One of the people we met with in New Orleans said that her city is more like “the Little Difficult than the Big Easy” but we found in our jam-packed week there that there is a lot to be hopeful about in the Crescent City. We were all in New Orleans about 6 months ago and it just felt like a different city then.
This time we met with 4 powerful after-school and extra-curricular youth development programs at both the middle and high school levels. Charter schools now represent 85% of the city’s public education system and for the most part, the charters are receiving an A rating. As recidivism and young African -American male incarceration has been an ongoing issue in the city, we were introduced to one of the most highly respected post-incarceration youth re-integration projects in the country.
As ASR has an ongoing concern regarding inacessibility to good foods and increasing livelihood opportunities, we made field visits to three urban gardening programs — one addressing citywide systems issues, one a hands-on neighborhood garden model, and the third utilizing a garden work program for personal and professional development.
Standout meetings included the region’s most influential nonprofit grant organization, a site visit to a 200 home neighborhood rebuilding project, and morning coffee with two influential civic leaders, one being a prominent business figure in the African Amercian community, the other a prominent figure in philanthropic circles. Our last evening we were fortunate enough to speak with a leading Coastal Wetlands expert to receive a primer on what can and is currently being done to preserve the Gulf coast wetlands, essential to the environment, the economy, and the protection of the city.
And we were impressed.
There is an energy around the revitalization of New Orleans that will only result in one thing: the transformation of a city turned
completely upside down by Hurricane Katrina and hit again by Hurricane Isaac last year. When people were calling for the city to be abandoned in 2005, these people said that the spirit of New Orleans would allow it to come back and come back stronger.
Aid Still Required continues to be inspired and invigorated by the people and potential of New Orleans. Stay tuned as we continue to develop our programming and refine how we can best use our resources.
Thank you New Orleans! We will see you soon.