Fighting Poverty with Passion
It’s a lovely Saturday, and I am happy to be writing you as Alexandra Ehrhardt, Tulane University AmeriCorps Partnership Fellow VISTA for APEX Youth Center. Before I talk about my work with APEX, allow me to introduce myself properly.
Although my first name is “Alexandra,” I prefer to be called “Alle.” I don’t know how the odd spelling got there. I suppose writing “Allie” as a young girl was too difficult for me. I am from a small town known as Troy, Illinois, and I moved down to New Orleans to complete my studies in Cell & Molecular Biology at Tulane University. I accelerated my college education, completing my degree in three years instead of four, and this left me wanting to do much more for my city’s constituents more than my scientific colleagues. This feeling along with a little bit of past volunteer experience at APEX Youth Center led to my current AmeriCorps position. So here I am, writing this blog post, more than excited to be able to do work that I find admirable.
APEX Youth Center is an organization in Central City serving underprivileged youth. The organization provides children a safe place to play and provides programming to broaden their opportunities via various facets. Located at 2019 Simon Bolivar Ave, APEX is at the heart of Central City. The center itself is fenced in and occupies a shared church lot. The corridor into the building lines the brick side as the newly repainted, bright blue door welcomes in volunteer and child alike. Once inside there is an up-and-coming recording studio, a main inside room, a study room, a full-sized outdoor playground, and a basketball court. There are plenty of options for the children who come inside: non-violent video games, various instruments, and art supplies. There is a large spectrum.
Although no child that walks through APEX’s doors can be generalized among the rest, we welcome all youth from ages five to twenty-five. We do not turn anyone away, but seeing that we are not known as an after-school or daycare program, we will ask children to leave if they fail to comply with APEX policy. A decent-sized group of youth members consistently appear yet we will still receive new members every week. Many of our members tend to age from seven to seventeen. The ages fluctuate but the majority of the everyday members fall within that range. They all have funny stories to share, and I get to be among the busy atmosphere that, while tiring as it may be, keeps the center alive with joy and a humbling feeling.
Throughout the year I hope to hone in on my multitasking skills. I want to acquire and provide programming to the children that taps into their interests and allows for the utmost personal growth among any that come to APEX. The center operates like a two way street: if you want to learn, you must give. If you want to give, you must learn. An AmeriCorps VISTA Partnership Fellow such as myself must learn about the intricacies of the child to truly address his/her needs, and I am looking forward to completing this vicariously through the volunteers I supervise. I hope to see my volunteers achieve a deeper connection with each person they interact with; therefore, they will provide the youth members with a different type of exposure to the world around them. I want to see my youth center members become positive role models for New Orleans. I know that they have that potential, and I will see to it that they reach that threshold.