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August 2013 • Parents First Issue • Community Voices Orchestrating Change

L A I C S E T S P RENO N PA I T I D E Parent Voices United for New Orleans Children

Neighborhoods Partnership Network’s (NPN) mission is to improve our quality of life by engaging New Orleanians in neighborhood revitalization and civic process.

Letter From The Executive Director


Photo: Kevin Griffin/2Kphoto


My Greatest Asset: My Son

NPN provides an inclusive and collaborative city-wide framework to empower neighborhood groups in New Orleans.

Find Out More at

“Parents have become so convinced that educators know what is best for their children that they forget that they themselves are really the experts.” — Marian Wright Edelman

NPN Board Members

Timolynn Sams Sumter


he day I learned that I would be a mother, I decided that the most valuable asset I would ever have would be that baby. I was given the gift of parenthood. This gift was unlike any other – not in the sense that it was non-refundable and did not come with a gift receipt – but because this gift would reflect all the goals and dreams I have for this world and be part of my eternal legacy. Like most new parents, I believed my son’s presence was my ultimate life ministry. Therefore, everything I did from February 1998 onward had to change. I could not waste my gift in selfishness, but I must use it boldly impact the world. I made this sentiment part of my introduction to his new teachers: “Hello, my name is Timolynn Sams, and this is my son Evan. He is my greatest investment. He is more valuable than any car, house, or any other tangible item that I now or will own. I am sharing him with you this year. He comes to you whole: spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially. Please do not damage my investment. Either leave him as I have presented him or provide me with a greater return.” I said this ever year until Evan, who is now 15 and a sophomore in high school, asked that I no longer recited this statement to his teachers. He felt that they got the message with the many emails, voice messages, and meetings I scheduled throughout the year. There were some teachers who would hear this and smirk, not really taking me seriously, as though I were a crazy lady with an absurd passion about her only son. But those who realized how invested I was in my son’s holistic quality of life realized that they had an ally who could not only serve as an advocate for my son but for all children. The reality is that when I started making this declaration I was not advocating for all children. I genuinely was looking out for my own. However, my bold eventually behavior made other parents realizes that their voice was of value too. It is this audacity to speak and be heard and seen that has caused me to realize that if our children are our greatest assets than we must be PARENTS FIRST!! We must take a stand to be parents above politics and bureaucracy. This can be a challenge, especially with my profession in the social justice community, where we are constantly being tested on how we value our children…ALL of our children. I feel strongly that understanding the complexities of children’s needs is in the best interest of the entire community. Whether it is education, recreation, criminal justice, health care, or food access, building a healthy and holistic community is not just about the here and now but how we prepare, preserve, and provide for the generation to come. In this special edition of The Trumpet I invite you to be a PARENT FIRST. I encourage you to have the boldness to stand for the children of this city. I implore you to not only speak, but demand that we create a city of recreation not incarceration; a city of equility and tranquility where children to thrive to their fullest potential. The children of New Orleans are our greatest asset and our most profitable investment. When we are committed to save a child, we will save the city.

Timolynn Sams Mother / Executive Director


Victor Gordon, Board Chair, Pontilly Neighborhood Association Wendy Laker, Vice Chair, Mid-City Neighborhood Organization Angela Daliet, Treasurer, Parkview Neighborhood Association Tilman Hardy, Secretary, Leonidas/Pensiontown

Neighborhood Association

Ryan Albright, CBNO Karen Chabert, Irish Channel Neighborhood Association Benjamin Diggins, Melia Subdivision Leslie Ellison, Tunisburg Square Civic Homeowners

Improvement Association

Sylvia Scineaux-Richard, ENONAC Tim Garrett, Marlyville/Fontainbleau Neighborhood Katherine Prevost, Upper Ninth Ward Bunny Friend

Neighborhood Association

Third Party Submission Issues Physical submissions on paper, CD, etc. cannot be returned unless an arrangement is made. Submissions may be edited and may be published or otherwise reused in any medium. By submitting any notes, information or material, or otherwise providing any material for publication in the newspaper, you are representing that you are the owner of the material, or are making your submission with the consent of the owner of the material, all information you provide is true, accurate, current and complete. Non-Liability Disclaimers The Trumpet may contain facts, views, opinions, statements and recommendations of third party individuals and organizations. The Trumpet does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other information in the publication and use of or reliance on such advice, opinion, statement or other information is at your own risk. Copyright Copyright 2012 Neighborhoods Partnership Network. All Rights Reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any of the contents of this service without the express written consent of Neighborhoods Partnership Network is expressly prohibited.




