Baton Rouge middle school band works through flood to reach Washington DC

Baton Rouge middle school band works through flood to reach Washington DC
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The band at Park Forest Middle School has been practicing hard for a special trip to Washington D.C. since April.

The band was invited to perform at the Veteran's Day Parade of Heroes on November 11, the only band from Louisiana to go. Students said they are excited to do something to honor veterans.

"If we go to Washington, we'll be able to play for the president and the veterans who fought for the United States," said 8th grader Rayliegh Albert.

The trip costs about $600 per student, a tall order for a school with a lot of at-risk kids. According to the band director Doretha Williams, 97 percent of the students at Park Forest Middle participate in the federal free lunch program.

However, this is not the first time the band has traveled. Williams said they try to take a trip each year and work hard to fundraise each time. She added it is a great opportunity to let the kids experience life outside Baton Rouge.

While Williams said much of the summer was spent raising money through car washes, the flooding changed everything. Park Forest Middle School took on two feet of water. A lot of the students and staff were impacted too. All the band's instruments were lost.

"It was very depressing to say the least. It's just very, very sore and sad situation. Not only the school but the community as a whole," said Principal Curtis Walker.

With the flooding, the trip to D.C. looked less sure. Currently, Park Forest Middle shares facilities with Capital Middle while repairs are being made.

Williams said community groups have donated instruments to get the band back to practicing, which she said is a blessing.

"Even if they have a bad day at home, when they get in the band room they light up," Williams said.

However, the band has not been able to fundraise like they normally would.  Walker said many students still cannot afford to the trip.

The school is hoping one last fundraiser will ensure all 100 band members get to go. By a stroke of luck, the band's brand new uniforms were spared in the flood.

They will debut the new uniforms and their pieces for the parade in a benefit concert on November 2 at Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20.

"In spite of what we've gone through, to see a school from Baton Rouge, Louisiana attend the National Parade of Heroes, it would be historic," said Walker.

For more information, contact Principal Walker at 225-802-1856.

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