Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Firstline Schools

It occurred to me at some point that one of the most important skills to have is the ability to build bridges. While my placement at FirstLine may sometimes be confusing and scattered, it is the perfect way to practice the delicate intricacies of professional networking. Indeed, becoming familiar with school leaders and their needs is the foundation of my job. Even now, I’ve just left FirstLine’s second board meeting of the year, waiting for Arthur Ashe Charter School’s parent meeting to begin.

One of my newest projects is to measure the volunteer capacity and organization at FLS. I was advised that, before I begin trying to recruit new volunteers, I should gain an understanding of where our volunteers come from already. In a nutshell, each of the four schools I work with have three primary sources of volunteer recruitment: Edible Schoolyard, New Orleans Outreach, and parent organizations. To what degree they cross over and collaborate, I have yet to learn. Once I understand this and whatever challenges the network faces in finding and retaining volunteers, I will help find ways to improve recruitment, tracking, and assignment.

Besides mapping out the volunteer structure at FLS and trying to spur collaboration between parent groups at each school, I have also been busy writing blog posts, which can be found here: http://firstlineschools.blogspot.com/.

Over the weekend I went to Ashe’s Community Day and channeled my skills as a landscaper to help lay sod in their new ESY garden. Earlier in the week, I bounced from school to school, taking pictures of famous people. The NFL Today hosts, James “JB” Brown and Dan Marino, visited the ESY garden at Green Charter with a host of volunteers in tow. Later in the day, Hornets player Eric Gordon made an appearance at Langston Hughes Academy.

I love my job. It’s messy and ambiguous, but FirstLine is a great organization and I believe in what we’re doing. I’m learning and practicing invaluable skills, meeting and collaborating with dedicated staff and parents, and quickly training myself to be an effective organizer. Time does seem to be passing quickly, but I try to remind myself that it’s still the beginning and there’s plenty of time to get things done.

-Jason Lacoste, Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA, FirstLine Schools

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

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