The Trumpet



4 Why We Need to Put Parents in the Center of Our Society 9 A Mother Gives Her All, to Give Her Daughter Everything 10 Spotlight on Neighborhood Parents 12 Getting an Islamic Education Here at Home 16 Raising a Child in the Big Easy Isn’t Always an Easy Task

Weigh-In on Their 6 Parents Greatest Joys and Concerns


Mama Jennifer’s Reading List

19 A Whole Family Gets Advocacy Training and Takes on Anti-Bullying Mission


ESL: Lost in the System

The Trumpet Editorial Staff Scott Bicking, Art Director Julia Kahn, Editor

16 Our Young Men Need Strong Mentors This Special Edition of The Trumpet is Sponsored by

Rachel D. Graham, Communications Manager Remeka Jones & Greg Lawson, Associate Neighborhoods Editors Cailin Notch, Assistant Editor


3321 Tulane Avenue New Orleans, LA 70119 504.940.2207 FX 504.940.2208



Why We Need to Put Parents in the Center of Our Society By LeAndra Shipps


ithout our parents, we would not be here. Our existence is channeled through our parents, and mothers and fathers should be at the center of a responsible society – parents are the ones that should respond first hand to the continuation of the human species.  This is the natural order, but somehow we got off of this nature train.  And we have been paying for it as we continue to create a non-parent-centered nation.  Just look at our high crime rates, single-parent families; high rates of depression; low self-esteem; poverty; and even babies dying before the age of one.   As a mother, I have suffered from a society that is not parent-centered. Don’t get me wrong, my two beautiful children have brought me great joy and have introduced me to my real self.  But to survive and thrive with a stable roof and constant food on the table can be a struggle. There is a conflict in our culture because parenting does not make immediate money.  America is about money.  However, parents truly are investments.  If we parents can energetically support our children and their unique paths, then we will inject our genius into society to evolve it into something better.  But, of course, that injection takes confidence and belief in one’s self, which should come from the village upbringing – healthy moms, dads, family, and neighbors. I thought I was so aware of this picture before becoming a parent that I carefully chose my mate, spent 12 years with him, and planned my pregnancies.  However, the river of national family neglect was so strong, it took me under.  

I found myself raising my children by myself without their father in our lives and no extended family around. I had been a stay-at-home mom before our family split, so being responsible for all of our survival overwhelmed me once their father decided not to be involved anymore. I became homeless with my children.  We, at one time, lived in an office for half of a year until I surrendered and moved back home to Missouri with my mom.  But Missouri was no longer home for me, and I was in love with New Orleans.  New Orleans was the only real “lover” in my life at the time, so I came back and pulled myself up by my bootstraps and slowly made my way to sustaining a life for my children and myself.  I created my network of support, humbled myself to ask for help, and let the village take a role in our lives for the first time.  Without the village parenting was too hard, because I was figuring something out solo that never belonged in isolation.  Raising children belongs to all of us. In our modern society, the people with the most opportunities seem to be the most alien to this natural order.  Our society tends to focus on an individualistic agenda of “success.”  Believe me, I know, because I used to be there.  I first came to New Orleans to attend Xavier University of Louisiana with plans of become a successful doctor.  I was on that route until I was snatched out by “life,” and let life become my new institution of learning.  I have no regrets, but it is difficult since this society is not structured for moms and dads to be the center of a social movement of growth. We did not create ourselves.  Our parents are the blessed ones that gave life to us.  Can we honor this and put parents in their noble, rightful place?  Can we as parents see ourselves as pillars of society, and discover our natural leadership and strength? I challenge America to follow our “momma and poppa” again, not institutional and societal rules.  These structures may offer support and give us a map, but they are not our natural, true leaders.  Our mothers and fathers are.  Give thanks to our parents (despite their shortcomings in a made-up, money-centered world), and their parents, and their parents, and their parents.  Without all of them, we would not be here.

