Alumni Spotlight: Gretchen Hirt
Gretchen Hirt attended Rudolph Matas Elementary, T. H. Harris Middle and East Jefferson High (c/o/ 2008)
What are you up to now?
Currently, I serve as the Public Information Officer for Jefferson Parish, under the leadership of Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng. Recently, I was named the “2020-2021 Employee of the Year” for the Parish President’s Office. In addition to working directly with the Parish President, I am the director of the Jefferson Parish Public Information Office, which is a comprehensive information resource for citizens and visitors of Jefferson Parish. I manage a staff of four and oversee all internal and external communications for the Parish’s 43 departments and approximately 3,000 employees; while also working with the seven council offices. The Public Information Office is responsible for local, regional and national media and community relations; in addition to managing the production and broadcast of JPTV (the government access television); planning and research for special events; producing Certificates of Merit and Proclamations; and all digital outreach including the Parish website, jeffparish.net, and various social media outlets.
What was the most important thing you learned in school, and how has that prepared you for your career?
I learned the importance of hard work and dedication, while also being true to yourself and having fun. During my time in school, I made sure to focus on my studies but I didn’t hold back with getting involved in extracurricular activities as well, which helped shape my life today. From broadcasting the weather over the intercom every morning at Rudolph Matas to being in Gifted/Talented Theater, Music and Arts at T.H. Harris Middle to being the Class President every year at East Jefferson High, I learned from each and every opportunity that was given to me. I can point to specific examples where the skills I learned then are still applied in my life today.
Who influenced you most in school?
The teachers who influenced me most during my time in school were those who actually took the time to encourage their students and invest in their lives outside of the classroom. One of my favorite teachers was Patrick Gendusa at East Jefferson High. He always taught his students to pursue their passions without restraint and to believe in themselves. He is now the Chair & Artistic Director at Loyola University New Orleans Department of Theatre Arts & Dance, which is where I studied after graduating high school. Even though I don’t have a profession in theater, much of what I studied is applied in my job today, and Mr. Gendusa helped me gain the confidence I needed to build a successful career.
What advice do you have for current students?
Hard work and dedication pays off if you want to be successful in life... but always be true to yourself and follow your own passions/dreams. Don’t let anyone else define success for you.
What was your favorite school memory?
Being named Ms. East Jefferson c/o 2008
Anything else you would like to share about your life?
In addition to my work with the Parish, I’m also proud to be involved in a number of nonprofits and professional organizations. One board I sit on is the New Orleans Women & Children’s Shelter, which is an organization working to transition homeless families to independence. In my opinion, no matter what career path you choose, you should still pursue causes you care about and find ways to give back to the community.