Welcome Home: Woodlawn Names Alicia Dedeaux Girls’ Basketball Coach

Welcome Home: Woodlawn Names Alicia Dedeaux Girls’ Basketball Coach

You Can’t Go Home Again. Not only is this the title of one of Thomas Wolfe’s most memorable works, it has also become a well-known and common phrase. However, Alicia Dedeaux is ignoring this advice and doing the exact opposite: Coming Home.

Woodlawn High School is excited to announce that Dedeaux has been named the head coach of the girls’ basketball team. In addition to her duties as head basketball coach, she will take on the role of PE teacher.

Dedeaux, a native of Baton Rouge, graduated from Woodlawn High School. She was a star-athlete during her time as a Panther, participating in basketball, softball, cross country, and tennis. She was recognized as an All-District and All-Metro basketball player.

“Timing is everything. To be able to return home to your Alma Mater as a head coach and former student-athlete is very special,” explained Dedeaux. “I desire to bring back Panther Pride through fostering healthy relationships with colleagues, parents, students, and the community. Together we can meet students where they are and ensure that they are able to continue to excel both academically and athletically.”

“I’m ecstatic to be back and looking forward to helping young ladies to reach their full potential on and off the court.”

Dedeaux has spent the last 16 years in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. After beginning her career as a head coach in Jackson, Mississippi, Dedeaux was named the head coach of the girls’ basketball program at Lee High School (now Liberty Magnet High School).

In the fall of 2009, Dedeaux was named the head coach of the girls’ basketball program at Glen Oaks High School. After spending one year at Glen Oaks, she was named the Athletic Director. Dedeaux has remained in both roles at Glen Oaks since that time.

“I think we have hired a high-quality, high-character coach to run our girls’ basketball program,” said Elmo Fernandez, Woodlawn High’s Athletic Director. “Coach Dedeaux comes to us with a great deal of experience and she has a proven record.”

Dedeaux resides in Baton Rouge with her husband and two children. She can be reached via email at [email protected]

Catching the Storm

Catching the Storm

Coby Sanchez is a 2019 graduate of Woodlawn High School. This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 Southeastern Magazine. The article was written by Sheri Gibson and photos are by Randy Bergeron. You can see the original article by clicking here.

Southeastern student Coby Sanchez has turned a fear of storms into a passion for understanding them and sharing information to help others—becoming “Southeastern’s first meteorologist.”

When Southeastern freshman and Baton Rouge native Coby Sanchez was a small child, storms were the boogeyman. As the wind roared and the tinny sound of rain reverberated off the windows and roof, little Coby would become more and more frightened, the outside world seeming to slide into dangerous, uncontrollable chaos. “Momma, I don’t want there to be a tornado!” he would cry inconsolably.

Then in 2008, Coby experienced a storm that would forever change his life: Hurricane Gustav. Gustav tore across Hispaniola, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba before making landfall in the U.S. near Cocodrie, Louisiana, as a category two hurricane. It lashed the Gulf Coast, creating about $6 million (in 2008 dollars) in damages in the U.S., 1.5 million power outages in Louisiana alone, and a spark in one local boy who lived through it.

After hours of white-knuckled fear, watching towering trees fall and roofs ripped off of homes, the pounding rain and roaring winds finally subsided—and Coby knew that if he were to ever conquer his biggest fear, he would have to better understand it. Eventually, instead of cowering from storms, he would seek them out, chasing them and studying their mysteries. No longer just to put himself at ease, and above even an unquenchable thirst for more knowledge, his ultimate mission has evolved to help others better prepare for and survive the wrathful monsters that so terrified him as a child.

Coby Sanchez

“The importance of studying storms and meteorology to me is saving lives,” said Coby. “As humans, we’re curious about nature. We want to have a visual within a storm to see what’s going on, what’s happening. But being prepared and preparing other people, residents in cities and states that will be impacted, that’s the whole point of meteorology. Because these are dangerous storms. They can take lives. I’d love to help prevent that.”

