By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

With temperatures plummeting under gray skies, spirits were soaring and everyone was proud to be a Bear at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge during a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating two historical occasions, the school’s record-setting sixth National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award and the opening of a stunning new student center.  

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The ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Brother Donnan Berry SC Student Center at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge featured an orange and blue ribbon to celebrate the CHS achieving its sixth blue ribbon and the opening the new student center. Photos by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator  

 

The new 32,000-square-foot Brother Donnan Berry SC Student Center will create a dynamic environment where the school’s roughly 1,200 students can dine, socialize, study and interact with faculty, according to CHS officials.  

The center’s first floor contains a student union with seating for up to 600 people and includes an expanded kitchen and food preparation area.  

On the second floor are a seminar room and four classrooms with adjacent collaboration rooms and study rooms available for student and faculty use, a campus ministry gathering space, a faculty work center and terrace and student terrace.  

Outdoors there is a large student commons area with a pavilion. 

Concerning the blessing of the new building Oct. 30, CHS Principal Lisa Harvey told the crowd, “The tradition of blessing a building or a home dates back to biblical times and symbolizes that we are asking God to bless not only the structure but all who enter it and all the activities that occur in the building.” 

She added, “A ribbon cutting is a powerful symbol of a new beginning, embarking on a new venture, and for us, a new chapter in the high school.” 

 She also applauded the efforts of all in being selected a 2020 National School of Excellence.  

“This is the sixth time that CHS has received this prestigious award and the only school in the country to have received it six times. It is through the accomplishments of our students and faculty that this tradition of excellence continues,” said Harvey.  

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 The new Brother Donnan Berry SC Student Center at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge has more room and contemporary features to better serve the school’s approximately 1,200 students.  

 

In attendance were the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the founders and avid supporters of the school. CHS President Gene Tullier saluted the namesake of the student center.  

The first sentence on a plaque that will be installed on the side of the ‘Class of 73 Gathering Stairs’ leading up to the second floor of the students center will read: “With passion and a huge heart, Brother Donnan Berry SC left a legacy that shaped Catholic High School.”  

Brother Donnan was principal at CHS before establishing the school’s development office.  

“Anyone who knew Brother Donnan can attest to his huge heart … and his passion,” said Tullier. “He was at times gruff. He was opinionated. But he was a bold leader dedicated to his students.”  

Tullier pointed out that in the student pavilion there are 11 brick columns naming the core values of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and the mission pillars of the school: sancutary, respect, missionary spirit, courage and trust, holistic formation, Catholic tradition, compassion, Gospel values, personal attention, friendly discipline and academic excellence.  

CHS student body president Matthew Tilley shared his memories with the audience about the “Demo-Day” groundbreaking ceremony a year-and-a-half ago when, to the students’ delight, CHS demolished an empty house on Hearthstone Drive to make room for the student center.  

“I can remember Mr. (Charles) Jumonville telling us about this student center and how it is going to change Catholic forever. My understanding of this at the time were minimal. However, today I see the impact this student center has not only for the campus, but all of our students as well.   

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State of the art classrooms add to the learning experience at the student center.  

 

“When we all came back to school at the beginning of this school year it was evident that students’ morale was low due to the pandemic and all of changes at the school. The student center’s opening has brought a sense of the liveliness and brotherhood back to our Catholic High community that we most certainly needed.”  

He thanked his fellow students and especially faculty and staff for their hard work in the historic sixth Blue Ribbon School achievement and said the student center should stand as a reminder of Catholic’s legacy of great accomplishments.  

“This student center is an excellent example of transmitting the school greater than we found it. All of us helped in the building of the student center, whether big or small,” Tilley said. “I challenge each and every one of you to continue striving for greatness, both within and beyond the classroom, so that you may leave the school better than it was given to you. Today is a great day to be a Bear.”  

After the blessing by Brother Ray Hebert SC and ribbon cutting ceremony featuring blue and orange ribbons students nestled in their new home, filling the classrooms and conference rooms and studying in the commons. A school dream realized.  

And a place where dreams are hatching for the future.  

“I really love the study room. We have a white board and we can use it to knock out ideas,” said sophomore Sid Scheumack. “Everyone loves it and can enjoy (the historical moment) for the rest of the year.” 

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A large kitchen and food service area helps students have a lot of healthy food choice options.