Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Youth Rebuilding New Orleans

I just experienced the most terrific two years of my life.  A life—mind you—that was very, very good up until that point.  For those who know me best, you know I’m fascinated (obsessed?) with the concept of time travel.  From here on, I’ll often be wishing I could zap back to my term as a Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA.  Now finished, I may have a bit of difficulty following the advice of Dr. Seuss to the right.  #hankiescouldbenecessary

I mean, why would anyone not want to be surrounded by young, enthusiastic, passionate people all the time?  That’s what every day was like for me both as a VISTA and on staff at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. I tell folks I’ve had the opportunity to live 12 years as a twenty-something—the 10 when I truly was that age, and the last two as lagniappe.  And let me assure you, you don’t really appreciate it the first time through the way I did the second.  I squeezed every ounce of enjoyment out of it!

Take July 24th, 2015 as the perfect example of a day I’d revisit regularly. In the morning, I coordinated a service event at YRNO with the new Tulane VISTA cohort, which included free pizza for lunch.   In the afternoon, the YRNO staff had a going away party for our three outgoing AmeriCorps members at Fulton Alley, and I used my stone cold bowling skills to lead Team Office to a second straight triumph over Team Construction, as evidenced below.  In the evening, I went to see Naughty Professor at Tipitina’s, where I ran into fellow VISTAs BeauBrianna and Emily.  Finally, I capped it off by dancing atop the pool table at F&M’s with my FEMA Blue 2 besties Jacob and Rachel!

Better yet, it’s not as if that was an unusual or isolated day.  The next week I was attending a Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights film screening organized by Renée Slajda, getting more free Tulane City Center grub courtesy of John Coyle, hosting a potluck for the new VISTA crew…and on and on and on.  My farewell tour the last three nights—including Palace Café, Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, hoops at Delgado, Handsome Willy’s, Maison and Gold Mine—was simply off da chain!  #livingthedream

Although I have love for all the VISTA peers I served with, I must give special shout outs to a handful just because I’ll never forget the fun times with them.  First and foremost, my roommates, Chao Li and Tom “havoc” Zolot.  From my PSO class, the “lovely and talented” Erin Ricketts and Sara “sing to me” Green.  Perpetual party boys Fernie Reyes and Michael Januzzi.  Last but not least, my City Church sister (and Panther heathen) Natalie Wiggins and Alle “eye roll” Ehrhardt.  Even if nothing else good happened to me as a VISTA, signing up still would have been worth it just to have met them.

And make no mistake, some less than pleasant things occurred during my tenure, as New Orleans is a gritty city.  This past week, YRNO was burglarized again, the second time this year we suffered a significant loss the very night we got some great publicity on WWL-TV.  Instead of breaking in, this time the perpetrator(s) decided to make off with our equipment trailer—lock, stock and barrel.  How nobody nearby sees or hears that happening, I have no idea.  Or maybe everyone is just desensitized to it here, given the constant crime.  Repeatedly robbing a rebuilding non-profit gives you an idea of the lack of conscience that permeates this place.  #degenerates  #nosugarcoatingthetruth

Anyway, as I turn from AmeriCorps and look toward the future, it actually looks a lot like my past, almost as if I am time traveling.  I’ll be returning to my old pad in New York (it was vacant) and my old gigs as a researcher at NBC News and an adjunct at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism (they were open), thanks to Polly DeFrank and Barbara Gray.  Along with them, I want to express my greatest gratitude to YRNO’s Will Stoudt, who had the uncommon vision to see beyond my journalism-heavy career path and let me do something different the last two years.  I’ll miss New Orleans, but only one place can win (me), and much to my surprise, the Big Easy didn’t bid.  #beaucoupapplications  #8interviews  #zerojoboffers

Bye, y’all!  #vista4ever

Last word: Peep my profile on the AmeriCorps Katrina 10th anniversary site!!!


4 comments on “Field Report: Youth Rebuilding New Orleans

  1. Renee Duplechain
    August 17, 2015

    Oh Jack, I know how much you love NOLA and Louisiana and we love you too. The people who didn’t hire you are fools! But, with your old pad available, and a job back at NBC, all I can say it is meant to be my friend. Your work will never be forgotten. You have left a permanent footprint of greatness in our cities of Eunice and New Orleans, not to mention countless lives, including mine. I hope you continue to keep in touch. If you get a new email address, or God forbid a Facebook page, please let me know. I will pray that all goes well for you. And you never know, I may send a Pulitzer Prize winning story your way one day!
    Love you,

    • Jack Styczynski
      August 17, 2015

      Thanks, Renee!

      Yeah, it’s definitely bittersweet. Love you too!

      WHO DAT!

  2. Allesan
    August 17, 2015

    Awww man, Jack – I’m gonna miss you. All of the love from Chinaland ❤ Keep in touch, okay? Even if it's just emailing once in awhile!

    Solid blog post, per usual 😛

    • Jack Styczynski
      August 17, 2015

      What, no “eye roll” emoticon? LOL.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on August 15, 2015 by in VISTA Field Reports, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.



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