Vincent Settlement Elementary School
In the fall of 2003 the newly-formed student council of Vincent Settlement Elementary School voted unanimously to commence fundraising efforts for the purchase of a marquee school sign. The school sits alone in the wilds of southwestern Louisiana, with a full twelve miles of Cajun countryside between it and anything resembling civilization.
The project was spearheaded by fifth grader Ben Ivey under the supervision of teacher-sponsor Tony McCardle. Vincent Settlement’s PTO enthusiastically threw their support behind the project.”The existing sign wasn’t well representing the spirit of our 525-member student body” recalls Tony.”It was easy to get everyone on board.”
Fundraising began straightaway with the students selling car tags and YTies. Activities such as these continued for another two years raising nearly a quarter of the funds needed to put a sign on the front lawn alongside Vincent Settlement Road.
“A local bank then swooped in and took it upon itself to fund the entire cost of the sign,” exclaims Tony.”Cameron State Bank saw the PR and advertising potential of sponsoring a school sign in the community,”
Tony’s voice punctuates the bank’s action: “They get it.”
The school decided on Stewart Signs after the first phone conversation with a Stewart Signs sign consultant.”Her guidance respectfully mirrored that of the diligent work the students had accomplished on the project since way back in ’03. As she understood the human hours invested in the endeavor it was a natural for her to guide us seamlessly through the design of our sign.” Tony elaborates, “There were times we felt we were asking for too many artwork changes. This was not the case. She took care of our every wish.”
Vincent Settlement’s new Stewart Sign was installed on September 16th, 2005. It could have been the happy ending to a successful fundraising story. This, however, is where things get interesting.
“The school took a direct hit from Hurricane Rita exactly one week to the day after we installed the sign.” As Tony bluntly puts it, “Category Four with 140 mph winds…’nuff said.”
Every inhabitant in southwestern Louisiana had already evacuated days before Hurricane Rita struck. It would be days before the student body of Vincent Settlement would learn the fate of their school building.
“I’ll never forget getting the call on my cell from the PE teacher as he first arrived on the scene after Rita sloshed away”, recollects Tony.”He told me we had steel girders in the ceiling bent like pretzels and a lot of exposed blue sky in most classrooms”.
“But Tony,” the colleague continued, “That sign we installed just a week ago? It made it. Even the letters on the marquee are eerily pre-Rita.”
Vincent Settlement remained closed for one month as structural repairs to the building were made. During this downtime their new Stewart Sign was busy updating motorists on the repair progress as well as the re-opening date of the school in late October.
“The sign is part of the community now,” affirms Tony.”Hurricane Rita made sure of that.”Sulphur, LA