By USDA Rural Development State Director Roy Holleman
It was almost 50 years since a new high school was constructed in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. Now, thanks to support from [U.S. Department of Agriculture] USDA Rural Development, the 8,000 residents of Youngsville, a growing community in the parish, have a state-of-the-art school: one that all area high school students attend with pride.
“It has really changed all of Youngsville,” says Elizabeth Doster, USDA Rural Development business programs director. “The public schools in Louisiana are challenged. They are old, and the facilities are obsolete. When they built this school, it totally changed the demographics here. The whole population has boomed in this area, with hundreds of new businesses. It’s night and day for this community.”
Youngsville is surrounded by sugar cane fields, and with the help of a [USDA] Rural Development Community Facilities Direct Loan of $78 million, one of those fields, totaling 100 acres became the site of Southside High School.
The 256,000 square foot state of the art school is a three-story building that contains administrative offices, a library, laboratories, dining facility, and collaboration spaces. A single-story building houses two gymnasiums (Home of the Southside Sharks) with a locker room. Another building includes theatre, band, and rehearsal space.
The school enrolled 650 students in 2017, and two years later, enrollment is almost double: 1,200. The boom continues as more than 500 eighth-graders are set to be freshmen next year.
Local news channel KLFY.com investigated the rapid growth of the city and spoke with Youngsville’s mayor, Ken Ritter, who said, “The quality of life factor and the school that they send their kids to is an important factor in deciding where to locate.” He says his town has seen rapid growth in the past few years with new families — and both he and the school board realize with more growth, more students come to the area. “When we ask our residents why they choose to relocate to Youngsville, or why they choose to build a home in Youngsville, what we hear is the quality of the schools and the education they receive,” Ritter says.
Southside’s first graduating class will be in 2020. It looks like the Southside students and the community of Youngsville have a bright future ahead.
This article was originally published on the USDA blog.
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