An all-Black male high school in Louisiana racks up $9.2 million in scholarship money as all of its graduates receive college offers, and the special moment was captured in a viral tweet seen hundreds of thousands of times.
Kara Kentner has a son who was part of the 2022 graduating class from St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. The predominantly Black school, founded in 1951, is a private Catholic school celebrating academic excellence, as captured in a viral tweet shared by Kentner.
“I know in the tweet I said the world deserves to see this but never in a million years would think that’s actually going to take off,” Kentner said of her now viral tweet.
“St. Augustine is definitely by far the most critical and strict one on you, but for good reason, because that wouldn’t happen,” Kentner’s son Jaedon Simmons, a graduating St. Augustine High School senior, said about how the school’s high expectations bore fruit for 2022 class.
St. Augustine is celebrating its 2022 graduating class, which endured the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, by highlighting 99 of its graduates receiving college acceptance letters to a combined 33 schools and the school’s remaining graduate is going into the military. In total, $9.2 million dollars in scholarship money was awarded to the young men.
By comparison, Orleans Parish School District which encompasses the city of New Orleans, has a graduation rate of 81 percent and of its more than 4,900 students, 82 percent are Black.
According to the school’s website, St. Augustine had 552 students enrolled in grades 8-12, and 99 percent of its student population is Black, 1 percent is Hispanic and about 60 percent receives financial aid to attend. Next year’s expected annual tuition is $9,175.
“It doesn’t just begin your senior year, it begins their freshmen year with that foundation that they have to start from here, do your research, you’re going to college, that is ingrained in their mind,” said Michelle Keelan, senior counselor for St. Augustine High School.
Keelan says the point of difference for St. Augustine compared to other area schools is how disciplined its students become about their studies.
“It is a very disciplined environment, you have to act a certain way, look a certain way, study a certain way, we definitely built that and it’s life lessons also, it’s not just for school, it’s also beyond,” Keelan said.
Keelan says St. Augustine High School regularly sees nearly 100 acceptance into college from its graduating classes over the years, but this year’s $9.2 million in scholarship money it what makes the class of 2022 a standout.
Simmons, 18, was a drum major throughout high school at St. Augustine.
“A hundred percent of us got into a college and all of us are going to a college,” Simmons said excitedly.
Simmons says he applied to six schools, three of them were HBCUs and three were PWIs. “I already had my college choice set up, I knew almost certainly where I wanted to go, it was between two schools at first, it was between Florida A&M University and North Carolina A&T,” Simmons said.
Simmons and his mom say he’s amassed about $29,000 dollars in scholarship money. Florida A&M won out among his options which included Southern University, Ohio State University, Texas A&M, and the University of Notre Dame. “He actually turned down a full scholarship to Notre Dame to go to FAMU,” Kentner said of her son’s decision for college.
Kentner said while she’s pleased to see her tweet go viral sharing the joy and excitement of her son and his classmates, she’s also glad her tweet is helping reframe the narrative about Black men being shown in a positive light.
“As a white mother raising a young Black man, it’s very difficult, it’s so easy for society to film young Black men, I really posted it from a perspective of not just pride because my son is a part of this legacy, but also because, I really do believe there is so much more that needs to be talked about when it comes to Black men specifically,” Kentner said.