Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Januzzi Field Report

Life has been busy! 

I have been behind on my blogging duties. Here is an update from the past couple months. 

Following the release of the Call for Connection, the YouthShift Steering Committee made a public call  to the community to join in the five community Action Teams. From parents and youth to all who work with and on behalf of youth everyday, we know in order for this work to be successful, all voices need to be heard. We cannot create the community we want if we work independently instead of together.

Action teams, created for each of the five recommendations, are charged with creating recommendations for action on how to move the recommendations into reality.

YouthShift Community Action Teams


The Engagement and Inclusion Action Team is focused on addressing the meaningful engagement between leaders of youth-serving organizations, young people, and parents themselves. On April 7th, the inaugural meeting worked to catch everyone up on what youthshift is, how it came to be, and set the frame of where we hope to go.

These seventeen organizations represent higher education, girls empowerment nonprofits, government agencies, juvenile justice nonprofits, and more. This team will seek to address questions like how can the community integrate youth and family voice across the cities existing committees and task forces that benefit children and youth? How can youth and families be involved in governance and decision making so that those who are directly impacted by decisions have a voice in them? How can we mobilize resources, both technical assistance and financial, to be used by organizations or coalitions seeking to authentically engage with youth and community members? How can we increase the participation faith-based, people of color, and parents and children that our research has shown to be under represented in decision making bodies?


The Data Collection and Dissemination Action Team is focused on Increasing what we know about the well-being of children and youth in our community and what efforts there are to address priorities outlined above. Then Disseminating this information to the general public.

These seventeen organizations represent arts based nonprofits, community health centers, government agencies, and criminal justice organizations, and more. The teams broad experience allows them to address questions like how do we support the Data Center’s Annual Youth Index and other efforts to routinely collect and report on data that tracks outcomes for New Orleans youth? Can we create a platform that can be accessed by multiple audiences, sorted or browsed by topic, priority area, etc., and accessed via the Internet or mobile device?


The Program Quality Improvement Action Team is focused on improving the quality of programs that serve children and youth in New Orleans by reinforcing the continued efforts of the K-12 school system, youth development programs and early childhood sectors to define, measure and support quality improvement on an ongoing basis.

This team of thirty nonprofit organizations and government agencies work with children and youth in areas ranging from mental health and job training to sports development and arts education. This group is well equipped to address questions like how can New Orleans develop a culture of continuous quality improvement among children and youth serving organizations? What is the best way to expand the number of organizations participating in the New Orleans Youth Program Quality Initiative pilot launched in 2015?  How can we support ongoing efforts of the New Orleans Early Education Network to provide professional development, technical assistance, and peer support opportunities needed to increase the number of high quality early childhood programs in the city?


The Public Policy and Advocacy Action Team is focused on Developing youth-centered public policies and strategies to ensure that young people come first in New Orleans.

The team of twenty two nonprofit and government agencies work in areas of research, local and national lobbying efforts, foundations, K-12. The group is experienced to address questions like what existing collaboration or organizations can lead efforts to map existing public policy initiatives and priorities so like-minded programs or initiatives can align for greater impact? How can we routinely identify funding and policy barriers for young people to centralize information like the Public Funding for Out of School Time in New Orleans Report? How can we develop a campaign to nurture champions for New Orleans among local, state, and federal government representatives and other influential leaders? How do we provide them with necessary information to help inform and prioritize efforts for better outcomes for all children?


The Intermediary Action Team is focused on Identifying and supporting an organization (or multiple organizations) to provide staffing, technical assistance, resources and expertise to help support organizations seeking to execute these goals. 

The team of twenty one cross sector partners represent youth workforce organizations, sports based foundations, local intermediaries, and government agencies. The group will be addressing questions like what are national best practice examples of intermediary organizations that manage the functions needed to support the implementation of YouthShift’s recommendations? How can we provide technical assistance and training for youth and child workers and program staff to improve quality on research based domains like providing a safe environment, quality engagement, youth centered policies and practices, ensuring access for families, and more? What is the best way to convene and ensure coordination of collaborative and organizations focused on improving youth outcomes and public policy? How can we mobilize resources for youth serving organizations?

What’s Next?

The current timeline for the Action Team’s is to take the next six months to create recommendations for action and present them to the YouthShift Steering Committee, the Children and Youth Planning Board, and other interested entities, for them to be acted on.

The convenient thing for me is how my term of service ends August 15th and in line with this iteration of the work. I drove down from Michigan two years ago specifically to work on YouthShift. I have been lucky in my VISTA service to be a part of this ambitious process and am excited to be around to see it grow its legs to stand on. Seeing a collective impact process from the inside for nearly two years has given me access to new skills and resources, great people and experiences that will stay with me long after this VISTA life. 