Over the ensuing years, Coby has pursued countless storms, from riding them out and investigating their aftermath to studying their characteristics and patterns from afar. While still in high school, he even received certification as a National Weather Service (NWS) SKYWARN® storm spotter, a program that, according to NWS, allows volunteers to “help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.” He additionally shares the information that he gathers as a certified member of the Spotter Network.

Coby plans to one day turn his passion for storm chasing into his career, informing mass audiences by becoming a meteorologist and television weatherman, hopefully even following in the footsteps of renowned Weather Channel on-camera meteorologists like Jim Cantore and Tevin Wooten. So when it came time to begin choosing a college, the opportunities presented by Southeastern and the Southeastern Channel—winner of over 400 awards since its inception in 2002 and the only university channel in Louisiana to have ever won an Emmy, let alone have done it 20 times—immediately caught his attention. The Southeastern Channel has won first place in the nation 11 times at the National Student Production Awards given by College Broadcasters, Inc. and has been named “Best Television Station in the South” eight times by the Southeast Journalism Conference. Southeastern’s strong reputation of caring was also a plus for Coby.

“I heard a lot of great things about Southeastern,” said Coby. “At Southeastern, in my experience, they care. They definitely care to help and better you as a student and as a person for the future.”

Along with this, he recognized how the Southeastern Channel would be a perfect fit with his career goals. “After college, I’d love to go straight into meteorology, if possible. Working with the Southeastern Channel will give me that experience which would better my chances of getting a job.”

So in the fall of 2020, as the most record-breaking hurricane season ever recorded was still gearing up, Coby enrolled at Southeastern.

The Southeastern Channel, which Coby knew would be the perfect way to gain invaluable, hands-on experience while also sharing some of his own expertise, did not currently have a weather segment. Undaunted, he approached Southeastern Channel General Manager Rick Settoon about incorporating one.

“I’ve always wanted to have a weather segment for student training and experience at the Southeastern Channel, especially for those who would like to do the weather, and a lot of things have come together to make that happen,” said Rick. “One is having a student who’s knowledgeable enough about weather with a strong career focus of becoming a TV meteorologist, someone who’s dedicated to developing a regular segment. Coby has that laser focus and can become the real trailblazer in this regard.”

Rick and Coby are partnering together to begin building a program for adding weather segments to the Southeastern Channel, identifying and learning the appropriate programs, tools, and approach. Since Coby is not yet a certified meteorologist, he will convey rather than create weather predictions in order to effectively bring local forecasts and weather reports to Southeastern students and the surrounding community.

“I tell students all of the time that at the Southeastern Channel our mission is to help make their dreams come true,” said Rick. “We’ve done that for students who’ve become professional news anchors and reporters, sportscasters, producers, writers, directors, videographers, editors, and filmmakers. We plan to do that for Coby with weathercasting. So it’s the perfect fit.”

Although he’s still in his first year at Southeastern and the weather segment at the Channel is still taking shape in development, Coby, who plans to one day round out his experience at Southeastern by attending meteorology school, has already learned a great deal.

“Working with the Channel has given me first-hand experience of working for a news channel. That’s the closest I’ll get until actually landing a job like that,” he said. “It’s taught me how to work programs like Premiere Pro, which is a computer-based program for video editing. And most importantly, it’s taught me to be more open and step out of my comfort zone. Because when interviewing people or anchoring segments, you can’t be scared. You’ve got to just do it. And if you mess up, you keep going.”

“A weather segment will help students like Coby who plan to eventually attend meteorology school and also those who can get jobs at local stations where they don’t require a meteorology degree to do weather,” said Rick.

In addition to helping build the weather segment so that future students with a similar passion can also gain such an experience, Coby dove into the chance to capture the historic, seemingly endless, 2020 hurricane season, reporting on Hurricane Zeta from the field for the Channel’s Northshore News program. He chased a total of five hurricanes that came into the Gulf and was in Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Zeta as the eyewall actually came ashore.

