Three New Orleans Youth Strive to Make a Difference

Kevin Kieschnick – LINC New Orleans

To commemorate the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, neighbors, church members, and AmeriCorps members came together to better their community through service. Community Development at its Finest: 

September 9, 2011
Contact: Laura Brenner at 504-656-4025

New Orleans, LA: It’s a beautiful Saturday morning; the sun is shining, perfect weather for basketball, taking a run, or sleeping the day away.  Which is exactly what this eclectic group of people would be doing, if not for the common goal that brought them together: strengthening the community. To commemorate the 6th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall, City Year New Orleans partnered with the Bywater Neighborhood Association in a day long beautification initiative.  Communities First Association partner, LINCNewOrleans heard about this great collaboration and wanted to strengthen the effort.

They connected with Grace Baptist a LINCNewOrleans partner church located in the Bywater neighborhood, to have some of the youth come out and serve.  Grace readily understands the importance of service; most recently ten of the high school students each raised $400 so that they could go to Tennessee on a service oriented missions trip this past summer. Three of the young men that participated in the trip were present for the Service Day. It was the first time that they had participated in a service event in New Orleans, and cannot wait to get to contribute again. “Seeing the outcome of our efforts was definitely my favorite part of the day”, states Brandon Garrett, a junior at International High School. “If it were up to me, I’d do this every Saturday”.

Ronald Claiborne, a junior at George Washington Carver was equally enthused.  As luck would have it, Luke Hoar de Galvan, Recruitment/Operations Manager with City Year New Orleans, was the Team Leader for a City Year team that served in the 9th grade academy at Carver High School where Claiborne attends. “Throughout the year, Ronald was a real joy to work with… I know that all of the members of my team enjoyed his calming presence”.

Whether in school or in the community, the young men know where to draw their strength:  “It doesn’t have to be a Christian activity to serve Christ” reflects Garrett.  “It is my faith that strengthens and sustains me in the face of adversity.  I am going to graduate high school, I’m going to college, I’m going to make it” state Claiborne.

Aaron Ford, the youth pastor at Grace Baptist, echoed the sentiments of the young men as he reflected on their strengths. “They are all willing to try new things.  Matt Leonard (who was unavailable for comment) recently came back to the US from England.  He’s quiet, but you can tell the wheels are always turning. He’s starting to come out of his shell, it’s exciting to watch. Ronald never lets the possibility of failure stop him from trying new things.  Brandon is always the first to arrive and the last to leave an event.  He knows that he lives in a hard world, and understands the impact of bad decisions. He has a desire to step up and serve”.

Through the LINC NewOrleans partnership, Grace Baptist youth are learning how they can connect with and engage in their communities. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to witness, states Laura Brenner, Community Development Assistant with LINC NewOrleans, “The community members working alongside AmeriCorps members alongside local high school students, all learning from each other, striving toward the common goal of bettering the neighborhood”.   Both Claiborne and Garrett have plans to go to college, and are seriously considering doing an AmeriCorps program like City Year, especially since there is an education award granted at the end of the service term that can help pay for tuition or student loans.  A renaissance is occurring throughout the city of New Orleans and these young men are at the forefront of that transformational development.

About communitiesfirstassociation
Using Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) methods, CFA transforms a growing number of communities and engages Christians and Churches in their community.

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