HAMMOND — Thousands of high school students from throughout the Florida Parishes and the New Orleans areas gathered on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University on Saturday for the District Literary Rally and the accompanying Rock ‘n Roar, a celebration that showcases the university’s appeal to potential students.

The major focal point of the day was competition in 42 different academic disciplines that measure a high school student’s competence against his or her peers. Participants in the rally were directed to campus classrooms in six different buildings by SLU student volunteers who also used the occasion to discuss Southeastern with the visitors.

This year’s fest drew a record number of students, according to Julie Perise, interim director of the SLU Alumni Association. She said about 3,500 students from more than 80 high schools were on campus for the literary rally.

Perise said the annual literary rally in the New Orleans area was canceled this year and the 21 schools that participated in that rally were sent to Southeastern.

In addition to the students, many parents, relatives and high school teachers accompanied the scholars to the SLU campus, Perise added.

While testing for academic excellence was on the minds of most of the high schoolers, the SLU Alumni Association and campus student organizations added an entertaining experience to the literary rally.

Rock ‘n Roar was inaugurated 31 years ago, Perise said, when leaders of the alumni association saw the day as an occasion to introduce area students to Southeastern and demonstrate what the university had to offer.

“It just grew from there. Rock ‘n Roar is the fun side of the literary rally. Our young visitors are given the chance to purchase food items, to play games, to participate in workshops, meet our student leaders, and just have a great day on our beautiful campus,” Perise said.

The booths that lined one side of SLU’s new, expansive, Student Union Center also afforded campus organizations the opportunity to raise funds for their activities.

Visiting students could also participate in cheerleading, dance spirit performance, art and baseball camps. The campus radio station, KSLU, provided music throughout the day’s activities.

Perise said many students chose to participate in tours that afforded the visitors the opportunity to visit many of the buildings and facilities on the campus.

SLU graduate Terry Brown, who is treasurer of the African-American Chapter of the SLU Alumni Association, said he enjoys manning the soft drink booth at Rock ‘n Roar every year. “This is a great day for SLU. We get the chance to meet so many wonderful high school students and we enjoy telling them about all that Southeastern has to offer. At the same time, our booth raises money that we put into a scholarship fund. Rock ‘n Roar is a positive effort for our university.”

Live Oak High School senior Alexis Boyd, who was at the literary rally to compete in Agriculture II, said literary rally participation was important to her because it allowed her to measure her knowledge against other students from a wide area. “Literary rally brings high school students together in one community and that’s great. You get to meet other students and you find out how advanced you are in your subject area,’ she said.

Mallory LaBorde, also a Live Oak senior, was at SLU to compete in Art II. She said literary rally allowed her to learn more about how her artistic skills measured up against students her age in other schools.

“This is a special day for our students, alumni, faculty and our thousands of visitors. It is something we look forward to every year and something that we think greatly enhances the Southeastern experience," Perise said.