Joseph Ivy Jarreau could only afford to attend college by working after high school and paying for his tuition himself. Now, he’s worked to provide $135,000 in scholarships to 148 Cecilia Jr. High students.
Jarreau, 72, described his poor childhood in Glynn, Louisiana. Jarreau explained that his family were sharecroppers and understood his family would not be able to afford college. Instead, he worked after high school to save for school himself.
Jarreau took his savings and attended the University of Southwester Louisiana, now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. At the university, he and his wife earned their degrees in education, which they used after moving to Cecilia.
Eventually, Jarreau became principal of Cecilia Jr. High. As principal, he wanted to reward hard working students.
In 2000, Jarreau and former Cecilia Jr. High Principal Cleveland Dupuis organized the Cecilia Scholarship Fund Association and awarded the Mona Halphen Dupuis Memorial Scholarship. In 2007, Dupuis died, and the scholarship was renamed the Cleveland and Mona Halpen Dupuis Memorial Scholarship.
“Our goal was to provide a scholarship to a Cecilia Jr. High eighth grader that could carry over to where he or she could get a cash scholarship upon graduating high school,” said Jarreau.
Their first recipient was opera star André Courville, who appeared at Carnegie Hall. Courville, now 34, still remembers how he used his scholarship award.
“I used that money to buy myself a laptop for college. Of course, it was a big help. College is expensive. It’s encouraging to win an award like that in eighth grade because I think it motivates people to do well,” said Courville.
But the scholarship isn’t the only motivation for Cecilia students, Jarreau also serves as motivation for the students.
“Mr. Jarreau is a very inspiring person. And his motto in junior high I remember was ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ He encouraged and empowered everybody to really be in charge of their own future and their own destiny and their own success,” said Courville.
As the years have passed, the number of students awarded the scholarship has increased tremendously. Since 2000, the Cecilia Scholarship Fund Association has awarded 148 scholarships totaling $135,000.
Since the scholarship’s first recipient roamed its halls, Cecilia Jr. High grew by a little over 100 students. Jarreau doesn’t believe the student growth will ever outweigh the scholarship’s abilities.
“It really doesn’t concern me that much. As long as the parents and community are active in raising money, we could award 25 scholarships in one year. Last year we did 12, the year before 13. As we generate more funds, we can give more scholarships,” said Jarreau.
According to Jarreau, more scholarships are a possibility in the future.
Current Cecilia Jr. High Principal Charee Theriot explained the population of students’ growth in Cecilia, “In the nine years that I have been here, we have added over 100 students.” But according to Theriot, as the population has increased some, the number of students qualifying for the scholarship “has been pretty consistent.”
Eligible students must have at least a 3.67 grade-point average, receive a teacher recommendation, and complete community service.
Theriot said, “The children who qualify for the scholarship are the top of the top.”
Although the scholarship creates competition amongst the students, Theriot believes that it is purely beneficial.
“For them it’s something they want to achieve. They want their name on that wall outside of my office. When we do present the scholarship at the end of the year, the children are generally excited for each other, regardless of who’s on top,” said Theriot.
2017 Scholarship Winners
Though now retired, Jarreau is still known as a significant role model in his community and serves as a prime example of the rewards that dedication and hard work can give. Even with his success, Jarreau remains the man he always was.
“When I was five or 6 years old, I was picking pecans to make a little extra money and last year I picked 1900 pounds of pecans. I haven’t quit,” Jarreau said as he laughed. “I’ve been picking pecans for almost seventy years.”
“Just as I continue to pick pecans, I will also continue to raise funds to offer scholarships to CJH students,” said Jarreau.