Fighting Poverty with Passion
Happy Holidays to me! The past few weeks have been really rewarding. They’ve also helped me to realize a few things. The first is quite frankly, a better understanding of the on-the-ground work that the PYD staff does on a daily basis to improve the city’s youth-serving sector. When I first started my VISTA year, I found it hard to keep up with the daily activities of my co-workers. For example, in the morning someone might have back-to-back meetings with FNO, YMP and YEP and in the afternoon they would be off to chat with a rep from OPSB. I bet I know what you’re thinking: “what’s with all the acronyms?!” Well, I felt the same way at first. For a while my plan of action was: nod and smile first, google later. And for those of you wondering, the google search for the aforementioned day would have read:
•FNO= Forward New Orleans: a coalition of civic, neighborhood & business organizations
•YMP= Youth Master Plan: a PYD-led initiative to create a blueprint of existing youth-serving entities in the city
•YEP= Youth Empowerment Project: a non-profit that provides case management, mentoring and educational services to at-risk New Orleans youth
•OPSB= Orleans Parish School Board
See what I mean? But with a little research and a lot of reading, I’ve finally got a handle on the many key players in New Orleans’ youth development sector (and their respective shorthand). PYD’s partnerships with these “key players” are fundamental to achieving our mission. The mission being, to put it simply, to make youth services BETTER. So all this time I was surfing google (as well as doing other, more productive things…) my co-workers were running around the city, meeting with other non-profits, existing afterschool programs and education leaders. They were mapping, planning, evaluating, observing and brainstorming with people from all ends of the city, trying to help them improve the services they offer to New Orleans’ kids.
As you can see, it takes a lot of hard work (and leg work) from PYD staff to maintain all of these partnerships and to work collaboratively. So, it is a fitting reward that at the end of every year, the PYD staff is customarily invited to the winter performances and exhibitions of their partner schools and afterschool programs. This is a chance for the members of PYD to see the tangible results of their behind-the-scenes, intermediary work. I was lucky enough to attend a few of these events. I did my own version of the typical holiday party-hop. I started at the Young Audiences performance showcase at the Mahalia Theatre, then went to PYD’s CP3 Afterschool Zone’s winter exhibition and finally ended at ReNEW Cultural Arts’ Academy’s Play, “Animalia Jamminforya!” The incredible student talent at these partner schools and community organizations is proof that PYD’s effort to uphold quality standards is working. These programs are producing amazing results: talented, well-rounded and most importantly, happy students.