Abby Cochran, the principal of West Feliciana High School, follows a needs-driven philosophy of life: Educators should meet the needs of children while simultaneously teaching them to be sensitive to the needs in their community.
Cochran believes that outreach has a boomerang effect that makes both the giver and recipient stronger and tightens the bonds of the community.
Cochran will bring this message of hope and motivation to the Community Prayer Breakfast Saturday, Dec. 8 as part of the annual Christmas in the Country festivities. She has a simple directive: We must look to community and beyond.
Community is dear to Cochran’s heart. She was born and reared in St. Francisville. A wall of her office shows basketball, track and cheerleading pictures and awards from her time at West Feliciana High. She attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on a track scholarship and lived in Lafayette for about 12 years. After regrouping her life, she heard home calling her back.
“I was married and went though a divorce and it seemed like a good thing to do,” Cochran said. “It was the best thing I’ve done.”
Community beckons Cochran, who admittedly has a heart for missions. As a child, she attended St. Francisville United Methodist Church and currently serves as co-chairwoman of the Missions Committee. At home, the group recently served more than 400 Thanksgiving meals to those in need. In a few short weeks, they will continue holiday traditions of giving. "
At Christmas, we try to bless several families,” she said. “We get to know the families and we get gifts for them and their children.”
Last year, the Missions Committee looked beyond to Costa Rica and traveled there to build a water well. Cochran has taken part in mission efforts in Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti and Peru. Those efforts have heavily centered around construction and needs-based ministry.
The outreach group is not a holiday-only organization. “Twelve Months of Sharing” focuses on a different project. “Each month, we collect,” Cochran said. “Once, it was jackets for children in the school system and another it was dog beds and treats for the animal shelter. We always try to see what is needed.”
Cochran said she feels it’s very important for students to see the people who teach them in their community and in their churches. “I think it’s important for them to see you outside this building,” she said. “They will know that you are concerned about what’s going on civically as well as spiritually.”
Cochran encourages giving and giving back because she feels it’s important for students to begin to see “beyond themselves.”
The school seeks to foster a mentality of service. A large banner in the cafeteria continually suggests “Ask what you can do.”