Ascension seniors end year soaking wet

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Kelly Orgeron, center, chases down Connor Williams, left, and Alex Thibodeaux, right, with a water balloon during the annual senior Water Day at Dutchtown High School. Students gathered as early at 5:30 a.m. on May 8 for the water fight.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Kelly Orgeron, center, chases down Connor Williams, left, and Alex Thibodeaux, right, with a water balloon during the annual senior Water Day at Dutchtown High School. Students gathered as early at 5:30 a.m. on May 8 for the water fight.

Whether it was a water balloon fight at Dutchtown and St. Amant, water slides in Donaldsonville or the pond jump at East Ascension, seniors at four local high schools ended their high school careers soaked from head to toe.

The tradition of ending senior year drenched started in 1967, when a handful of East Ascension High School seniors ran across the street and jumped into a pond.

Over the years, the pond-jumping ritual came and went, with school officials expressing concern over safety and the fact that they had to trespass to continue the tradition.

Threats of suspensions prompted the end of the ritual in the late 1970s. School officials decided to sanction the ritual in 1994, and the tradition has continued.

At St. Amant High, seniors start their last day May 8 with a water balloon and shaving cream fight.

The newest of the three schools started its own wet and wild tradition in 2003 when graduating seniors decided to arrive early for a water balloon fight. This year, students arrived as early as 5:30 a.m. for the water balloon war, which also included the throwing of colored corn starch.

Donaldsonville High graduating seniors started a new tradition this year by slipping down water slides. The students started their last day of school with a bike ride. The last week of school for Donaldsonville seniors also includes a senior picnic and pep rally.

Traditions run deep in Ascension Parish, and both longtime residents and those who only recently arrived seem to want to keep traditions like the EAHS pond jump alive.

Katie Clingan, 18, was the first child in her family to jump in the pond, but she credited “tradition” with the reason she wanted to take the plunge.

“It’s fun, and it’s tradition,” she said.

School officials said about 95 percent of the graduating class of about 340 students took the plunge after competing their last high school final exam.

Before the students jumped, more than 300 parents, friends and relatives lined the pond in front of the health-care facility across the street, many carrying towels and cameras, video cameras, electronic tablets and smartphones to capture the memory.

James “Stump” Marchand, who graduated from East Ascension in 1983, said his class didn’t take the leap, was proud of his son’s seventh place finish.

“He finished number seven ... and so he finally finishes in the top 10 in something,” Marchand joked as he walked around the pond looking for his son, Colyn Marchand.

Crawling out of the pond first was Brandon Acevedo.

Acevedo fell to the ground after he completed the swim.

“I just wanted to be first,” he said as his classmates came over to congratulate him on leading the pack.

The pack was a majority of the graduating class, many dressed in colorful swimwear and many using children’s flotation devices.

One senior swam with a six-foot inflatable pretzel, and another was dressed in a duck tape suit.

Kyleigh LeBlanc’s vision for the pond jump included a ride to school in a Mardi Gras float surrounded by about two dozen of her friends. Rhonda Delaune and others who ride in the Spanish town Mardi Gras parade each year made that possible, as they let the seniors decorate their float for the day.

The teens spent several after-school paint sessions putting the final “senior touches” on the float before meeting at Delaune’s house at 6 a.m. on May 8, the last day for seniors.

“We buzzed St. Amant and threw a few water balloons at them,” Delaune said.

Delaune, who graduated from St. Amant High, said her daughter Brooke Delaune, 18, and the others were greeted at school with cheers as they pulled into the driveway.

After the pond jump, Delaune, LeBlanc and their friends loaded up on to the float and pulled away, waving to those left at the pond.

“Kiss our class goodbye” was written in large letters at the end of the float.

As the float pulled off, a maintenance crew from the Ascension Parish School Board started cleaning the abandoned shores, picking up toys and debris left by the seniors.