Fighting Poverty with Passion
Hello! My name is Meredith Cherney and I am a recent graduate of Tulane University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Communications. I am originally from South Florida, but gave up my summer career as a Scuba Diving Instructor to stay in New Orleans to further embed myself in the city’s culture and social entrepreneurship network.
From my past volunteer work, I have come to view service not just as an act, but a way of life. Service cannot truly be quantified in hours, but rather extends onward to positively change how we act, think, and feel about our role in our community. I seek to embody the spirit of service in all aspects of my life. To me service takes many different forms, but the goal is the same – to improve.
This is my first year as an AmeriCorp VISTA Fellow and I am working with The Urban Conservancy. The Urban Conservancy (UC) seeks to transform NOLA into a holistic, sustainable city. The Urban Conservancy’s work covers issues ranging from yard paving to enhancing local businesses’ infrastructure.
In these first few weeks I have been busy learning about the Urban Conservancy and their Stay Local! business initiative. In order to learn more about the projects and areas in which my organization operates, I have shadowed several meetings as well as taken many trips to sites in the area. For example, the UC is working on a complete streets pilot program on the 5000 block of Freret Street, Valmont Street.
The basic premise of “complete streets” is that city streets should not be designed only with cars and other motorized vehicles in mind, but also consider everyone else who uses the streets, including bicyclists, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs and transit riders. This movement gained legs in the USA with the National Complete Streets Coalition that aims to make road networks that are safer, more livable and welcoming to everyone. Here in New Orleans, City Council has created the Complete Streets Ordinance to reach this national goal. Our work on Valmont will transform the street making it safer, more aesthetically pleasing, and less prone to flooding due to the replacement of impermeable surfaces such as concrete pavement.
We have been hard at work writing grants as well as coordinating with partner groups such as Parkway Partners, Delgado Community College, and neighborhood residents. Our goal is that this pilot project will be a success and serve as the model for the creation of complete streets all over the city.