There you are, driving down Parkview Drive. It’s been a ‘meh’ day, one of a seemingly endless string of ‘meh’ days. You look to your right, at the entrance of City Park. There is a big sign, blue, yellow and white: “Has anyone told you today You are wonderful.” You blink, you look twice. There is a tiny spark of something, just what you needed on a day like this.
Then you think, where is this coming from, and why did it happen to me? This is not your imagination, not a mystic indication, not a message from your guardian angel, but also not a coincidence. This is the message from the You Are Wonderful campaign, being introduced into the Iberia Parish area by Felicia and Calvin Armstead.
“We're returning to our roots,” she said. “Or more accurately, my husband’s roots. His family is from here. We lived in New Iberia from 1992 until 2003. We moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 2010 when our son launched his ministry, and then to the Austin/San Marcos area. We were working in the Gary Job Corps until the COVID pandemic changed everything.”
Job Corps is a program by which young people age 16-24 who have not earned their high school diploma can earn one, and also train for a career. The program (before COVID) also offered students room and board, basic health care, and a community of support. COVID restricted many of these services, and eliminated many jobs, including the Armsteads’.
Felicia started the You are wonderful — or Y.A.W. initiative long before the pandemic, and she had noticed its positive effects on students and faculty. “The atmosphere on the Job Corps campus can sometimes become rather negative, these young people are in such a pivotal time, and maybe haven’t lived their best life up until this time. I’d stand in the corridor near the cafeteria, and just greet students with a smile, and a ‘You are wonderful.’ You’d be amazed how much of a difference it made in their day, and in the whole vibe on campus.”
Before long, the initiative was spreading. Felicia had cards she would hand out, and eventually the Job Corps campus erected a billboard with her “You are Wonderful” message. Morale was high, students were encouraged and positive. Then, the pandemic struck, and everything locked down.
“We had to adjust to remote teaching, and conduct Zoom classes. Students were not allowed on campus. We basically shut down more and more. Calvin lost his job, and he turned to me and said, ‘let’s go home.’ We had this house he’d inherited from his family, and so we went. And here we are.”
Felicia knew she wanted to continue to spread the positive message, so she began to form a non-profit organization, and started talking to leaders in the area — political, religious, community activists — who came on board for the Y.A.W. initiative. The signs have popped up all around town, in City Park, in West End Park, at Main and Lewis streets, on Center Street near Candlewood Suites. She is planning a Community Unity Picnic June 5 in West End Park to promote her Y.A.W. initiative, with businesses, religious communities and others coming together and sharing with each other. “We have people donating what they can, food, activities, family fun.”
She would like to introduce ‘You are wonderful’ into businesses throughout the parish, and into the schools this fall. “I gave one of my cards to a cashier in the grocery store. You know what she said to me? ‘I really needed this today.’
“It is a great way to celebrate the wonder of humanity, to shut down bullying, to stop violence,” she said. “The community needs to come together, learn again to trust one another, to recognize everyone for their abilities and strengths, and just because we’re all human, and we all just survived this really tough time.”
You are wonderful. Expect that idea to be popping up in more and more places around the area, and expect an unprecedented movement towards positivity and unity in our community.