As part of our “Back to School in New Orleans” campaign, this is the third in a series of short anecdotes about the children helped by one of our partner organizations, New Orleans Outreach and the volunteers and partners they utilize that are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of one – or thousands – of children each day.
Rayshad. Rayshad is in the third grade. He is a person who is very creative and sensitive, and to a great extent, seems to prefer to keep to himself. Academically, he is struggling. He has a difficult time keeping on task, and would much prefer to draw. In spite of his academic difficulties, many saw Rayshad shine last year at the school showcase that New Orleans Outreach coordinated.
Rayshad and a few other students created a 3-D model of a city with pictures of themselves walking in the streets. This served as the set for a movie they made in an Outreach enrichment class, in which aliens are taking over the city. Rayshad was so excited to show us what he and his classmates had created, and it was easy to tell that he was proud of the film, and their model, and his contribution and connection to the project.
This project clearly gave Rayshad hope that he could contribute, and be part of something. It also gave Rayshad a chance to explore another side of himself, one in which he could excel, and have every reason to feel good about himself.
Jenny (Outreach coordinator). Jenny, one of the experienced school New Orleans Outreach coordinators, had volunteered at one of the partner schools before coming to work with Outreach. While helping out in a Girl Scouts class, she noticed a student named Ebony who continuously disrupted the class. This student acted up and out, at high volume, making it hard for anyone to focus on the project at hand. One day the class project was to make Mother’s Day place mats. Ebony, at first skeptical, discovered that she had real talent, and even more importantly, really enjoyed making art. Not only that, but her art skills enabled her to help others with their art projects, giving her real opportunities to shine, grow, and be of service.
Outreach helped to discover Ebony’s hidden talent, and gave her the tools to develop it. We believe the product isn’t the placemat; it’s the student, growing and learning into her full potential. Outreach provides experiences that are transformative.
Arts education is something that is often lacking in troubled city schools, especially in New Orleans. Many schools wouldn’t have arts or music programs without the aid of New Orleans Outreach. Seeing a child come alive through arts education, and recognize the contribution he or she could make to his or her peers, helps to illustrate why it is such a critical component of a child’s education.