STEPHEN HEMELT — Lachelle Edwards puts passion to purpose for youth engagement
Published 12:06 am Sunday, November 20, 2022
Lachelle Edwards graduated from Memorial High School in 2009 with a desire to help others.
She calls her approach a God-given passion for people.
“I have always loved people,” she says today. “Even when I was a youth, I loved seeing everyone reach his or her full potential. I want everyone to be the best at everything they are doing. That has always been my driving point. That is what uniquely makes me me. I am starting to accept that more.”
To speak with Lachelle Edwards is to know you are dealing with someone growing more comfortable by the minute in her own skin. When I had a chance to talk with her this week, she was catching her breath while taking a few Memorial students to a youth leadership conference for Southeast Texas hosted at Lamar Institute of Technology.
That’s part of the process for the first year student activities director at Memorial High.
Edwards was a veteran music teacher who wanted to impact students in a more substantive way. It’s a characteristic that has defined her young adult life.
“Music has kind of been my background, although I went to Lamar University and majored in communication disorders,” Edwards said. “I taught myself how to play the piano at the age of 9. I’ve always been a minister of music through local churches or a praise and worship leader in local churches.”
She got into education her last year at Lamar University in 2014 and decided she wanted to be a teacher. As fate would have it, that is when she received a call to come be a substitute music teacher for Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Arthur.
There, she found her niche and passion, earning an alternative certification within two years and teaching in various music roles throughout the district.
However, she wanted to do something more and went about earning her master’s, which was accomplished this year.
“While music is great, I wanted to be more involved,” she said.
That kind of drive has caught the eyes of more than her coworkers. In fact, Edwards was celebrated Tuesday by the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce as a 2022 honoree in the Southeast Texas 40 Under 40 Celebration.
Her community involvement, career and passion for Southeast Texas carried her to the recognition.
“Community and service have always been big things to me, whether through giveaways, food pantries or organizing events for the youth,” she says.
In 2020, Edwards created a group on Facebook following her use on social media of #YoungPAVotes. It was an initiative to get the youth — ages 18 to 38 — more involved in the community and voting. That became a group that today includes more than 600 followers via Facebook.
She pushes young people to know who their community leaders are and what issues are being discussed.
That motivation is what led to her current position within the Port Arthur Independent School District.
“I wanted to be more hands on and I wanted to give (students) opportunities for advancement and connection,” she says. “I tell the students, No. 1, I am here to serve the students. No. 2, I am here to support the staff. No. 3, I am there to bridge the gap with the community.
“As the activities director, I give the students opportunities for exposure to things they may not typically have exposure to. I like to bring in individuals from the community to speak or individuals from Port Arthur who have gone on to do great things so they can have actual examples in front of them.”
She also likes to keep it fun by leading a school scavenger hunt or turning the music on in the cafeteria.
“I tell them all the time, school should not just be an obligation,” Edwards said. “It should be an experience. Just give them an opportunity to be kids and get exposed to things at the same time.”
Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes panews.com and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 409-721-2445.