It seems almost blasphemous to be thinking about Back to School already – it’s not even August. Yet with sales on and many of the year-round schools in the area starting their new school years this week, it’s hard not to think about the fact that summer ends in a month.
It is for an entirely different reason, however, that my mind has been pre-occupied with the thought of Back to School over the past couple of weeks. For the last two years, we’ve been involved with several organizations in New Orleans – working to help improve educational, athletic, childcare and other facilities and programs for the children who call the Crescent City home. This fall, we are gearing up to work with one of the organizations, New Orleans Outreach to help them raise funding and awareness about their programs.
From the very beginning, I’ve been enormously impressed with New Orleans Outreach – a 16-year-old program designed to improve public education in New Orleans. Education is one of the most important things a child can have, and even before Hurricane Katrina struck 4 years ago, education in New Orleans struggled. What is most impressive, however, is that New Orleans Outreach can prove that their programming – which ranges from academic, to artistic, to after school programming to mentoring and tutoring – actually works. In a study conducted last year, they found that students involved in New Orleans Outreach miss fewer days of school each year, score an average of 27 points higher on LEAP/iLEAP math tests and 24 points higher on LEAP/iLEAP English and language arts test. 96% of parents feel that New Orleans Outreach is making a difference and being successful.
It’s so exciting to work with an organization that is making a quantitative, measurable difference in a city where public education reform has been so desperately needed. As I watch footage of interviews taken of administrators, teachers, students and parents who participate in New Orleans Outreach, I am touched by their stories of success and achievement. I am touched by the student at Sophie B. Wright school who not only learned his multiplication tables by being involved in the New Orleans Outreach program, but also learned to read music. I am touched by the little girl who proudly talks about what she’s learned about science and plants and nutrition through the after school gardening program. I am touched by the principal who says that New Orleans Outreach has given her students the ability to participate in arts education programs – something that previously was unavailable due to funding.
I wholeheartedly believe our future lies in the quality of education children receive today, and it is one of the reasons I believe so much in the work and mission of New Orleans Outreach. Over the next few weeks, as we begin launching their campaign to help raise awareness of the work they are doing – and funds that will continue to sustain the work – we will be highlighting success stories and glimpses into the lives of students, parents and teachers whose lives have been changed by those who believe that public education is a critical resource we must all work to improve.
As you prepare for Back to School season at your house, I ask two things:
1. What can you do to help improve the quality of education in your community?
2. What can you give to organizations like New Orleans Outreach to improve educational quality, programming and results? Whether it is time or resources, each of us have ultimately a much bigger impact than we realize – not just on our own children but on the lives of those in our community.
And with that, I’m off to finish reveling in my few short remaining weeks of summer.