Alligator in Hog Bayou

An alligator peeks out among vegetation along the bank of Hog Bayou, part of the Wax Lake Delta system, in St. Mary Parish, La., Saturday, May 1, 2021.

In my year of living in Louisiana, this state has become a second home to me.

There’s an atmosphere of genuine kindness and charity that ties neighbors together. There are beautiful natural scenes unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. There’s a melting pot of cultures that produces exceptional art, music, literature and food.

Louisiana is a beautiful place, and it’s my hope to stay here after I graduate from the university.

The most common response I get from people when I tell them I came to Louisiana from Connecticut, and even more so when I say I want to stay here, is a confused “why?”

Many of my native Louisiana friends want to leave the state as soon as they can. They cite low rankings across the board in education, health, and quality of life. They’re tired of Louisiana politics, which have for so long been entrenched in corruption.

Their criticisms of the state are valid, and I share (and write about) many of them. It’s sad, though understandable, that many young people can’t see a future for themselves in this state.

As someone who has been here only a year, I won’t pretend to be an expert on living in Louisiana. I can’t and won’t try to argue against the statistics that tell of unfortunate realities for many residents.

What I will say is that I believe a more fair, equal and prosperous Louisiana is possible—and that it’s worth sticking around to fight for.

Political leaders have betrayed this state and its people frequently over the years. Many of our lawmakers are more interested in scoring culture war points or doing the bidding of their donors than fighting for their constituents. The constant political games are exhausting and infuriating.

What gives me hope is the resounding spirit with which so many residents fight against those wishing to exploit the state for personal or corporate benefit. Between RISE St. James, Louisiana Budget Project, Louisiana Center for Health Equity and others, so many organizations are fighting for a better tomorrow in this state. These organizations are all predicated on the belief that Louisiana is worth that fight—a belief that is undoubtedly true. The resilience of grassroots, citizen-powered organizing is a powerful testament to the strength of Louisiana. 

I came to Louisiana the day after my 18th birthday and I have known since then that I made the right choice. Never have I been somewhere that radiates the same warmth and hospitality as Louisiana. I will forever be grateful to Louisiana for giving me an education, and beyond that, the great gift of wonderful friends, mentors and community.

Life is just better in the bayou.

Claire Sullivan is a 19-year-old coastal environmental science sophomore from Southbury, CT.

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