Fighting Poverty with Passion
I think I found my calling. Chauffeur/ tour-guide extraordinaire. Or maybe not…
In any case, my latest assignment was to guide a representative from The Afterschool Corporation’s (TASC) New York office around our lovely city. She was in New Orleans to conduct site visits at two local schools with Expanded-Learning Time models: ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy and McDonogh #32. Three years ago, the Wallace Foundation distributed a grant to various schools in Baltimore, New York and New Orleans to pilot TASC’s expanded-day model. As many of us out-of-towners have come to realize, most of the charter schools in the New Orleans already have extended days, but TASC wanted to pilot their proven-effective model at NOLA’s struggling schools. PYD has been an intermediary between TASC, Wallace and the schools since 2011, making sure the grant is distributed and holding schools accountable for high quality programming.
The site visits were amazing. We saw classes you might not expect to find in a public school: African Dance & Drum, tumbling, music recording, marching band, hip hop dance, martial arts, majorettes and more. All the classes mixed core academic standards with arts enrichment. So, while the students were say… writing their own original rap song, they also learned language art skills. Kids were learning and they didn’t even know it (the best way if you ask me). The TASC representative was impressed. There were even whispers that the ExpandED model might stay in New Orleans past the initial 3 years! But alas, the schools’ success was not thanks to my impeccable tour guide skills. Rather, it speaks to the importance of expanded-learning time models in New Orleans. Moreover, ReNEW & McDonogh’s rave reviews are a fitting reward for the past three years of hard work by The Afterschool Corporation, PYD and school staff. Not to mention the excellent programming of their community partners, Young Audiences and NOSACONN. These successful visits were just the culmination of everyone’s dedication.
When you think of three years’ hard work it certainly puts my brief success at tour guide to shame. Still, I’m excited to help the schools step up the quality of their programming to make the next year their best yet. Maybe the rest of New Orleans will see how well this model works and we will start an education revolution…or maybe not. Before I get too ahead of myself I better get back to work. Until next time!