Governor recognizes local Young Heroes in Baton Rouge

176

Natchitoches area students Allison Callender (Junior at Natchitoches Central High School) and Mason McCart (Junior at St. Mary’s Catholic School) were honored by LPB as Young Heroes on April 21 in Baton Rouge. These outstanding students are role models in their communities and join nearly 200 former honorees.
The teens toured the LPB facilities where they met other Young Heroes from around the state and were honored by the Mayor of Baton Rouge, Sharon Weston Broome. The Young Heroes were then taken to LSU where they met LSU football staff and Coach Brian Kelly. Along with a behind-the-scenes tour of the training facilities and locker rooms, the Young Heroes slapped the “win” bar as they ran onto Tiger Field.
The Young Heroes traveled to the governor’s mansion for lunch and a meet-and-greet with Governor John Bel Edwards who presented them with a certificate of achievement. Past winner Savannah Green from NCHS and daughter of Coach Scott Green addressed the students in a motivational speech.

St. Mary’s School junior Mason McCart is presented with a Certificate of Achievement from Governor Edwards.

The Young Heroes toured the state capitol, visiting the observation deck and watching the House of Representatives engage in the legislative process. They were then recognized from the House floor for their accomplishments. Each Young Hero was presented with gifts including a MacBook Air to use as they pursue their dreams.
Callender is the daughter of Doyle and Paula Callender, of Pleasant Hill. She is a cancer survivor who has beaten long odds to encourage others. At age four, she was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma and given a 30 percent chance of survival. At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she endured six rounds of chemotherapy, stem cell extraction, surgery, 13 rounds of radiation, bone marrow transplantation and five rounds of experimental antibody treatment. After 18 months Callender returned home with no signs of disease.
Callender has overcome the effects of treatment including losing part of her hearing, frontal lobe damage due to radiation, loss of kidney function, removal of her gallbladder, and other issues since treatment. Despite these obstacles, she has been active in her community. Described as having “a light that shines so brightly,” she is a competition dancer and teaching assistant at Renee’s Dance Studio of Natchitoches, a National Champion clogger and a volunteer with the Wallace Baptist Church youth group.
This article published in the May 12, 2022, print edition

Callender and her family support the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Shreveport/Bossier and Lake Charles by participating in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon and walks to raise money for cancer research and other childhood diseases. Her other service projects include Christmas Shoe Box packing, The Christmas Cheer Food Drive for the NW LA Food Pantry, Fill the Pantry for the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis and Coke Tab drive for St. Jude. She is involved at school through LEO Club and Beta Club and serves as the athletic trainer of the NCHS Lady Chiefs Soccer team.
McCart is the son of Jon and Carmella McCart of Natchitoches. He created “Cooking for a Cause,” during the pandemic to utilize his passion for baking to assist others by baking and selling cookies and donating the money to local charities. The organization has raised nearly $15,000 to assist hundreds of people.
Cooking for a Cause began as a one-man operation but has grown to nearly 30 members. McCart has been approached by students from other schools asking for assistance in starting their own chapters.
McCart is the Beta President for the State of Louisiana and District VII President for the Louisiana Association of Student Councils. He holds leadership roles in St. Mary’s Future Business Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Council and National Honor Society organizations. He is a member of the City of Natchitoches Mayor’s Youth Council.
Louisiana Young Heroes toured the LPB studio. On front row from left are: Victoria Williams, Olivia Stringham, Gabe Hoosier and Corynn Gray. On back roware LPB Acting Executive Director Clarence “C.C.” Copeland and Allison Callender and Mason McCart of Natchitoches.

McCart is a member of the SMH varsity tennis, track, cross-country teams and serves as the school mascot with the cheer team. He has been an altar server with his church since the second grade.
Recognizing that many teens struggle with emotional, psychological, and social well-being, McCart started a blog to uplift his peers through words of encouragement and to help raise awareness and support for mental health. Many students have reached out to him, to let him know his blog positively influenced their lives.