While the season was one that he will definitely never forget, his venture into Zeta was particularly eventful. Coby described how, despite careful planning, downed equipment left him and his aunt, who shares his love of storm chasing, to ride out the hurricane in their vehicle.

“I went to Slidell and was getting some footage for the Southeastern Channel, and a Doppler radar temporarily lost signal, so I was not able to get that radar feed from my velocity radar like I wanted. By the time it updated and came back online, it was too late. The eyewall was hitting, so we had to pull over at a gas station near the Twin Spans. And when it hit, it came with a punch. There were winds that topped off at maybe 100 miles per hour. I was actually planning on getting out to get footage for the Channel of me in that wind. I could not open the door. I actually tried using my feet to open it. I could not push the door. The car was shaking.”

With nothing else around but a gas station, Coby and his aunt moved to hunker down behind the gas station, away from the awning which Coby feared could be snapped off and lifted away like an umbrella at any moment.

Despite the precarious situation that Coby found himself in during Zeta, which certainly also caused some nail-biting worry and fervent prayer on the part of his parents, Coby did say that safety is at the top of his mind when planning to go out into a storm.

He begins the process by watching the news, checking the radar, plotting where he will be and where all of the exits and alternate routes are, and checking to see which radars he will use and if any are damaged or out of service. Food, water, and battery for recharging his phone are packed. Throughout the storm he uses RadarScope, which has two radar feeds—velocity radar for understanding the wind speed and identifying spinups or tornados and a precipitation depiction for seeing the rain.

Coby mentioned that there is always an unpredictable aspect to storms, which is why preparing as much as possible is so important. However, it’s also part of their beauty. “It’s always a new experience with each storm. Each storm has its own feeling—own unique aspect, or character, within it.”

By the time it was over, the 2020 season produced 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or greater). Records were broken for the most named storms, the most named storms to make landfall in Louisiana (five), the strongest storm (Hurricane Laura) to hit Louisiana since 1856, the first time a hurricane eye has passed over New Orleans in more than half a century (Hurricane Zeta), the most storms to form in a single month (five in September), only the second time in history forecasters had to move to the Greek alphabet for names, and more.

Coby has experienced and tracked other storms, including being caught in a few isolated tornados and interviewing survivors in the aftermath of an EF4 tornado in Southern Mississippi. But hurricanes remain the most intriguing to him. And he sees plenty of opportunities in the future for studying them.

“For future hurricane seasons, or any type of weather, I do think they could potentially get stronger over time,” commented Coby. “I think it will be years, maybe even decades, but I do believe climate change and global warming will eventually fuel future hurricanes. I think they will strengthen in size and category. I believe even the way meteorologists predict the weather or the way we learn about the weather could eventually change.”

But for now, Coby is continuing to soak in all he can about meteorology while gaining real-life experience on how to effectively inform others of what may lie ahead.

“I wake up, and I’m excited to go to work and learn something new,” Coby said of being at Southeastern and a part of the Southeastern Channel. “I’m excited to get this thing started, working on the green screen and eventually adding that weather segment. It’s a dream come true.”

Through a yearning for knowledge and a desire to help others, Coby has transformed his dark, incomprehensible monster of wind and water into what appears to be a radiant and deeply fulfilling future.

Naya Smith’s My Past Life Named Best in Show

Naya Smith’s My Past Life Named Best in Show

For the first time in the history of the REAL-LIFE EXPERIENCE, a student at Woodlawn High School was awarded Best in Show, the competition’s top recognition. Junior Naya Smith was selected as Best in Show for her piece titled My Past Life. In addition to a $500 cash prize, Naya and Woodlawn High School received a trophy to display at Woodlawn High School.

“I just decided to do this piece because I wanted to do something that represented me,” said Naya about her award-winning work.

