An eighth grade girl expelled for bringing a weapon to school led to a mission of hope for Father Jim Morrison, who also serves as pastor of Annunziata Catholic Church in Houma. In 1993, the grandmother of this youth brought her granddaughter to Father Jim. From simple beginnings grew Providence High School, a school for students who have been expelled from school because of drugs, weapons, or repeated discipline violations. Providence High School gives these students a second chance, an opportunity to address the issues that led to their expulsion.
Providence High School began as a project called Annunziata Tutorial Center, and later snowballed after an increasing number of youth came to the church seeking an alternative education site. At this time, there was no alternative educational system in Terrebonne Parish available for students expelled from school for drug or weapon violations. Providence opened with only seven students led by a Morrison and a team of volunteers.
Each year, the number of children served has steadily increased. To date, Providence school has served 429 students from Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, Assumption, and St. Charles parishes. There are 47 students currently enrolled in the school.
Providence High School takes a holistic approach to helping the students within the parameters of a strict code of discipline, dress code, and high expectations. Father Morrison defines success not in terms of academics, but in terms of individuals. “For each student, it’s different. Some of our great successes are kids who have been just so broken…then after being here for a while, you see them come to life,” said Father Morrison.
His involvement with the youth in Louisiana dates back to his college days when he served as the director of the St. Francis Day Camp Program in 1982 and 1983, reaching out to 600 underprivileged youth and a staff of more than 60 college and high school students. He hopes to pass on the compassion and help that he received as a youngster to the students of Providence High School. Early in his priesthood, Morrison became aware of the educational roadblocks that many youth face in the bayou area and established an after-school tutoring program in Chauvin utilizing retired teachers and volunteers from the community.
As Providence High School has grown, its initial board of advisors has evolved into the Board of Directors of the newly formed, Youth Experiencing Success! Inc., a non-profit corporation that now owns and operated Providence. The entire community has been motivated by Morrison’s leadership to take on the task of creating a new school to serve the needs of at-risk youth. Father Morrison serves as the President of this Board and continues to work as the liaison between the Board of Directors, the Administrator, and the Development Director, and as an advocate to the entire community on behalf of all young people in need.
The Rev. Jim Morrison was named the statewide winner of the 1999 Angel Award, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.