Through Trials, Support, and Prayer, I Learned to be a Father By Terry Nash


he most important thing a father can give his children is wisdom. I want my children to understand and recognize the different pressures in life today; especially with teenaged kids, with so much at their reach. It is important to show them how to make the right choices, how to make moral decisions. There is a lot of pressure on kids today. I want them to be kids as long as they can. I couldn’t afford to do that in my life; I had to go out, get a job and grow up quick. I want my kids to have the chance to just be silly. I want them to enjoy being kids. I love having fun with my kids. My oldest son Terman is almost 14 and he loves sports, especially football. It’s great to help him practice. My 13 year-old daughter, Brochelle, is really into fashion and hair styles, but still likes to hang out with me too and talk and watch movies. My 8 year-old, Tag, is the comedienne of the bunch. She is a ball of fresh air, and we’ll do anything that makes us laugh. But the most important thing we do as a family is to go to church altogether every Sunday. I’m a minister there, so they don’t have much choice, but it’s a great time for our family.


I had my kids when I was young. I was 17 when my son was born. It was a shock in the beginning. I couldn’t feel that excited jubilation of fatherhood, because I wasn’t in a position to be a dad. My finances weren’t there. My career wasn’t there. But fatherhood made me realize that life was not just about me. When you have the perspective of kids, it has to change your life. I can’t want the best for them, and then do the worst. I learned to be a father through hard trials and a lot of prayer. God will show you how to be a good father and a good husband. It’s just a matter of following it from there. When my youngest daughter was born, I could feel that jubilation because by then I had more stable finances, a career, and my wife and I had gotten married. I learned to be a father by taking pieces from people I watched growing up. I watched my uncle being an all-around dad: he cooked; he cleaned; and he went to every sports event, wherever it was. It didn’t matter how bad you were on a team, he was there cheering you on. I also learned from my own father, even though I didn’t grow up in a house with him, and I knew I wanted different for my kids. I wanted to be a 24/7 dad. But my father did give me wisdom. Once he told me, “Make sure you take care of your business. I don’t care how you do it. Take care of your wife and kids.” He wasn’t married and wasn’t really in my life, so to hear that was what he really felt was very powerful for me. But I believe that behind every great father, is a great women. I have to thank my wife, Danita. She is there to support me and the whole family. Without her, it would be really tough to be a father.


A Latina Parent-Leader in Our Community By Puentes New Orleans


eysly Silva is one of the emerging parent leaders in the nationally acclaimed parent engagement program, Abriendo Puertas, that Puentes New Orleans is facilitating. Leysly is the only bilingual parent and one of the few Latina volunteers at the Terrytown Gretna Head Start Center in the Westbank where her youngest son, Henry Silva Jr., attends. She knows that if she doesn’t speak up for her children, no one will. Not one to shy away from opportunities for volunteer service or leadership, she serves as the Vice-President for the parent organization at the center. However, Leysly did not grow up in a bilingual household or in the New Orleans area. Leysly grew up in San Marcos, Guatemala, which she describes as a small city with not as many opportunities as those available to her in this country. When she was a young girl in Guatemala, her father moved to the U.S. She was raised by her grandparents, and her father and stepmother visited and kept in touch frequently. When she was fifteen years old, she came to live with her parents in the Greater New Orleans area. Although she was supposed to enter the ninth grade that year, she was placed in seventh grade – and was never told why. She admits that during her first year in school, “I would hang out a lot with other Latinos and didn’t speak English with them.” She credits a great teacher with her fast acquisition of the English language and was promoted to ninth grade the following year. She later graduated from college and is now a respiratory therapist. As parents, Leysly and her husband, Henry, are strong believers that education

