LAPLACE, La. (WGNO)— Teachers and students in St. John the Baptist Parish are getting ready for the start of school. Marathon Petroleum’s Garyville Refinery sponsored a back-to-school bash at East St. John High School on Thursday.

“We’re stressed a lot, you know, we deal with a lot, so to have this together, and we all know what each other’s going through during the school year, so to have this, even mid-school year, beginning of the school year, it is needed for us, so we enjoy it,” said Diashiki Snyder Brown, a teacher at East St. John Preparatory Academy.

School employees received prizes, but the biggest surprise was the announcement of a workforce development grant, courtesy of Marathon.

“They’ve been resilient. They’ve been through two and a half years of pure challenges, and Marathon has been beside us the whole way,” said St. John Parish Schools Interim Superintendent Rebecca Johnson. “They’ve announced today that they’re giving us $350,000 to be able to certify all of our uncertified teachers in this district, and, you know, I started out as an uncertified teacher, so that really means a lot.”

The grant will cover the accreditation costs for 120 non-certified teachers within the school system.

“It’s not just a title. It’s not just a piece of paper, but what it truly is, is a wage and a cost-of-living increase,” said Iman Montgomery, a Marathon Petroleum representative. “It’s also an opportunity for professional and personal advancement.”>

Teachers who will directly benefit from the grant are appreciative of Marathon’s involvement following a trying year.

“That special grant [is] going to be awesome to the school district,” said Paula Henderson, a SPED and English teacher at East St. John High School. “Their presence here was a gift, just knowing that they care about the community, all of the schools.”

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The information on how to get accredited will be on the district’s website by Friday.

Teachers are also encouraged to speak with their schools’ principals about the process.