From New Orleans to Baltimore



This picture says it all. Wouldn’t you want to meet and know these cool people just looking at them? Part of my love for AmeriCorps service is getting to work with and developing relationships with amazing and accomplished people. All of my post graduation work life has been AmeriCorps Service. I could not ask for a better support system for the past year and a half. I know before my term is out I will share what they have taught me.




New Orleans brought 35 youth advocates to the Ready by 21 National Meeting and were featured in four different workshop presentations including

  1. Leveraging Fiscal Maps to Advance Community and Policy Change,
  2. Effective Programs, Practices, and Models for Reengaging Opportunity Youth,
  3. Is your Partnership Staffed and Structured for Success? 
  4. Using Data to Improve outcomes across Programs Serving Opportunity Youth: Lessons from New Orleans. 


There is a national movement in cities, including New Orleans and Baltimore to use cross-sector collaboratives of government agencies, service providers, educational institutions, employers, and non-profits to build supports for Opportunity Youth in order to connect them back into education and employment opportunities. Opportunity Youth are 16-24 year olds who, due to contextual and life factors, are not connected to education or employment. These young adults often face barriers that hinder their ability to be prepared for the workforce and connected to pathways that lead to living wage careers.

The organization I worked for in my first year of service served as the co backbone for the collaborative and exposed me to what goes into this work. In our trip to Baltimore, I was able to meet Paulo Gregory, an expansive thinker and artivist, who in his many roles, works with Baltimore Opportunity Youth. He introduced me and others to a board game he created called Cohado. Cohado is a flexible design structure, and a tool to understand collaborative and sustainable design. Quickly you realize Cohado is more than a board game but a lens to view and live life. The few hours we spent with Paulo in a Baltimore speakeasy were a highlight of my service year. Cohado’s idea about how, “we are all connected and responsible for each other’s wellbeing, we have a responsibility to utilize our resources, our connections, our energy, our voices, and out power to usher in this age of relationships, understanding and connectedness,” synch well with what our YouthShift Action Teams hope to do over the next six months through our community Action Teams.

I am lucky to be a part of this movement here in New Orleans, and slowly in small parts, in other cities across the country.


Shout out to Tulane VISTA superstar and friend Sarah rocking the D.C. world with her work around Juvenile Justice who I got to visit during the trip.


  1. Has to be infrastructure to support change,
  2. Education of system –
  3. Constituent voice in defining quatliy – what does it meant to target high needs, addressing needs at all levles, how do you help transition into first grade, but transitions into all grades is important.

Key Ingredients – Orange

  1. Collection of data
  2. Evidence based tools – using research in order to define those tools.
  3. Financial infrastructure to fund long term change. incentinves for actual providers, professional development and feedback loop for staff to
  4. Alignment and consistency across providers. Definition of quality the same across all providers

Key Takeaways

  1. Applied to all parts, not early childhood.
  2. Systemic Approach
  3. Buy in requires credibility  in eyes of those who are implementing. Even down to provider level, parent level (wont implement into home)



  1. What teachers need is a supportive infrastructure. Teachers need coaching, teachers in NEw orleans are not getting a year long of practicum, teaching boils down to relationships with students, teachers are teaching to test – so not given theh opportunity to actually teach the youth development. Test prep facilitators vs teacher to test training is different. Small class sizes, realisitc materials – until the earlier it has no meaning.
  2. Teachers traininng in cutural sensitivity and behavioral sensitivity. Teachers often misread that (same in focus groups). Challenge with article, it said everything we know about teacher quality was untrue. Highly individualize d


  1. Highly individualized and everyone is different. Data, vision from principle, needed to be priority, needed to be institutionalized across schools. Basic – We spend 20 grand a year on teacher and its not working. It was more of a critique vs having specific solutions.


Team RED Funder and OST

  1. Because of focus on testing, there needs to be other arts
  2. Definition
    1. Independent choices, having it be child centered, choose with their feet
    2. Personal and social journey
      1. Individual has a sense of being valued for who they are. Develop confidence in ones ability to master one’s environment. Quality school time environment is helping that child reach their own individual needs. Strong links between family, schools, and a broader community overall.
      2. These programs are able to be offered because of this pedagogy.
  3. Key Ingredients
    1. Research does exist on what quality is. This paper has who is working in that space and has who is doing the work. I run a quality program but now need to decide what that means. How can the organization and the funder communitte
    2. We are seeing a shift in funders seeing a value in funding quality vs quantity
    3. Seeing value in the nonprofit profeessional vs the ones doing day to day programming.
  4. Key Takeaways
    1. What foundatiosn are interested in quality, who is doing the reserach and who we can give that too?
    2. As a smaller OST program, it is difficult to master all the elements – needing to partner and assist each other in those ways.
    3. Investment of a quality program needs to be long term – needing to build a strong foundation to then reach more children. The first year you are building a few kids, but then with the appropriate.