starts at home. She admits that she is not as strict with her children as her grandparents were, but was a full-time mom when they were little and continues to spend a lot of time with them. She always helps her children with their homework. She emphasizes the importance of helping them become avid readers. She said that if there is something she doesn’t understand well, she will look it up on the Internet and learn about it with her children. Her culture continues to be important to her. There are many things that she passes on to her children, like the values her family taught her and the Spanish language. In order to make sure that her children do not forget their Latino heritage, she speaks Spanish to them as often as possible, so “the language won’t be lost.” Even though Leysly firmly believes that her children have “more opportunities to support their studies in this country,” she communicates with her children’s teachers and advocates on their behalf whenever needed. She admits that it is easier for her to do this than other Latinos who do not speak English because she is bilingual. When her daughter, Adriana, was first enrolled in a public school in fourth grade after having spent some years at a Catholic school, they told her she needed to take an English as a Second Language (ESL) test. However, she believed that her daughter, who was an honors student and had never taken any ESL classes at her other school, didn’t need to be tested. She set up a meeting with the teacher, then with the principal, where, finally, Adriana was placed in classes according to her abilities. She strongly believes that all Latinos should be more involved in their children’s education. But she realizes that one of the barriers to more Latino parents becoming involved is because of language access issues. “Some immigrant families don’t speak English yet and they are unfamiliar with the school system, so getting involved can be intimidating for them,” she said. She has seen the changes in our community in recent years. She admits that some people treat her disrespectfully because they perceive she doesn’t speak English, but she is pleased that “more Americans are being exposed to Latino culture,” and that gives her hope that things will continue to change.

Una Madre Latina Líder En Nuestra Comunidad By Puentes New Orleans


eysly Silva es una de las líderes del programa Abriendo Puertas que ha sido reconocido nacionalmente y que es impartido por la organización Puentes Nueva Orleans. Leysly es la única madre bilingüe y una de las únicas voluntarias Latinas en el Centro de Terrytown Gretna Head Start en el área del Westbank de Nueva Orleans, centro al cual su hijo más pequeño, Henry Silva Jr., asiste. Ella reconoce que si ella no defiende a sus hijos, ¿quién lo va a hacer? Ella no le huye a las oportunidades para hacer servicio de voluntario o liderazgo – ella es la vice-presidenta de la organización de padres del centro. Sin embargo, Leysly no se crío en un hogar bilingüe ni en el área de Nueva Orleans. Leysly se crió en San Marcos, Guatemala, el cual describe como una pequeña ciudad sin tantas oportunidades como las que tiene en este país. Cuando era una niña en Guatemala, su papá se mudó a los Estados Unidos. La criaron sus abuelos aunque su padre y madrastra la visitaban y se mantenían en comunicación con ella. Cuando tenía quince años, vino a vivir con sus padres en el área metropolitana de Nueva Orleans. Aunque ella estaba preparada para comenzar el noveno grado ese año, la colocaron en el séptimo grado y nunca le dijeron porque. Ella admite que en su primer año en la escuela, “me juntaba mucho con Latinos y no hablaba mucho inglés.” Ella reconoce que fue una gran maestra que la ayudó adquirir el idioma inglés y el siguiente año escolar la avanzaron al noveno grado. Luego se gradúo de la universidad y ahora es una terapista respiratoria. Como padres, Leysly y su esposo, Henry Silva, son gran creyentes de que la educación empieza en casa. Ella admite que no es tan estricta con sus hijos como lo fueron sus abuelos, pero se dedicó a criar a sus hijos cuando eran pequeños a tiempo completo. Ella siempre ayuda a sus hijos con la tarea. Ella enfatiza la importancia de ayudar a que sus hijos lean mucho. Ella dice que si hay algo que ella no entiende bien,

