Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Gladiators in Suits – Olivia Ding

My name is Olivia and this is my first year with AmeriCorps VISTA. When I was first introduced to OPEN (Orleans Public Education Network), I understood the big picture only: work to improve public education by engaging community members. The how to achieving this mission was vague. And then on July 22, I was introduced to a passionate, friendly, impeccably dressed team of 6. Through 1:1 meetings with each member, I learned the details behind the multitude of programs OPEN has to further our mission. Excited by their energy, I was ready to jump into action.

Before I knew it, I was whisked into a slew of programs. I have been outlining work plans, developing community partnerships, making fliers for recruitment, calls, emails, meetings; formalizing a partnership with Tulane Amelia Center to launch a new parent focus group; drafting an MOU, calculating budgets, contacting venues, and planning events intricately; popping pop corn for a film screening to incite a community conversation about our public schools. Every day I am thrilled that we are making progress.

OPEN facilitating a community discussion about the provocative documentary “History of Public Education in New Orleans

OPEN facilitating a community discussion about the provocative documentary “History of Public Education in New Orleans

Curious parents and children at our stand during the Back-to-School Celebration at New Orleans Public Library

Curious parents and children at our stand during the Back-to-School Celebration at New Orleans Public Library

As time goes by, the intensity increases as we plan for our 2014 Annual Convening. We are working to populate and diversify our panel discussions on issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, common core, and one-app. Meanwhile, we are recruiting parents for the Parent Leadership Training Institute and Educational Policy Fellowship Program, while drafting future Public Education Awards. How is it, I wonder to this day, that a grand total of 6 people, could launch, plan, and execute all these events simultaneously? On any given day, tasks overlap. And yet, OPEN manages to show up everywhere: council meetings, community events, radio talks, film screenings, receptions that land on the same day. Splitting forces when necessary, OPEN strives to maintain a loud presence. How? After starting the show Scandal (which my lovely coworker ordered me to do), I realized the answer is simple: with me as the new addition to their team, they (we) are gladiators in suits.

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This entry was posted on August 28, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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