The phrase “It takes a village…” must have been heard throughout West Baton Rouge as numerous Brusly High alumni, school board members, and members of the community came together to bring a new state of the art weight room to the BHS campus.
Former Brusly High football, track and powerlifting coach, Darren Chauvin, said that in the ‘90s, when he was coaching at the school, he could have only dreamt of a weight room as “incredible” as the one the school now has.
And it truly did begin with a dream.
Brusly High held a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, June 11 for their newly completed weight room, but current head football coach Erik Willis said that the opening of the weight room has been years in the making.
Willis said that four years ago, BHS athletics started a summer program that mandated that every student athlete in grades 10-12, no matter what sport is played, must attend a certain number of mandatory workouts in order to play that season.
“People told me it would never work,” Willis said. “Now we have about a 90 percent success rate.”
He added that those truly dedicated students are showing up to work out.
Chauvin, who had been spending a lot of time in the BHS weight room over the past few years volunteering his time helping Willis with the strength and conditioning for the football team, was in Baton Rouge with his wife, Kristi, when they ran into BHS alum and now successful attorney Tony Clayton.
“We were talking about weights (at BHS) and stuff,” Chauvin said.
He said that Clayton asked him to come into his office in Port Allen during the next week to give him some money for the weight room.
“Anything we have ever needed, he’s always been there and taken care of us, but I went in there thinking he was going to give me a couple hundred dollars,” Chauvin said. “He wrote me a check for $10,000, completely unsolicited.”
Chauvin went back to Brusly High and, with Coach Willis, made a plan.
From there, WBR Parish Schools maintenance head Jeff Kershaw, according to Willis, “took it from there,” and the school board ended up voting to allocate funds to help get the new weight room built (school board money was allocated to Port Allen High as well).
Architect Brian Bird, another BHS alumnus, drew up the original plans for the building, which is now a 36 x 100 stand-alone and air-conditioned building with approximately 23 completely separate work out stations, which Coach Willis says will allow almost 100 student athletes to work out at one time.
The new equipment was purchased with money from various fundraisers throughout the year, as well as a generous gift of $20,000 from the Town of Brusly.
Brusly Mayor Joey Normand said that as long as he can remember (well before he became mayor), Brusly High School has been the cornerstone of the town.
“We have always contributed (monetarily) to the school,” Normand said, adding that the town supports the school in many ways each year by giving money to the band, yearbook, etc.
“This year, we just rolled it all into one, “ he said. “The Town feels that there is nothing better to support.”
When asked what was his motivation for donating the $10,000 for the weight room, Clayton said, “The people at BHS and West Baton Rouge afforded me an opportunity for a free and public education, and I feel that I owe them a debt.
He added, “I can never repay the debt, but this is a small token to show what they’ve done for me and my family.”
Willis said that Clayton’s generosity was the catalyst in getting the facility built.
“Tony’s money really got things started,” he said.
A sign thanking the Town of Brusly, the WBR School Board, Tony Clayton, and Jeff Kershaw, who all helped make this “dream” weight room possible, now hangs in the weight room for all to see.
“I think in the next couple of years, people will see the benefit (of the new weight room),” Willis said. “It’s going to make things better.”