DONALDSONVILLE — Business leaders gathered at Palazzo Bernardo on Feb. 25 to honor residents who made contributions to the community.
Longtime Donaldsonville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Becky Katz received the Citizen of the Year Award, and Jordan Zeringue received the Teenager of the Year Award, both given annually to Donaldsonville residents who have made significant contributions to the community.
“Becky Katz is certainly a paramount example of dedication, strength, commitment and devotion,” said chamber President Allison Hudson after presenting Katz with the award.
“Having served in the capacity of executive director for 34 years is commitment and shows her dedication to the chamber and this community,” Hudson said. “Her appreciation for her work and love for the parish and this city and its citizens have propelled both her career and her drive to excel as a personable leader.”
As Katz, who retired last month from her post, learned of the honor, she cried and said she was surprised and excited to receive the award, one that has been presented annually for almost 40 years.
“I feel blessed,” Katz said. “Everything I did, I did for the town, not for the awards but it feels good.”
Katz said she was deeply honored she was chosen to receive the honor, especially among the company of so many deserving people.
Zeringue seemed just as surprised but elated to be the winner of the Teenager of the Year Award and a $500 college scholarship. The Ascension Catholic High senior said he was confident his résumé was strong but said the other high school contenders had equally strong résumés.
“This will provide a certain motivation to go away and see the world and then come back and reinvest in this community,” Zeringue said.
Zeringue was chosen from six high school students, including Jason Williams, Dominique Thomas, Emily Villa, Shaun Brown and Zachary Capello. The students, all seniors, were required to write an essay, undergo an interview and create a résumé.
Before the Teenager of the Year was selected, former Teenager of the Year winners Wanda August and Dr. Jennifer Straney talked to the students about following their dreams and always remembering where they came from.
“You are from Donaldsonville,” Straney told the students. “Be proud of where you came from.”
Zeringue, a Donaldsonville native, serves as the school’s Student Council president and served as class president from 2011 to 2014. He was the captain of the school’s cross country team in 2014 and served as the chaplain of the cross country team from 2011 to 2014. Zeringue was a member of the cross country team from 2011 to 2014, of the track and field team from 2011 to 2014 and of the National Honor Society from 2012 to 2015. He also attended Boys State in 2014.
Zeringue is a writer and reporter for the school’s publications this school year and served as a member of the Model United Nations, an extracurricular activity in which students typically role-play delegates to the United Nations and simulate U.N. committees. He also was a member of Teens for Life.
Zeringue was offered a four-year Army ROTC scholarship to LSU, Spring Hill and North Georgia, and won four state championships as a member of the cross country team. He was named to the 2013 and 2014 All-Metro Cross Country and the 2014 All-State Cross Country teams.
He received the Tulane Book Award for leadership and his commitment to the community, an award in 2011 at the World Geography Literary Rally, an award at the 2013 History Literacy Rally and the Commitment to Excellence Award for cross country.
Zeringue is an altar server, Eucharistic minister and lector; he performs miscellaneous maintenance duties for the church, is a helper for the American Legion Memorial Day celebration and assists with the Ascension Catholic school fair.
He participated in the 2012 Chamber of Commerce clean-up day in Donaldsonville, assists with the church fair at St. Francis of Assisi and aided the 2012 March for Life.
Zeringue is a member of the school chorus and has been since 2011, and attended World Youth Day in 2011 and 2014. He was a member of the 2014 Ascension Catholic Prom Committee and is a senior Big Buddy to a first-grader.
Zeringue has completed 550 volunteer hours.
Before the winners were announced, 2014 chamber President Paul Landry IV urged those attending to mentor someone.
“If you’re old, find somebody young and bring them back here,” Landry urged.
He also urged the Teenager of the Year nominees to seek out a successful member of the community and ask them for help in learning about their business.