busca información en el Internet y con sus hijos aprenden juntos. Su cultura es importante para ella. Hay muchas cosas que ella comparte con sus hijos, como los valores que su familia le inculcaron y su idioma – el español. Para que sus hijos no se olviden de su herencia Latina, ella les habla español cuan tanto posible para “que el idioma no se pierda.” Aunque Leysly cree firmemente que sus hijos tienen “más oportunidades que apoyen sus estudios en este país,” ella se comunica con los maestros de sus hijos y aboga por los derechos de sus hijos cuando es necesario. Ella admite que es más fácil para ella que para otros Latinos que no hablan inglés, ya que ella es bilingüe. Cuando su hija Adriana fue inscrita en una escuela pública para iniciar el cuarto grado le dijeron que tenía que tomar el examen de inglés como segundo idioma (ESL), a pesar que ella había asistido a una escuela católica anteriormente, siendo una estudiante de honor y que nunca había tomado clases de inglés como segundo idioma. Ella sabía que su hija no necesitaba tomar ese examen. Ella pidió una cita para hablar con la maestra, y después con la directora de la escuela, donde finalmente, colocaron a Adriana en la clases apropiadas de acuerdo a sus habilidades. Ella cree firmemente en que los Latinos deben involucrarse más en la educación de sus hijos. Pero reconoce que una de las barreras por la cual muchos padres Latinos no se involucran es por no entender el idioma. “Algunas familias inmigrantes no hablan el inglés todavía y no entienden el sistema escolar, así que participar es algo que los intimida.” Ella ha visto cambios en nuestra comunidad en años recientes. Ella admite que algunas personas la tratan sin respeto porque tienen la impresión de que ella no habla inglés, pero está feliz de que “los americanos están ahora más expuestos a la cultura Latina,” y eso le da aliento de que las cosas mejorarán.

“Algunas familias inmigrantes no hablan el inglés todavía y no entienden el sistema escolar, así que participar es algo que los intimida.”



‘Birthing Project’ Parents Weigh-In on their Greatest Joys and Concerns Thanks to the Birthing Project New Orleans for these stories. Birthing Project USA is the only national’s African-American pre-natal and child health program. Their volunteer efforts encourage better birth outcomes by providing practical support to women during pregnancy and for one year after the birth of their children. Birthing Project New Orleans: Changing 2 Lives At 1 Time! For more information about becoming a volunteer or to receive support, please call 504-482-6388 and follow them @RainbowBabiesNO. Brenda Pitts

Ms. Arielle Cooks and 10-year old Angelo Parnell

Arielle and Randolf Cooks (not pictured) We are the parents of Angelo Parnell who is 10- years old and Randy Cooks who is 6 months. As parents of a young boy and an infant, we’ve noticed that Downtown people get treated differently than Uptown people and those who live in Jefferson Parish. For example, our son’s school doesn’t have everything they need – no computers, no sports activities. We would have to go to another neighborhood to get those things that he should have at school… the things other kids have. Arielle: One of my great moments being a parent in New Orleans was when I had to go to my school [college] to get grades, and I brought Angelo with me. He said, “Mama, I want to go to this school…when I get old enough I want to go to this school so I can take care of you, my daddy and my brothers”. As parents, we need a voice! My son needs more activities at school, and the park in my neighborhood needs to be completed for use. The hardest thing about being a parent in New Orleans is keeping my children safe in the neighborhood we’re in…. keeping them away from people who may harm them. Overall, I love being around my children and acting goofy. Also, my children need me.

Overall, I love being around my children and acting goofy.


I am raising my 3 year old son, Wesley, and expecting my second son. My greatest concern being a parent in New Orleans is whether Wesley will get a good education. I often think about weather I can teach his teachers to understand him and if I can keep him safe. The murders and safety are a big concern. There are not enough activities for children and families where I live…the playgrounds need to be safer. As a parent, I need to get involved in the community to help his teachers understand him and to teach him. My son is 3-years-old and has special health needs [he has seizures] and his teachers have already labeled him. I also need a lot of energy! One of my greatest joys as a mom is seeing my son grow and hearing him say, “Mama, I Love You!”

Ms. Brenda Pitts and 3-year old Wesley

Danielle and D’Wann Brooks

We are the parents of Damani who is 1-year old and D’Wanelle who is 6 months. Our greatest concern raising children in New Orleans is the violence against children: the stray bullets, kidnapping and molestation. Education is a huge concern…poorly prepared teachers and Ms. Danielle and Mr. D’Wann Brooks and their 2 children lack of good schools close to home. We’d have to move to get to a better school. The jobs are scarce and not enough pay [to support a family] for a quality life. As parents, our greatest need is a good stable job, especially as a father. As a mother, I need a full-time job that pays a living wage, more education and a better place of our own to stay. We live on the West Bank. Our greatest joy as parents is seeing them walk, talk and play…every moment is great!


