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13-year-old covers Hurricane Laura from his grandparents’ house

BATON ROUGE, La. — Even St. Julien has been known to break a news story before other media outlets in his hometown in rural Acadia Parish, sometimes even upsetting spokespeople for agencies when he shares information before they do.

The pushback doesn’t bother the 13-year-old. He’s not one to shy away from controversy or back down when others try to silence him.

“Don’t worry about what people say if someone is hating on you,” he said. “I always view it as jealousy — either that or they’re just having a bad day and taking it out on somebody else.”

Even has developed followers and helpful sources that allow him to keep sharing stories in the Mire community. He’s taken the lead on recent news stories about a traffic crash involving a cyclist and euthanasia at a local animal shelter.

He was inspired to start his own children’s news operation, which he calls Even News, four years ago after watching the local news stations each evening with his grandparents.

Initially, his team included friends and family, but most have lost interest in the kids’ news operation over the years. Even has not.

Instead, he’s grown more confident with each broadcast.

“People get older, so they’re not always going to have the same passion for everything,” Even said. “I happen to still want to do this. So sometimes you just have to make decisions to keep going without them.”

Even has outgrown two makeshift bedroom studios at his grandparents’ house. In June, he worked with family to renovate a wood shop in their backyard with the hopes of turning it into a more professional operation.

Hurricane Laura, which Even covered live on YouTube and Facebook with his cousin, dampened those dreams. The storm blew off the roof of the wood shop, ruining the work they’d put into the building.

“He’d been buying his own plywood, just working at his own pace,” his grandmother, Sheila Prejean, said. “And then this happened.”

The family is waiting for word from their insurance company before figuring out their next steps.

Even, an eighth grader at Mire Elementary, is the school’s acting president of the student council, despite extracurricular activities being suspended because of the pandemic.

Ali Cantrell, who taught Even math last year, said his bubbly personality and passion aren’t just an act for his online followers. He brought king cakes to school every Friday during the Mardi Gras season and started an impromptu dance party to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” ahead of standardized testing.

He’s the kind of person who can inspire others and see the truth for what it is.

“I just want a little bit of Even’s enthusiasm and creativity and spunk,” Cantrell said. “I mean, he’s truly one of a kind. And you know what’s funny? I sometimes forget that he’s like 13. I call him my little Anderson Cooper.”

Even doesn’t dream of being a CNN anchor one day. Instead, he wants to be a country-pop singer and meet his favorite artist, Kelly Clarkson.

“Maybe she’ll see this?” Even asked in excitement. “That’s like my dream interview. Oh my God.”

As he hopes for a call from his idol, Even continues to plan projects for his news operation.

His focus at the moment is on a video series for National Bullying Prevention Month in October. Eventually, once coronavirus restrictions ease up, Even wants to take his bullying program to school assemblies in Acadiana.

“He’s never going to be too big for small-town Louisiana but, at the same time, he can go and do whatever he wants to,” his teacher said. “I just hope he genuinely follows where his calling is. I want him to stay close by if he wants to because family is so important to Even, but I also want him to go out and explore the world and be whoever it is he wants to be.”

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