Walking down the long hallway, she peeked into classroom after classroom where teachers were busy with final touches and preparing to welcome students to the new Arlene Meraux Elementary School. When she reached the end of the hall where Thursday’s ribbon cutting was being held, Rita Gue met dozens of people packed into the lobby to celebrate this community milestone.
“It warmed my heart to consider all the minds that will be shaped in those classrooms, and it brought a smile to my face to know that we had done exactly what my Aunt Arlene would have wanted,” said Gue, the president of the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation.
The Meraux Foundation donated the land for the new school, which is named for the nonprofit’s visionary founder.
Arlene Meraux was a tireless advocate for children and knew that a quality education is key to lifelong success. She spent the latter years of her life setting up the Meraux Foundation, which, upon her death, would go on to leverage Meraux family resources to improve the quality of life in St. Bernard Parish. Before passing in 2003, Arlene shared a clear vision that guides the Meraux Foundation’s activities, and it includes an emphasis on education.
As such, the board of the Meraux Foundation strategically invests in innovative educational programs in St. Bernard Parish, including the Mississippi River Delta Institute, AgMagic on the River, and an annual scholarship program that has awarded more than 720 scholarships valued at some $2.2 million. The Meraux Foundation also promotes the arts in education with annual gifts to the Performing Arts Academy and a $1.8 million donation for the state-of-the-art Cultural Arts Center of Chalmette High School.
“It is my aunt’s vision that has made all this possible, and I am so pleased that the school carries her name because her impact on this community must never be forgotten,” said Gue.
The new school boasts a large clock tower that Project Manager Albert Carey had erected to honor the late Joseph Meraux, who was an avid collector of clocks. Carey also commissioned a striking installation of bees, the school’s mascot, by Arabi glass artist Mitchell Gaudet. The Meraux Foundation purchased several glass bees to benefit the school.
The Arlene Meraux Elementary School marks the final new construction project for the district in its rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Katrina, and it is a direct response to the growing needs of the community.
“Young families are moving to St. Bernard for a wide range of reasons, but one of them is the top-notch school system. The Board and I are thrilled to welcome the Bees into our school family and are grateful to the Meraux Foundation for their generous land contribution which made this school possible,” Voitier said.