I wanted to say a few words about my experiences in NOLA before I left for vacation. I won't be around for the special service next Sunday or the beignets & coffee with chicory afterward, unfortunately, so I can't share in person.
I chose to work in the Green Charter School, K through 8, my whole time in NOLA, since I am a librarian by profession, & a group was needed to get the school library up & running for its grand opening in a few weeks. I wound up sorting books & priming & painting two enormous bookcases with over a hundred shelves. Our group worked hard, along with two grad. students from Tulane, trying to find places to prop the shelves to dry, without spoiling the newly laid carpet. We also barcoded books & classified them according to reading level. There were scores of boxes of donated books to process.
I was really impressed by how well the children, all African-American, were cared for. There was much discipline, but much caring & affection shown by the teachers, who, for the most part, were white & under 40. The atmosphere was calm & felt safe. Although the school was built in the twenties', it was clean, brightly painted & pretty well maintained. The inspirational posters & children's artwork decorated the halls & classrooms, altogether a cheerful place. The children, in the afternoons, have choices for "enrichment," e.g. sports, arts, such as dance, & working in the beautiful, organic garden, which the teachers & students put in. They grow vegetables, which they get to eat in the cafeteria. The cafeteria doesn't serve "junk" food. Apparently, unlike other schools, they don't consider chicken nuggets "food." There aren't any soft drink vending machines about either.
Occasionally, the instructors take the children out on field trips. While we were there, a group went canoeing on a nearby bayou.
In this school, which, others from our group will describe in better detail, I saw hope for the future of New Orleans. I saw young adults from City Year, Tulane, the young teachers, working hard to give the children a better start in life. I hope the children noticed too, & will "pay it forward" when they grow up. I would love to return to see the new, improved library, & help where I'm needed. Thank all of you at St. Michael's and beyond, for making my contribution possible. I'll never forget the experience. Lana