Two 4-Hers turn personal tragedy into successful speech on hazards of impaired driving

Bruce Schultz  |  7/28/2015 10:38:26 PM

Jacqueline Robichaux, at left, and Hailli Arcement after winning a safe driving speaking event at 4-H University on the LSU campus, June 23-26, 2015.

News Release Distributed 07/28/15

RACELAND, La. – Two 4-H students have used their personal tragedies to warn others about the deadly hazards of impaired driving.

Jacqueline Robichaux and Hailli Arcement, both of Raceland, won the 4-H University Safe Driving presentation contest.

For winning first-place, they get an all-expense paid trip to the 4-H Congress in Atlanta in November, where they will meet students from across the U.S.

In their presentation, “Life Doesn’t Have a Reset Button,” they told of family and friends who had been killed in accidents caused by impaired driving.

Jacqueline was only 2 years old when her father and brother were killed in a crash caused by a driver suspected of texting. Alcohol or drug use was suspected by the driver who caused the crash but never determined because she wasn’t tested by Texas authorities.

Four friends of Hailli’s died in an accident probably caused by a driver who fell asleep in the early morning hours while the group was returning home from a football game in Baton Rouge.

When the two girls made the presentation in 4-H competition in Lafourche Parish, they didn’t include their personal stories, and they used a video to illustrate what they wanted to say. But when it came time to prepare for 4-H University, they changed their strategy.

“We wanted to make it better and more interesting,” Jacqueline said. “We figured we’d just tell what happened to us, and what was close to our hearts.”

Jacqueline said the experience of revealing her past wasn’t easy. “This was the first time I had to talk about something that close to me.”

She relied on her mom for support. “She was very proud of me and she wanted to help me through it.”

The presentation includes a list of statistics about the perils of driving while sleepy, texting and under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But it also uses photos of Jacqueline’s father, Jaime Robichaux; her brother, Jaime Robichaux Jr.; and family friend Christopher Zeringue. One photo of Jacqueline’s father shows him holding her when she was an infant.

Jacqueline still wears a cross with the No. 60, the same football jersey number worn by her father and brother.

The presentation also has photos of the four deceased students who were Hailli’s friends.

Hailli Arcement recalled that the accident that claimed four teens affected the entire parish because so many people were related to one of the victims or knew them. “The local schools were in shock,” she said.

All four drowned when the vehicle ran off the road into a canal, and police suspected the driver fell asleep, Hailli said.

Hailli said Jacqueline was a bit nervous about telling her story in the presentation, afraid that she would be overcome by emotion. “I told her, ‘It will be fine. I’ll be right there.’”

The judges for the event were obviously affected by what they heard. “All of the ladies were in tears,” Hailli said.

Jacqueline said she and Hailli had a feeling they would win after they made their presentation. “We felt strong about it. We had practiced a lot, and that was the best we had ever done,” Jacqueline said.

When they made a mistake, the girls had to improvise. “It actually worked out better than we planned,” Jacqueline said.

Donna Naquin, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Lafourche Parish, said the two girls decided to include the personal perspectives of the impaired driving issue. “I wanted them to make that decision on their own.”

Naquin said both girls are active in 4-H. “They’ve known each other since they were in the fourth grade.”

Hailli said she and Jacqueline are best friends. Hailli, like Jacqueline, has lost a parent, her mom, to illness. Their parents died on the same date.

They both show beef cattle. Hailli has Brangus cattle, and Jacqueline works with Angus, so they don’t compete, and they help each other prepare.

Last year, Hailli had a grand champion steer for the parish and district shows, but it broke its leg en route to the state show.

Jacqueline said in her first year of showing cattle, she won grand champion, something her two older brothers never accomplished.

Jacqueline said 4-H has been a big factor in her life. “It has taught me to become a better leader. It has given me courage to do things I never thought I could do.”

Bruce Schultz

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