Perseverance key to success for Evangeline Emma Hargrove
Never say the word “quit” in front of Emma Hargrove.
The refusal to back down from a challenge has been a way of life for the 2020-21 Evangeline, who was bestowed that honor during a year like no other since the tradition began in 1969 for the first annual Cajun Festival, which was renamed the International Acadian Festival one year later.
Instead, she made the most of the opportunity.
“It was a little slow, but I rode in a parade the day after I got the crown, and I rode with Santa across town at Christmas and did a ride across town at Easter,” she said.
Traditions ranging from the weekend-long Acadian Festival to the galas throughout the year all fell by the wayside during the pandemic.
The cancelation of so many events linked to Evangeline – including the festival itself – was a bit of a letdown for Emma, but she took the high road instead.
“Life went on … this was not the end of the world by any means,” she said. “I can’t feel sorry for myself during a year when so many people here and around the world were sick with the coronavirus and so many people lost their friends and loved ones.”
The daughter of Crockett and Paige Hargrove graduated in May from St. John High School. Even during a pandemic, the year was anything but quiet for Emma.
Even as the pandemic scaled down the traditions linked to Evangeline, Emma remained busy. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how she found time to sleep.
She lettered in volleyball and softball, and she earned second-team district honors in both sports.
When she wasn’t on the court or playing shortstop, Emma served as a cheerleader.
In the middle of her full schedule, she still found time to study – and graduated with a 4.3 grade point average.
The strong work ethic runs in her family.
Her mother is employed with the Louisiana Emergency Response Network, a job that rarely provides a breather.
Her father, an I&E Technician for Philips 66, emerged as one of the most accomplished players of the 1980s for the St. John football program, even as he fought through injuries.
“Both have driven me to do my best,” Emma said. “I couldn’t go to college unless I put in the study time, and even the small things like winning a game have meant everything.”
Emma takes exception on how society has labeled her generation as unsociable underachievers.
“I don’t like how they consider us self-absorbed or just being on our phones all time,” she said. “Being from a small town like Plaquemine has helped me not become what some say about my generation.
“Day by day, I look forward to seeing what people will say and do,” Emma said. “The best part of my life is meeting new people.”
Her next chapter in life begins she starts college this fall at LSU, where she will pursue a major in Engineering.
Emma attributes her career choice to her fascination with how machinery works, as well as her father’s occupation.
College life also brings a new set of challenges – and, as always, quitting is not an option, she said.
“My mom always tells me quitting is a habit – you do it once, and you’ll do it again and again,” Emma said. “I have to finish whatever I start, and that includes courses in college.”
A lot of those same principles came during her years in high school athletics.
Much of that came from her softball coach, Cynthia Prouty.
“She was a tough and very good coach, and her godchild (Hallie Rivet) is one of my best friends,” Emma said. “A lot of my life fundamentals have come from sports.”
Emma said she’s not sure where she will live once she graduates from college.
She wants to live at least short time in another area so she can become acclimated with other areas.
At the same time, she said she does not want to venture too far from Plaquemine.
And she will never take for granted what the year as Evangeline has been for her.
“A lot of my predecessors have told me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and of all the others who could have gotten this honor, the picked me,” Emma said. “I can never take that granted.
“It’s been a great year, and I took the same approach my parents to take with everything else,” she said. “You have to make the most of every opportunity and remember that quitting is never an option.”