Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Cowen Institute—A Swamped but Splendid September

It has been a very busy and fulfilling period of time since I last posted. The past month had many exciting and new opportunities and challenges both personally and in my VISTA work at Cowen Institute. At Cowen, we had our first all-staff meeting with Scott Cowen himself, and got to hear about his new ventures now that he’s “retired,” as well as fill him in on the direction of the Cowen Institute and see how he could get involved. Scott was quite vested in our new Earn and Learn program in particular.

Earn and Learn is a pioneer program where disconnected youth, defined as individuals from ages 16-24 who are not engaged in school or work, take classes at Delgado Community College and additionally work as interns or apprentices at Tulane. Some are facilities workers on the Uptown campus, some are working with tech departments connected to Tulane University, and others still are here in the Cowen Institute office or working in our home building, 1555 Poydras. After the meeting with Scott Cowen, I had the pleasure of joining the Reconnecting Opportunity Youth team downtown for our Earn and Learn orientation. I got to watch and participate as 20 young people bonded over their shared experiences, helped each other out with an impromptu group therapy session, and collaborated on team-building games. It was a beautiful afternoon and it was amazing seeing how the apprentices had already started building strong relationships and cared for each other and were motivated to succeed in the program.

One of our apprentices thinking hard during a team-building game. Cowenite Amy Barad tries to lend a hand.

One of our apprentices thinking hard during a team-building game. Cowenite Amy Barad tries to lend a hand.

Also in the last month, I took a personal vacation out to New York City, in large part for the People’s Climate March, a massive demonstration against Climate change. Many of my friends and colleagues from Divest Tulane who I had worked with last year also made the trek up in a bus and it was great to march alongside them. In addition to being a fantastic event that has motivated real action from our leaders and leaders internationally, the march also reminded me of the ways that different causes can intersect. There were groups specifically advocating for immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights, many groups campaigning for health-related causes, all within the context of environmental activism. In my mind, it is important to remember that every big issue, such as education, is always wrapped up with many other factors, such as poverty, transportation, access and more.

A snap from the People's Climate March. The banner below says "Stop Fossil Fuelishness"

A snap from the People’s Climate March. The banner below says “Stop Fossil Fuelishness”

At the Cowen Institute, I’ve embarked on several big quests—the construction of our Annual Report and the redesign of our website. Although I’ve secured several proposals from interested parties for the work on our new website, we have still yet to make a decision and progress has largely stalled. Combined with the work I’ve done on our current website posting, modifying and deleting new articles and works and the new initiative to create an independent site for the Earn and Learn program, I have my hands full with web-based work. The Annual Report has come a long way, and I’m proud that I’ve influenced my staff to agree that a narrative approach to the document will be successful. Previous annual reports have been like itemized lists of accomplishments, broken down by department. I want to tell the story of the people affected by our programs, the importance of the research and work we do, and the story of what’s coming next.

Until next time!

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This entry was posted on October 8, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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