Archive for the ‘Reconstruction’ Category

Changing Lives in New Orleans (Part III)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

As part of our “Back to School in New Orleans” campaign, this is the third in a series of short anecdotes about the children helped by one of our partner organizations, New Orleans Outreach and the volunteers and partners they utilize that are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of one – or thousands – of children each day.

Rayshad. Rayshad is in the third grade.  He is a person who is very creative and sensitive, and to a great extent, seems to prefer to keep to himself. Academically, he is struggling. He has a difficult time keeping on task, and would much prefer to draw. In spite of his academic difficulties, many saw Rayshad shine last year at the school showcase that New Orleans Outreach coordinated. 

Rayshad and a few other students created a 3-D model of a city with pictures of themselves walking in the streets. This served as the set for a movie they made in an Outreach enrichment class, in which aliens are taking over the city. Rayshad was so excited to show us what he and his classmates had created, and it was easy to tell that he was proud of the film, and their model, and his contribution and connection to the project.

This project clearly gave Rayshad hope that he could contribute, and be part of something.  It also gave Rayshad a chance to explore another side of himself, one in which he could excel, and have every reason to feel good about himself.

Jenny (Outreach coordinator). Jenny, one of the experienced school New Orleans Outreach coordinators, had volunteered at one of the partner schools before coming to work with Outreach.  While helping out in a Girl Scouts class, she noticed a student named Ebony who continuously disrupted the class.  This student acted up and out, at high volume, making it hard for anyone to focus on the project at hand.  One day the class project was to make Mother’s Day place mats. Ebony, at first skeptical, discovered that she had real talent, and even more importantly, really enjoyed making art.  Not only that, but her art skills enabled her to help others with their art projects, giving her real opportunities to shine, grow, and be of service.  

Outreach helped to discover Ebony’s hidden talent, and gave her the tools to develop it.  We believe the product isn’t the placemat; it’s the student, growing and learning into her full potential.  Outreach provides experiences that are transformative.

Arts education is something that is often lacking in troubled city schools, especially in New Orleans. Many schools wouldn’t have arts or music programs without the aid of New Orleans Outreach. Seeing a child come alive through arts education, and recognize the contribution he or she could make to his or her peers, helps to illustrate why it is such a critical component of a child’s education.

Out of Tragedy Springs Hope

Friday, May 29th, 2009

I’m getting ready to jump on a plane again to go to New Orleans.  This time, it’s to attend the Domino Effect concert tomorrow night at the New Orleans Arena.  This tribute to Fats Domino will feature Little Richards, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Wyclef Jean, Junior Brown and a bunch of other great performers. Drew Brees will emcee with comedian Tracy Morgan.  A significant portion of the proceeds will benefit the “Operation Kids: Rebuilding Dreams in New Orleans” campaign.

If you are planning to be in New Orleans and want to be a part of the show (and a great cause), come on by!  You can also watch the show via the web here.

We’re counting on the show to get us closer to our goal of raising $1.8 million for the children of New Orleans.  We still have two projects to complete funding for – New Orleans Outreach and Best Buddies Louisiana – and I’ll blog about those two great organizations in the near future.

One project that is nearly complete is the athletic field at Lusher Charter School.  Lusher is the largest public high school in New Orleans, but it has never had a decent athletic field since moving into their current building after Hurricane Katrina.  Finally, thanks to the generosity of donors like the National Automobile Dealers Association Charitable Foundation, the Allstate Foundation, XanGo and Drew and Brittany Brees themselves, they are close to having a beautiful, new athletic field.  The new sod has been laid, the track is in place, the lights are up, and the fence is built.  The scoreboard and bleachers will be installed in the next few weeks.

The football team is eagerly looking forward to their first game of the upcoming season on September 4. They’ll also dedicate the field that night; I can’t wait to be there! It will be such a great way to kick off a new school year, 4 years after Hurricane Katrina devestated the city.

The Lusher soccer and track teams also look forward to using the field, as well as other schools who will also be given access to the facility. 

Lusher held their senior graduation last week – the first class to complete 4 years there since the storm.  Drew Brees was the commencement speaker.  I congratulate the entire Lusher senior class on their graduation, and wish them much success in the future.  And I applaud the staff, teachers and volunteers at Lusher for all they’ve done to create such a successful and wonderful school.  Well done!

Well, off to New Orleans. Hope to see you there!