Family is a big deal in Acadiana. That can be quite literally true. Family trees are large and deep-rooted, and that grounds a lot of us here. This area is known for having among the highest population retention in the nation.
That doesn’t necessarily make being a teenager in Acadiana any easier. Defining who you are and who you want to be can be challenging. All the more so perhaps as the community diversifies and what it means to be from Acadiana becomes more complex.
Angst is angst wherever you are. And growing up in Acadiana can throw some unique challenges at you. There’s a dark side to joie de vivre. And in that shadow depression, anxiety and alienation lurk for teenagers coming up in a thorny world.
Roy Petifils helps high schoolers navigate all that as a professional counselor. At one time, Roy sought a career in the cloth, but left the seminary to work at St. Thomas More Catholic High School in Lafayette. He figured out quickly that he connected better with students one-on-one than at the whiteboard and made the career switch to faith-based counseling. He’s an author, podcaster and public speaker and practices at Pax Renewal counseling center in Lafayette. Roy is also the host of the podcast, Today’s Teenager.
Historically, Acadiana’s unique culture has been a grounding force folks growing up here. That’s come through tremendous effort over the decades to preserve and promote Francophone heritage in the region. The effect has been powerful for our traditions — music, food, art — but not necessarily for the French language.
Speaking French natively is still waning, observes Lindsay Smythe Doucet. There was a time when most of us had a native French speaker in our families, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore, even as the broader culture has persevered.
Lindsay has taught French and English in the public school system for over 15 years, most notably at Lafayette High. In 2021 she’ll make the leap into running a brand new French immersion elementary school in Sunset: Ecole St. Landry. The program emphasizes dialect and conversation in its curriculum, instead of harping on conjugation and grammar. The goal here is to teach kids a language in a way that allows them to express themselves, to get on Twitter or Instagram and TikTok and play with French in the same way they do their native tongue. The school will open with 100 kids.