STEPHEN HEMELT — Education strength key to community’s success

Published 12:09 am Saturday, July 13, 2019

I was truly blessed this week to visit with some of the leaders of Port Arthur education.

Dr. Mark Porterie spoke with passion when discussing the state of the Port Arthur Independent School District.

Superintendent since 2014, the veteran educator displayed enthusiasm regularly unassociated to professionals with multiple decades under their belts.

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He was excited to share news of Memorial 9th Grade Academy and Woodrow Wilson Early College High School.

I am especially excited to follow Woodrow Wilson’s first graduating class, whose students are expected to leave in the Spring of 2020 with high school and associate’s degrees.

It will be a great accomplishment for a group of teenagers, many who promise to be our leaders of tomorrow.

Woodrow Wilson’s success would not be possible without a Lamar State College Port Arthur partnership.

Dr. Betty J. Reynard, president of the college, joked with me this week that all campus problems could be addressed with more students.

She was obviously oversimplifying some of the topics we discussed; yet, it was her careful precision for students and staff on the 40-plus-acre campus that caught my attention.

As we were discussing the benefits and necessity of sharing positive news, Reynard quickly told me stories about a treasured professor and recent graduate. Her words more than caught my attention, and we intend to share them in detail in upcoming editions.

As a valued member of the Texas State University System, Lamar State College Port Arthur is continuingly establishing itself as a preeminent two-year institution, not only in Southeast Texas, but the entire state.

Known for health care, business administration and process technology education, Reynard said students should also consider what’s offered through graphic design.

Talented artists and creative thinkers have many options for full-time employment that exist behind creating and selling art.

Thanks to industry investment and various city institutions, Lamar State College Port Arthur is no longer the last beacon of downtown development.

Sam Monroe certainly remembers when it was just about the only thing that drew people to downtown.

For 40 years he led the school, overseeing its transformation into the institution that delivers so much today.

For the better part of an hour this past Wednesday, I peppered him with questions about his history, his father’s history and our community’s.

Thoughtfully and eloquently, he took me through many of our community’s tremendous stories, detailing a legendary birth at a local post office and the real world issues that accompanied the college’s integration in the 1950s.

I was most impressed with his vision of the future. As a longtime resident of Port Arthur, Monroe spoke with hope about his hometown overcoming the negative reputation that so often precedes it.

As a newcomer to Jefferson County and 20-year observer as a journalist, I’ve seen one constant resonating from community to community: Sustained success is impossible without a strong education system.

Our charge will be cultivating local student education and providing avenues for our young people to live and work at home when school is complete.

Stephen Hemelt is the publisher of The Port Arthur News