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Heartfelt thanks for embracing our daughter

To the editor:

Along with many of you, I had the good fortune of being born and raised in Juniata County, graduating from Juniata High School with my twin sister in 1985. After our Penn State graduation in 1989, my husband and I moved to the Lake Charles area of Louisiana where we have made our home ever since. Over the years, we have remained extremely close to our family and friends in Pennsylvania, visiting numerous times a year and spending most summers enjoying the beauty of the Juniata Valley.

On Aug. 27, 2020, our little corner of the world in southwest Louisiana was devastated by Hurricane Laura. Through a series of evacuation circumstances and with our Louisiana community facing weeks without electricity and months without school, our daughter Annee made the courageous decision to move in with family and to begin her sophomore year at Juniata High School. With no availability of records back home (schools were closed indefinitely with no power), the guidance counselors took our word on her academic records and enrolled our girl so that she could start with everyone else on the first day of school … and what an incredible school year it has been!

Despite COVID quarantines, virtual Fridays, and her dad and me thousands of miles away, Annee has had an amazing experience in the hallways and classrooms at Juniata High. She was welcomed to the school by knowledgeable staff, friendly classmates, and attentive teachers. From the thousands of texts we received from her all year long, we know that her days were enjoyable and her classes fulfilling. For a teenager who loves to read and loves to learn, what could have been the toughest year of her life has been one of the best, all thanks to the top-notch education she received and the caring faculty, counselors, and student body at Juniata High. We could not have asked for more … from any high school in the nation…than what was provided for our Annee.

We are forever grateful to Tom and Becca Rhine for giving Annee a home away from home since September and for the rest of our family for loving on our girl throughout her time in Pennsylvania. She has enjoyed her extended time with all of you and will treasure these memories for years to come.

As the school year came to a close, Annee took one last plane ride home to a still-weary and still-battered southwest Louisiana this past weekend. She will be wearing a treasured Juniata High School class ring with the inscription “Hurricane Laura” and a treasured necklace fashioned from a piece of broken glass from a landmark Lake Charles building destroyed in the storm.

As she steps off that plane, my husband and I are counting our many blessings — safe travels for Annee, the wonderful school year our daughter just completed, the love of family and friends in our greatest time of need, hurricane repairs to our home that are nearing completion, and, perhaps the greatest blessing of all, for the ties that bind us to my beloved Juniata County home.

Brenda Quigley DeFelice

Moss Bluff, Louisiana

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