That person is Emma Hebert. She is a senior at North Vermilion High School and LSU Dual Enrollment English student. She continues the push for a safer highway 167 as she conducts her paper’s survey to remember her best friend, Ramsie Baumgardner.
Lisa Lynch, a teacher at the school, said it is a required element for LSU English 2000 that students have to write a research argument. There needs to be a claim made in the research argument, and the student has to support their claim with credible evidence and try to convince their audience to act upon a call. “She was one of my best friends for a long time,” said Emma Hebert. “She made me come out of my shell a lot. I was very quiet and not really outgoing, and she’s the most outgoing person you have ever met.”
18-year-old Ramsie Baumgardner died earlier this year. State police say she was traveling south on U.S 167 when a northbound vehicle hit her car head-on in her lane. The driver of that vehicle was 31-year-old Brandon Isaac.
“The biggest issue that I’m advocating for is that lighting is needed down 167, and there’s a lot of reasons why it is needed, I mean the drunk drivers. It’s horrible down there. Also, it’s uneven the roadways,” added Hebert. “You don’t really see it because it’s lower, and I feel like you’d be able to see it if there was lighting in there.”
After Hebert attended a police jury meeting about adding lights on U.S. 167, she was motivated to write about change. She leans her inspiration to her best friend, Baumgardner.
“I felt like nothing really happened, and I guess it’s probably just because I’m just a 17-year-old, and I don’t understand that kind of stuff,” she said. “I was kind of upset because it was kind of people just going back and forth instead of things actually happening, and my dad mentioned writing a letter.”
She says she posted a survey online where over a thousand people have participated. She said 1,081 respondents said no, which is 94.7%. “It’s crazy to see so many people care about Ramsie. I love seeing that so many people care about Ramsie,” she said.
Lisa Lynch, the LSU Dual Enrollment facilitator, and teacher at North Vermilion High School shares how doing this class assignment was not easy for Hebert. “As a mother and as a teacher, it was hard to watch the grief of Emma and all of our students, and I think that this paper has helped Emma be able to process some of her grief,” said Lisa Lynch. “We talked about it one day, and Emma said, ‘Ms. Lynch, this paper has not been fun.’ But I knew it was the right thing to do.”
Emma also shares how she once felt guilty doing the paper. “At the beginning of this, I almost felt guilty that people kept looking and seeing my name because I didn’t want people to think that it was about me because that’s the last thing I want,” said Hebert. “I just want to make Ramsie proud because I know if it were her in my situation, she would do whatever she could to make sure there was change happening.”
Lynch adds many students can learn from Emma and her paper. “There is a great power in words, especially power in words when it’s personal and power in your words even if you’re just a high school student,” said Lynch.
Here’s a sample of her paper introduction: Be the Light:
Alana Duhon…16. Sydney Colomb…15. Brandon Isaac…31. Ramsie Baumgardner…18. Who are these people, you might ask? These are individuals who were killed in head-on collisions on Louisiana Highway 167 in the past six years. Three of the four were students at my school, North Vermilion High School.
Alana Duhon was in her early sophomore year and had just gotten her driver’s license; she was overcome with excitement and couldn’t wait to drive.
Sydney Colomb was a freshman who had a large group of friends; she had her whole life ahead of her.
Brandon Isaac’s six-year-old daughter, Annelise, was left without a father; her dad won’t be there to guide her through life or to walk her down the aisle at her wedding.
Ramsie Baumgardner was my best friend. She had turned 18 ten days before her death. In just four months, she was going to cross the stage at graduation and receive her high school diploma. Ramsie had plans to move to Orange Beach; she wanted to live life soaking up the sun and feeling her toes in the sand. With a long and full life ahead of them, all of these people were gone in a moment due to an unsafe roadway, Louisiana Highway 167. The lack of lighting and signage on this roadway makes it perilous, and it is imperative that state and local officials take action to prevent head-on collisions.
Ramsie and light were synonymous. She radiated light and life. Although this won’t bring her back, maybe these lights along Highway 167 are part of Ramsie’s legacy.Emma Hebert
Hebert is scheduled to finish her survey next Wednesday. Once finished, she sends it to the State Senate and representatives and the head of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. The DOTD is doing a speed and study assessment scheduled to be completed in April.