make sure we continue this tradition and that it gets stronger.”