Joining Together to Address Drug and Alcohol Use in Teens The Greater New Orleans Drug Demand Reduction Coalition (GNODDRC) is looking for citizens to join its efforts. They need parents, teachers, pastors, neighborhood leaders and youth who can help develop and spread the message of the importance of drug prevention in their schools, neighborhoods, churches and communities.


he GNODDRC was formed in the summer of 2011 to address the problems of use, abuse and availability of dangerous drugs in New Orleans, and the associated crime and violence that threaten the safety and well-being of our families. Concerned citizens and community leaders joined together to develop a strategic plan involving, for the first time, contributors from prevention, treatment, law enforcement and the justice system working collaboratively to reduce the demand for drugs in the community. The result was the development of the New Orleans Drug Control Strategy, released to the community on May 23, 2012, marking a major milestone for GNODDRC. The New Orleans Drug Control Strategy includes the following seven targets aimed at reducing drug abuse and its consequences: • Reduction of illicit drug use in New Orleans • Reduction of underage drinking • Reduction in drunk and drugged driving deaths • Reduction in drug overdose deaths • Reduction in non-medical use of prescription drugs • Reduction in drug-related crime • Reduction in drug-related child abuse and neglect

The strategic planning process included the development of a community needs assessment that looked at the substance abuse problem through the lens of prevention, treatment, law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The Metropolitan Human Services District served as an independent contractor to develop the Community Needs Assessment for New Orleans. This assessment was to provide a baseline identifying the extent and impact of drug abuse in the community in order to make informed data-driven decisions. From October 2012 to April 2013, workgroups in each of the focus areas were charged with developing action plans to carry out the short and long-term goals of the New Orleans Drug Control Strategy. The prevention workgroup has identified a lack of public awareness of the harmful effects of drugs on the community in general and especially on youth, in particular the lack of information about the harm drugs do to the developing brain of adolescents under the age of 21. The workgroup recognizes that by promoting consistent messaging and enhancing education and awareness, community members from diverse backgrounds can be better equipped to address drug use issues in neighborhoods and families.

Join the GNODDRC to learn how you can become involved at the next Prevention Workgroup meeting planned for this September. If you are interested in attending, contact us at To read the Drug Prevention strategy in its entirety please, visit

Neighborhoods Partnership Network Thanks The Greater New Orleans Foundation for their Generous Support of this Special Issue of the Trumpet.



Advocating for Children with Special Needs By Karran Harper Royal

Karran is the mother of two boys, ages 17 and 27. She is an Education Advocate, Radio Show Co-Host and Assistant Director of Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center in New Orleans. She is also a consultant with the Southern Poverty Law Center and a contributor with Research on Reforms. She conducts workshops and provides one-on-one support to parents of children with disabilities. She has also been featured on several television broadcasts and publications, and speaks nationally and abroad about public education in New Orleans.


ot all children are going to benefit from what is being called school reform. Children who learn differently will struggle in the “reform schools.” In this environment as a parent, you have to be a well informed consumer to make sure your child is getting everything s/he needs. I know one parent who asked for her child to be evaluated for special education, and the school is refusing to do it. This is a very common occurrence. This kind of action forces kids and families to keep moving schools. This is not the best thing for children. I believe in school choice, but it becomes a problem if it gives the perception that moving schools is the first option when your kid’s needs are not being met. Schools shouldn’t be so specialized that it prevents every child from participating. Each time we push kids out of a school, we are increasing the likelihood a young person will not finish school. My brother, who was just two years older than me, dropped out when we were high school. He then entered into a life of crime, drug addiction and incarceration. Every time I looked at my own little boy, I saw my brother. I saw a smart, bright little boy. But he was struggling in kindergarten with attention issues (later linked to ADHD). I had already seen from my brother what can happen if a child doesn’t receive an education. I was a new mother. I didn’t have the answers, except that I loved my child.