Every April, Baton Rouge Gallery opens its doors for its annual REAL-LIFE EXPERIENCE Juried High School Exhibition. This year’s exhibition shines a light on over 70 works of original art produced by students from East Baton Rouge public and private high school students. This year’s works were selected from a pool of over 150 works by students from across EBR.

The exhibition is made possible by the support of Cordell & Ava Haymon. The goal of the exhibition is to share the talents of area students with the Baton Rouge community while encouraging the students to continue pursuing their artistic talents outside the classroom.

The exhibition also draws attention to the importance of arts education, celebrating both its positive effects on the youth of our community and the efforts of the educators that challenge their students on a daily basis.

Baton Rouge Gallery started the REAL-LIFE EXPERIENCE Juried High School Exhibition in the early 1990s. The idea was to give students a “real life” experience so that they knew what it was like to be a professional artist outside of the school. Each year, the works that are chosen are juried by three professional artists.

The following students from Woodlawn High School had artwork included in this year’s exhibit.

Angel Caine, (2 pieces), Xiangjun Cui, Brianna Cutforth (2 pieces), Christopher Delcid, Rachel Ezell (2 pieces), Isaiah John, Destiny Leger, Joann Mayeux (3 pieces), Thomas Sauce, Naya Smith (3 pieces), and Kerrin Whitley (2 pieces).

Some information for this article was taken from the Baton Rouge Gallery website, which can be viewed by clicking here.

Woodlawn Theatre Department to Present Virtual Production, Help Desk

Woodlawn Theatre Department to Present Virtual Production, Help Desk

Woodlawn High School’s Theater 3 Class will present a virtual production of the play Help Desk. Help Desk was written by Don Zolidis. The hilarious comedy details the problems that arise when you call the help desk. Although you’re looking for a solution when you call the help desk, your problems may just be beginning!

Katelynn Johnson performs her part in Help Desk.

Tickets to the play can be purchased beginning Monday, May 3rd for $8 through the Woodlawn High website. Those who purchase the production online will receive a link to the play via email and will be able to watch the play from the comfort of their own home. While students and parents are encouraged to use their credit or debit cards and purchase the link online, students may stop by the theater to pay in cash if they would like. Students paying with cash must provide an email address when purchasing so that they can receive the link.

The Theater students have worked very hard over the last two months. The production features a collaboration between virtual and in person students in the class and was filmed using Zoom.

“I am extremely proud of the hard work that the students have put in to make this production happen during such a challenging year,” said Ms. Leonard-Brubaker. “Performing with someone who isn’t in the same room with you is difficult for even the most seasoned performer, and these kids really pushed themselves to overcome that challenge and produce a really funny show.”

The cast of Help Desk features Jasmine Gray, Joshua Robins, Braeden Hodges, Yezeed Manna, Jason Delcid, Jianna Ross, Alyric Alexander, and Katlynn Johnson.

Tennis Program Completes Successful Season with State Championship

Tennis Program Completes Successful Season with State Championship

Woodlawn’s Tennis Program has achieved many firsts over the past four years. The Panthers Tennis Program has traditionally been small, often not having the necessary number of student-athletes to fill a full team.
After a five-year span without tennis, the program was resurrected in 2018 and has quickly risen to heights never seen at Woodlawn High. The Medine twins, Halle and Leah, were a large part of the rebirth of the program.

“Going into high school, neither of us really expected to play high school tennis. We didn’t think there was a team because we didn’t hear anything about it,” reminisced Leah. “Coach Broussard brought it up to me one day because he heard from Coach Baronich that I played tennis. I was playing volleyball and lifting weights with Coach Baronich.”

The 2018 season saw Leah, as a freshman, reach the Regional Finals in the Girls’ Singles and advance to the State Quarterfinals. She topped her freshman campaign the next year, as she became the first Panther to win a Regional Championship. She went on to the State Quarterfinals again as a sophomore.

