GONZALES— The third time was the charm for St. Amant High School sophomore Jesse Bateman as he yodeled his way to victory May 9 at the Ascension Idol fundraiser.

“It was worth the wait,” said Bateman, 18.

Bateman finished in second place the first year of the contest and didn’t make it to the final, top-five round last year.

Bateman credited his maturity, stage performance and preparation for the win. His two previous attempts at winning the title, he said, helped him prepare for this year’s competition.

“It (singing) is a big part of my life ... a big part of my personality,” Bateman said after the win.

Ascension Idol is a singing competition based on the popular “American Idol” television contest.

Bateman was one of 19 high school and middle school students who took part in the third annual event at the Gonzales Civic Center.

As Bateman sang his final number, “San Antonio Rose,” his voice coach, Kim Vicknair, nervously watched from the back of the room.

Vicknair, who never sat down throughout the nearly two-hour show, was elated when Bateman’s name was announced as the winner.

“It’s like the best feeling in the whole world,” Vicknair said.

Vicknair, who has taught performance arts for 30 years, said she was proud of all three of her students for making it to the Ascension Idol stage.

Last month, students competed for spots in the singing contest. Each of the semifinalists sang one song on May 9 and five were called out for a final performance.

Ashlie Nicole McGowan, Madeline Ringwald, Catlin Jacque and Tyler Gremillion joined Bateman in the final round.

Semifinalists Bateman, McGowan and Carleigh Keller are all students of Vicknair.

Bateman’s first song, “Unchained Melody,” won him praise from the judges.

Judge Mike Waguespack called Bateman polished and confident, and judge Darryl Hambrick called the performance “hot.”

The event is a fundraiser for the Ascension Fund, which provided its first teacher grant in 1992, and since that time has given more than 1,000 grants representing $1.2 million in awards to 30 area public schools and teachers.