Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Youth Rebuilding New Orleans


It has been an up and down month at YRNO.  On the upside, volunteer coordination has been going great, as I’ve booked a bevy of bunkhouse groups for 2015.  Gambel Communications also lined up some more television appearances for us, we were on the “NOLA Real Estate Connection” on WBOK 1230 AM and I kicked off our ongoing Giving Tuesday holiday fundraising campaign in the latest YRNO newsletter.  On the downside, we’ll need those donations even more because my grantwriting mojo has disappeared as suddenly as it appeared—I’ve now whiffed on the last three applications.  A year and a half in, and I still have no clue why I’ll win one grant and lose another.  #itsnotforme

This has been a really good month for professional development, as I participated in sessions the past three Wednesdays.  Most recently, I attended a Tulane workshop on “Free, Accessible and Applicable Technology for Nonprofits,” where YRNO Executive Director Will Stoudt and Project Homecoming Finance Director Jim Coningsby were the presenters and the audience was highly engaged.   The previous week I took part in a Break Away conference call on “Best Practices for working with Alternative Break Programs” at the invitation of Shannon Morrissey, who spoke to our VISTA group this fall.  Before that, I attended another Tulane workshop on volunteer recruitment, where Avery Strada of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity gave a super presentation.  A post-AmeriCorps career as a volunteer coordinator remains a dream of mine, although I’m always pondering other jobs too, like the three R’s—radio, receptionist or even a return to research.  #keepingmyoptionsopen #exceptgrantwriting

One thing I definitely plan to explore is the new “Employers of National Service” initiative, which connects AmeriCorps and Peace Corps alumni with leading employers from the private, public and nonprofit sectors to create recruitment, hiring and advancement opportunities.  I was particularly happy to see Habitat for Humanity and NBC on the list of participating employers.  I find the idea of returning to NBC in a role other than research to be especially appealing, just because I’d prefer a new adventure.  Would it not be ironic if my AmeriCorps experience made that a reality?!

I was fascinated by another AmeriCorps dispatch that crossed my desk—the 2014 report on “Volunteering and Civic Life in America.”  I’m all the more proud to be a VISTA now that I know my home states, New York and Louisiana, rank as the nation’s two worst for residents volunteering.   Here’s to my beating the odds!

In part due to the holiday season, this has also been a stellar month for parties.  I attended one at Gambel Communications with YRNO colleagues, another at the YRNO office, a third to celebrate the birthday of my friend Thomas from Project Homecoming (including stops at Rock N Bowl and Gold Mine) and a fourth to mark the grand opening of the Tulane City Center, where John Coyle is the VISTA.  Plus, I hit up house parties hosted by former VISTA Maggie Birkel and current VISTA Beau Braddock, with the latter somehow convincing fellow VISTA Merry Cherney to let him use her place as the venue.  #totalbeaumove

Speaking of Tulane VISTAs, “shout outs” go to three more.  Mwende Katwiwa invited me to my first spoken word poetry event at the New Orleans Fringe Festival, where I greatly enjoyed the Team SNO talent (and gained a whole new appreciation for pelicans).  Alle Ehrhardt allowed me to sit in during her Sunday morning “Cheez” music show on WTUL 91.5 FM, which reminded me of my own college radio station back in the day.  Last but not least, our “fearless leader” Jakita Allen (far right in the picture) is moving on from Tulane CPS life and I wish her the best.

As a team, we also had an excellent VISTA Friday taking a bus tour of the city with Keith Twitchell of the Committee for a Better New Orleans as our guide.  I had been on a couple of the Gray Line tours and Keith’s version was a fine supplement to them, not just a rehash of what I had already seen and learned.

Right now, I’m back in New York for Christmas, as I was for Thanksgiving.  The fun on the two trips here has thus far included visits with my former colleagues at NBC and the New York Times, bowling with the nephews (I rolled a 203!), Siena and Hofstra basketball games, the Times Square Church Christmas show and an afternoon with friends at Bourbon Street Bar & Grille.

Happy holidays!

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This entry was posted on December 21, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.

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