ChildCare Centeres

  1. Definition
    1. Staff qualifications & cultural competency, licensing requirements,
  2. Ingredients
    1. Clear rating process, whatever scale it iis on there needs to be clarity,
    2. Grounded in clear measurements tool, people receivign services are included in evaluation process
    3. Training that goes with it is restorative vs punitive
  3. Takeaways
    1. Specific report was data heavy. In the 26 that were interviewed there was diverse variety on how many scales they use, how long it took to be accredited
    2. In Louisiana, in 2007, who gest to know if things have been implemented – who holds each other accountable.

Setting: YouthWork Professionals and Supervisors

  1. Inredients
    1. Motivation, continue to improe academic/social emotional grown in the setting. To ensure the ingredients are there you need to facilitate staff growth, cultural competence, make sure you are hiring and training (orientation, PD is high qualtiy), make sure feedback is given – coach and counsel not only teh children but the staff members – make sure they have a voice in the organization.
  2. Takeaways
    1. Keep kids engaed AND staff engaged. Both matter.

Manufacturing quality control

  1. Definition – Farming quality control, from the agriculture went to manufacturing plant and what quality looks like in the plant setting. Quality is defined by the industry – its about culling out best stuff – and is decided by what you are making. Defined by industry and type of program. One caveat – quality is not the only function of an organization. Often gets de-prioritized and a  balance needs to be considered in what you are doing and how you are doing it. When working towards quality, there is a balance to consider in terms of standardization vs thinking about quality in the indivvidual or social/cultural setting.
  2. Takeaways
    1. Balance.

Given what our Task is here, what are our implications 

  1. Quality is hard to define – depends on who is asking on the question. flud and contextual.
    1. Seconded contextual component. Varience and might look different on surface.
    2. Theme: Participants, family, and constituence being engaged on defining on what quality is. Users need to define it.
  2. Unsure of how we are going to redefine quality. Agenda for Children star rating system. All of the little minority run centeres were going to be the lowest rated. The grants were based on how well you did. The people who didnt have the money were closed down and the people who had the money.
    1. What lens are we using to define quality? Harvard vs SUNO – Marginalized populations are targeted with lower grades and lower scores  which leads to minority children getting less services to their local.
    2. Were in a “quality era” – a lot of the mom and pop stores were high quality. If people outside of my city and outside of my community get to make decisions based on what they define.
    3. Marginalized populations when they are not involved in the definition of qualtiy, and what the output of quality looks like, then they can be further marginzalied because they don’t have access to the same resources.
      1. Midwives – Teach them how to be professional nurses.
      2. Considering implicit biases in creating quality.
    4. Unfunded mandate to implement the quality – may not have infrastructure, resources, staffing, and competing with organizations with an evaluation department. Where is investment in operational support and infrastructure? How can funders not think short term.
      1. When orgs are smaller  and don’t have funding, you can’t afford the evaluations. Younger or emerging orgs need that from beginning.
  3. Need Data
  4. Don’t throw baby out with the bathwater – needs to be self assessment.
  5. Approach to Proff Dev & Seeking quality in teacher training is not working. Continuous improvement philosophy vs I did PD and now I am done. Continous Improvement is important.
  6. With every recommendation that emerges, everything has a cost associated with it. Evidence based, professional development, etc = cost. Funders often think whatever money they invest in capacity building is a dollar not spent on services so it becomes a secondary priority. Point 2 – Flip side of engagement/constitunet voice is you need leadership and champions who are going to carry the torch in a sustained way and who is part of the change process.

Check In and Wrap Up 

  1. I have a good understanding of the basic quality ratings across systems.
  2. I want to know more about what is happeing with quality improvement efforts in this community? (5)
  3. If Hamilton sends me more readings before next meeting, I will read them. (5,3)
  4. I feel good about this teams ability to create a quality improvement plan.
  5. These meetings have bee worth my time so far? (5,4,3)

Next Meeting: MAY 6th











About januzzinews760

Born and raised in San Diego County, my passions are baseball and youth civic agency.

One comment on “Januzzi Field Report

  1. Jack Styczynski
    June 9, 2016

    You da best, Januzz!

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on June 8, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports.



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