Fighting Poverty with Passion
Hello! I’m Griffith Hibbard-Curto from Geneva, Illinois. (but you can call me Griff!) I’m taking over for the wonderful Carol Chen as the Tulane AmeriCorps Service Leader VISTA at the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives. Cowen Institute describes itself as an action-oriented think tank. The organization does research and conducts polls surrounding a wide variety of topics concerning public education in New Orleans. In addition, Cowen Institute carries out a number of programs focused on College and Career Readiness, including Tulane’s Upward Bound program, and a new segment of the organization is labeled Reconnecting Opportunity Youth, which will encompass initiatives aiming to help youths aged 16-24 renew their ties to education and prepare them for the workforce. I knew the Cowen Institute was a well-respected source of information and statistics, but after my Pre-Service Orientation for VISTA in Denver, CO, I really wanted to make the work we do accessible to all citizens of New Orleans and the people who could use our info most: parents of children in schools, not just educational leaders.
My first day of work was not much like work at all. My lovely supervisor Mary Lee Murphy showed me around the office and the whole 7th floor of 1555 Poydras, introducing me to Cowen Institute staff but also members of the other organizations whom we share office space with, including New Schools for New Orleans and Match Education. After an extensive tour, I went out to lunch with Mary Lee and several other directors from Cowen including our executive director, John Ayers, to the Little Gem Saloon for lunch.
John is a big music fan and told me that Satchmo used to play at the Saloon, and he even invited me out to Rock ‘n’ Bowl that weekend to check out Bonerama, a mostly Trombone rock band that did indeed rock. After the love fest that was the first few days in the office, I got settled into a real working routine getting prepared for the release of Cowen Institute’s major yearly report, the 2014 State of Public Education in New Orleans. I was tasked with many of the social media outreach responsibilities including creating and expanding our Twitter presence and making some image macros and posts for Facebook. I’ve stayed quite busy doing odd jobs as well as preparing for the SPENO release, and I’ve started up several projects of my own creation, including what I call HEAL- Helpful Education Acronym List. There are so many acronyms that I stumbled across while acquainting myself with the organization’s work that I needed to create such a document for my own necessity, but I supposed that if I was confused by the abundant word-scrunching in education that there are likely many others just as perplexed as me. This ties into one of my main goals for my year as a VISTA, which is to make our work accessible and helpful for everyone who can gain value from it. I’m loving life in the office, extravagant as it may seem, and I am very eager to continue and expand my work through the rest of the year!