LAFAYETTE — Jeisell Menica made big strides this school year — she started walking.
The 6-year-old Charles Burke Elementary student was born with cerebral palsy and uses a tyke-size wheelchair.
“She worked really hard this year and started walking. Next year, she’s going to start dancing,” said Burke Principal Loretta Williams-Durand. The young girl, wearing a small tiara, giggled as her principal started dancing in her chair. Jeisell followed with her own chair-dance moves.
Jeisell’s giggle and smile are infectious and just a few of the reasons she was named a Cox Inspirational Hero.
Cox Communications honored 41 students as Inspirational Heroes on Tuesday at River Oaks in Lafayette.
Now in its fourth year, the event recognizes students from Acadiana who inspire others with the way they’ve overcome obstacles. Some of the students have faced diagnoses of several illnesses or cancer, struggle with physical or developmental disabilities or faced the loss of a parent. Some of the students have overcome learning or behavioral challenges.
“She’s a hard worker,” Williams-Durand said of Jeisell. “She wasn’t scared when she started walking. That’s why she’s our hero.”
One young girl remains an inspirational hero to the teachers at Truman Early Childhood Education Center — even after her death.
Khloe Grossie was a 4-year-old who brightened the day of those around her, said her mom, Jodi Grossie.
“She had a way of inspiring everyone she came across,” her mom said. “She was very wise beyond her years.”
Khloe started preschool at Truman in August.
She walked into the classroom each day with a call of “Good morning! I’m here,” said Julie Simon-Dronet, executive director of operations for Cox Acadiana, as she read a tribute to the young girl who was honored posthumously Tuesday during the event.
A severe headache one September evening sent the family to the hospital, where they later learned Khloe had a mass in her brain, Dronet said. The young girl was transferred to a New Orleans hospital and died the next day, Dronet said.
The vibrant girl’s death bonded the faculty and staff at the school who nominated Khloe as an Inspirational Hero for bringing them closer together, Dronet said.
Khloe would have loved the event and to know that she touched so many lives, said her dad, Kasey Grossie.
“She would have eaten all this up,” he said.
“She would have gone up there like that other little girl with her crown on,” Jodi Grossie said in reference to Jeisell.
The honor of being named an Inspirational Hero is one that Paisley Boutte cherishes.
“It makes me happy because I want to inspire people,” said Paisley, 11.
She’s a third-grader at Mire Elementary who loves reading and only kind of likes math. She turns 12 on Thursday and recently started raising Bantam chicks in preparation for 4-H Club next year.
The young girl was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. She navigates the world around her in a motorized wheelchair.
For her, a hero is easily defined.
“It’s somebody who will bring people up when they’re down,” she said.
Students honored as Cox Heroes are listed by parish.
Acadia Parish: Paisley Boutte, Mire Elementary; Haven Felix, Crowley High School; and Caitlin Fruge, St. Francis School.
Iberia Parish: Laniya August, Sugarland Elementary; Bailey Beaugh, New Iberia Senior High School; Morgan Estave, Loreauville High School; Katelyn LeBlanc, Daspit Road Elementary; Jarvis Lee, St. Edward School; Heath Perez, Highland Baptist Christian School; Amber Kay Rogers, Delcambre High School; and Dasoni Walker, Iberia Middle School.
Lafayette Parish: Erich Beltz, Live Oak Elementary; Austin Brister, Acadiana High School; Brien Ceasar, Immaculate Heart of Mary School; Alejandro Cisneros, Westside Elementary; Philip Clostio, L. Leo Judice Elementary; Kerri Denais, Paul Breaux Middle School; and Randall Greene, Milton Elementary/Middle School.
Also, Khloe Grossie, Truman Early Childhood Education Center; Kaleb Hanks, Youngsville Middle School; Chacobrian Harris, Lafayette High School; Damarcus Hill, Holy Family Catholic School; Scotty Hoback, Ossun Elementary; Abigail LeBlanc, Woodvale Elementary; and Douglas Lindley, Northside High School.
Also, Stevenasha Mamou, Alice Boucher Elementary; Macie McGann, Comeaux High School; Jeisell Mencia, Charles M. Burke Elementary; Kaden Morris, Ernest Gallet Elementary; Lillian Faye Reed, Green T. Lindon; Rontrel Sam, Acadian Middle School; Amber Dashay Saulsberry, Carencro High School and Lexi Touchet, Duson Elementary.
St. Martin Parish: Korianna Boloney, Early Learning Center, and Anna Wright, Parks Middle School.
St. Mary Parish: Tondria Ariyonna Armelin, West St. Mary High School; Deondre Diggs, Patterson Junior High School; and Colin Wilkie, Hattie Watts Elementary.
Vermilion Parish: Samuel Dailey, Vermilion Catholic School; Gavin Hebert, Seventh Ward Elementary; and Haylie Mouton, Kaplan High School.