Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Kids Rethink New Orleans School

Working at Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools has really been quite interesting. These “kids” are thinking and speaking publicly and advocating for things that I had never even considered a part of my life until later in high school and college. The first week I was there, the Kids and staff were preparing for their annual news conference, so I was caught in the middle of the most hectic time for the summer program.

Kids Rethink has 5 committees that meet during the school year after school and occasionally on weekends. They are: Food Justice, Restorative Justice, Garden, Architecture, and Digital Media. During the summer, the committees all get together during the week and write speeches and create projects to showcase at the news conference. I have to say I was quite impressed with what the Kids were able to do with such little guidance of the staff.

The thing I often forget is that these actually are kids. They may be mature in these respects, but they are still allowed to be immature because, well, they haven’t had the time to fully grow up yet. The first day I was there, two little girls around 10 years old got really excited and wanted to show me around. It was really quite cute that they were so enthusiastic and so attached.

My goals for the first month were to get our donor database in order and send out thank you emails, set up a phone system for the office that has extensions, voice mail forwarding, and a lot of other features that would help us unclog our messages since at any one time, there may be 30 to 100 unread messages on the answering machine left in the office. I have also had to put together a volunteer packet detailing what Kids Rethink does and an application template for them to send to us so we can place them in the appropriate committee or job. I have done almost everything except for the office phone line stuff because customer service at an tech company is extremely lackluster unless the product they sell is only used by extremely tech-savvy clientele. It should be done by the end of the week, though.

So far, I have mainly just been “expanding capacity” in the traditional terms, such as making it easier for staff to get their messages and relay information between each other much quicker and creating more funding through individual donors and whatnot. Though I only spent a week with the Rethinkers, I think I have gained a great deal of insight into this aspect of New Orleans. I look forward to the start of the school year.

Other than that, it’s extremely chill. All of the staff are friendly and accommodating.  Working in a professional setting is really cool because it makes me feel like a real person almost (aka not mooching off my parents, taking care of my business, not crying to anyone when something is wrong and being able to take care of it myself). My parents raised me well to be able to be completely self-sufficient at this age.

Anyway, I have to study. My next field report should be much more entertaining. Everyone should definitely check out the Rethinkers’ Web Page though. Just Google “Kids Rethink”!

When this MCAT nonsense is over with, there will be much rejoicing and a lot more hanging out with my fellow VISTAs. 🙂

-Jack Hua, Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA, Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools

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Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

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