Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan welcomed the city’s top graduates to City Hall last week.

Donaldsonville High School’s Valedictorian Laura Gutierrez and Principal Marvin Evans joined Sullivan Tuesday during his bi-weekly live update. Ascension Catholic’s Valedictorians, Katie Pizzolato, Brock Acosta, and Payton Hatcher, and Principal Sandy Pizzolato appeared Thursday.

Sullivan read a proclamation and gave each of the graduates a framed certificate. They also received the Donaldsonville version of the board game Monopoly as a gift.

Also, the valedictorians and their principals were featured on KKAY 1590 AM and KBRS 106.9 FM the following mornings.

The City of Donaldsonville has displayed photo boards of both graduating classes at City Hall, Walmart, and other businesses around the area. A billboard features the graduates as motorists enter the city limits on Marchand Drive from the Sunshine Bridge.

Despite the tough circumstances the students have faced, ACHS’ principal said she has been proud of their response.

“Pray for each other, support each other, and be kind to each other, knowing that everyone is facing their own battles in life,” she said.

Acosta encouraged fellow students to cherish the memories they make during their time in school.

“Our senior year was cut short, and I know our class would do anything to get some of those last moments back,” he said.

Hatcher said the graduates are now looking forward to starting a new journey in their lives.

“The beginning is now. We must start our path to the future,” she said.

Being able to overcome the challenges of the pandemic has prepared the graduates for the future, Katie Pizzolato said.

“On behalf of the Class of 2020, I would like to thank everyone who has kept us in their prayers and those who have helped us make the most out of a tough situation,” she said.

Ascension Parish School Board Representative Robyn Penn Delaney was on hand to congratulate Gutierrez “on a job well done.”

DHS’ principal thanked the mayor, city council, and city employee Lee Melancon, who worked together to honor the graduates.

Evans said the idea has helped heal wounds of missing so many senior events.

“The city shining a light on our students and their achievements has gone a long way,” Evans said.

The city and the principals are expecting to celebrate the graduates in a similar way next year.

Evans said Gutierrez’ story is one of inspiration, as she immigrated to the United States when she was 5 years old.

He described her story as a “testament to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Laura certainly exemplifies that,” Evans said.

Gutierrez described the last few months as difficult, but kept a positive outlook.

“Let’s be grateful that we are surrounded by our loved ones and embrace the moments we all share together. Please continue to be safe out there,” she said.