The 2020 season also saw a first for Woodlawn tennis. Spring sports were forced to end their seasons early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was difficult to imagine life going back to normal–student-athletes uniting to improve their skills, stands filled with cheering crowds, the unpredictability of the season ahead. The Panthers’ tennis team competed in only four matches before the season was abruptly cancelled.

Dylan and Brady qualified for the State Tournament by winning two matches at Regionals.

Though the 2020 season was cut short, the team has been raring to return to the court. Once restrictions eased, tennis players began practicing for the 2021 season in early January at Southern Oaks Athletic Club with Coaches Brent Broussard and Lucas Richardson. The enthusiasm to return is apparent looking at the impressive 2021 accomplishments.

The tennis program saw many improvements during the 2021 regular season. Even when the Panthers did not come out on top, the scores were much more competitive than in recent seasons. The hard work was then evident at the 2021 Regional Tournament.

For the first time in recent history, three doubles teams came away with victories at the Regional level.

The first team, senior Christian Jones and freshman Miriam Lindsay, finished their Regional run with a 1-1 record. Though they did not qualify for the State Tournament, it was quite an accomplishment to win their first round match!

Woodlawn’s second court boys’ doubles team were perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament. Coming into the tournament, Dylan Aucoin and Brady Bertrand had played only one match together. However, their athleticism and enthusiasm were apparent, as they advanced to the Regional Quarterfinals. Their two wins were enough to qualify them for the Division II State Tournament.

Finally, senior twins Halle and Leah Medine finished the Regional Tournament with a 4-0 record. After receiving the #1 seed in the tournament, the girls were given a first round bye. The Medine’s dispatched the competition rather easily, not losing a single set in the entire tournament. In the finals, the girls started slow against ED White. After falling behind 3-2, the Medine’s won ten of the final eleven games for the 6-3, 6-1 victory.

Winning the Regional Championship once again set some firsts for Woodlawn High School. Leah became the first two-time Regional Champion. The girls were also the first Regional Doubles Champions in school history. Finally, Halle joined her sister as the only two Regional Champions from Woodlawn High School.

Bertrand and Aucoin and the Medines qualified for the State Tournament thanks to their finishes at the Regional Tournament. The four state-qualifiers matches the number of qualifiers from 2018 and 2019 combined.

Halle and Leah entered the Division II State Tournament as one of the four seeded teams. The girls had three relatively easy wins on day one of the State Tournament, only dropping two games in their three matches.

Day two brought a familiar opponent, as the Medine’s faced their Regional Semifinal opponent from ED White. With a large crowd on hand, nerves and the “bright lights” got the best of the Medine’s during he first set, as they fell 7-5. However, Halle and Leah fought back to win the second and third sets 6-1, 6-4 to move to the Division II State Finals.

Seniors Leah, Christian, and Halle pose for a picture at the 2021 Regional Tournament.

“The competition was definitely harder at State, and it was my first time there,” said Halle. “I was very nervous in a lot of our matches, especially the semifinal match. That was something we had to work through.”

The 6-2, 6-0 win over Neville’s first court in the finals brought Woodlawn High its first State Championship in tennis.

Going through the process of rebuilding the program, followed by the year that was 2020, closing out their high school career as State Champions was extremely significant to Halle and Leah.

“I don’t know if it has completely hit us yet, but it is super-awesome,” Halle explained. “Just knowing that we can take this championship away from our entire high school career and our entire tennis career.”

Even with all of the wins and championships for the Panthers this season, they perhaps have an even more impressive stat. Despite the major focus on winning, the team was able to achieve an overall GPA of 3.9. Eighteen members of the 2021 tennis team also took advanced level courses this year, with several earning future college credit.

As the three senior girls prepare for life after high school, they leave behind a flourishing team of nineteen that has grown from nine their freshman year in 2018. The team will look to continue to improve as practices at Southern Oaks will begin in August of 2021 instead of January of 2022.