Product of Donaldsonville supports local students

Halen Doughty

Product of Donaldsonville is changing the lives of students on the West Bank one scholarship at a time. The community organization assists financially-challenged students with scholarships and help with graduation fees and purchasing senior rings.

Founder Daryl Comery said the organization began about five years ago when gun violence was rampant among young people in the community. He said he wanted to do something to encourage students to choose the right path in life and not succumb to their circumstances. He said launching this initiative brought community pride back to Donaldsonville.

Now in its fifth year, Product of Donaldsonville has awarded a total of $5,000 in scholarships to 15 local students. Comery said they also assist with graduation costs for students who face financial challenges, and they help sponsor senior class rings for those who cannot afford it on their own.

"We do a scholarship every year in the name of Product of Donaldsonville, and it's for a variety of reasons," said Comery. "Sometimes it's kids that are graduating in the midst of some harsh realities that they may come from."

Comery said he wanted to demonstrate to local kids what their futures could look like if they remain committed to success. He said his organization helps kids in all kinds of situations, from special needs students to those at the top of their class.

Right now, Product of Donaldsonville targets high school students for scholarships and financial assistance with graduation expenses. Comery said as the group grows, he would like to expand their reach into other schools all the way from head start through middle and high school. Product of Donaldsonville is entirely funded by Comery, his wife, and his brother.

"It gives the kids hope," said Comery. "Poverty has a lot of baggage that comes with it. We talk about having hope and that intrinsic motivation and that self esteem."

Comery and his family are D'ville natives. He said for the kids to see people who are from the community being successful and giving back shows them that they can do the same. He said it gives them the chance to look to the future and see what could be.

"You can be from here and still be successful and take advantage of all the opportunities out there in the world," said Comery.

Comery said through his organization, he promotes the Five E's of Excellence to students in the community. They are Education, Entrepreneurship, Efficacy, Empowerment, and Evolution. These are the hallmarks he wants local kids to embody throughout their lives in order to be successful.

In 2013, Product of Donaldsonville launched its first Homecoming Roundup. Comery said the goal of the event is to create a safe, family-friendly environment where students and alumni can celebrate homecoming.

Comery said he recalls being a student at Donaldsonville High School, when homecoming was the highlight of the year. He said when he came back to DHS years later as an associate principal, homecoming wasn't what it used to be. He knew he had to do something to get back the school pride and get students and alumni hyped for their school. It started small in 2013 with the first annual homecoming round up, and it's gotten bigger and better each year.

"We went from that year having two floats in the parade in 2013 to now with 15 or 20 floats in the parade with limited parking at the fairgrounds near the stadium and record numbers of people at the football game," said Comery.

The homecoming celebration became a sacred space where the community came together with no drama or violence. Comery said people are already planning for the next homecoming roundup because it's something the whole community looks forward to each year.

Product of Donaldsonville was one of three organizations that was selected as a 2018 Peachjar Playmaker. Peachjar is a leading digital flyer system for schools across the country. Peachjar Playmakers are groups that have made an impact on K-12 students in their community.

Comery said for an outside entity to look at their organization and think they're worthy of this award is an honor. After being selected for this recognition, Product of Donaldsonville will have access to Peachjar's flyer creation system for the next year, which Comery said will help them promote their events.

"This will be a great way for us to get our information out there to everybody by using the resources that they're going to allow us to have," said Comery.

Comery said he looks forward to seeing his organization continue to grow and expand its reach. He noted that being a Product of Donaldsonville isn't reserved for people who were born in D'ville.

"If you're someone who works in our community, if you teach in our community, and if you're giving back to our community in anyway, you're actually a Product of Donaldsonville because you're making our community better," said Comery.

To learn more about this organization and how they are giving back to students, check out Product of Donaldsonville on Facebook.

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