I worked with the school, and we worked it out. I ended up quitting my job so I could be in school with my son every day. As my son learned in school, I learned that I could be a successful advocate so my two little black boys would not be statistics, like my brother. My younger son had similar issues, but by then I knew how to give him the extra help he needed. Now they are 17 and 27 years old and are both educated, successful men. Working with the schools was not always easy, especially when my older son started middle school. It took some time to make the partnership work. I was holding the school and the principal accountable, and they weren’t always used to that. Sometimes they didn’t want to see me come in. I was forceful, but also respectful. Eventually they realized the value of what I was doing. After we left that school, I got a call from them to come back and help them make a plan for another little girl with similar issues to my own children. I realized that the system was failing many children, not just my boys. That’s why I’m really grateful to now work with Pyramid Community Parents Resource Center, which is for parents of kids with disabilities. I have discovered that this is my passion. At Pyramid, we help parents advocate for their children. Parents will run into roadblocks, but we can never give up on our kids. We cannot pass our kids on to someone else. We are going to have to get involved in ways we never thought we had to. There are a lot of families facing a lot of challenges. I know I was lucky to have various supports that many parents don’t have. That’s why we must all step up our game. We need to save all our children, because they are all going to share this world together.

Listen to Karran’s radio show every second and fourth Thursday of the month on WBOK1230 AM @ 2:00 pm. Turn your radio to1230 AM or listen on your computer at   Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center is a support network for families of children with special needs. For more information about Pyramid, visit their website at  

City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell Speaks on how Parenthood and Community Activism Go Hand in Hand As told to Julia Kahn and Cailin Notch, Associate Neighborhoods Editors, NPN

How did being a parent to your daughter play a role in your work for City Council?


was pregnant with my daughter while rebuilding my neighborhood. I was four months along before I realized I was pregnant. I was so focused on rebuilding that community members started seeing the changes in me before I did. From conception to birth, my child has been very independent. She’s grown up seeing me lead and advocate, which has had a real impact on her. Civic engagement has


been in my family for generations. I was raised by my grandmother and her siblings, and they were all civically engaged. I learned from them that community means something, and I’ve seen how those lessons have benefited my own child. I hope that she will carry on the belief that her community matters and that she is responsible for it. I think we all have a responsibility and that’s why I do this work. Being an elected official doesn’t define who I am. Even if I wasn’t a councilwoman, I would still be doing this work because it’s a part of my identity. I have learned that you have to be comfortable with who you are, and I hope that I am raising a child who will be good in her own skin and understand her role and responsibility to society.


A Mother Gives Her All, To Give Her Daughter Everything By Cailin Notch

NPN intern, Cailin Notch, sat down with Mariah Grant Marcelle – and her five month-old daughter Madison to talk about finding the balance between work, school and parenting. Q: How do you find the balance between being a parent, working and being a full-time student? A: It’s hard, but I have a really good support system. I don’t know how people do it without one. I’m lucky to have my dad who helps a lot with [my daughter Madison]. It’s a lot of time management. Sometimes I wake up early at 4am to do homework and get ready before she wakes up. Q: How have your priorities changed now that you’ve become a parent?

A: Before Madison, everything used to be about me, but it’s not like that anymore. Every decision I make, I think about how it’s going to affect her. I don’t like leaving her with people because I feel like I’m pushing her off on them. I feel like I have to limit going out. If I go out and do something, it has to be worth my while. Q: What are your biggest concerns for your daughter? A: Really, it’s education. With my job, I’m busy mostly in the afternoon. And with childcare, most places close

from 5-6, so it’s been a challenge to find somebody I trust who will keep her until 8pm. When she’s ready to go to elementary school, it seems like you have to put your kids in private school. I think it’s horrible that in order to send your child to one of the few good public schools there are, you have to know someone. Right now her doctor says she’s advanced developmentally, and I plan to keep it that way. I’m not going to sacrifice her education just because there aren’t enough spaces in the public schools, or because we don’t know the right people. Q: Has Madison been a big motivation for you? A: Yes she has, because I feel like I have to do whatever I have to do to support her. I don’t want to be in a position where she can’t go to a particular school because we didn’t do enough. Every time she smiles, I think, “Ok, I can work for another hour.” She’s my motivation to take on additional clients, or to stay up late and keep working. I want her to be everything and anything she wants to be. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure she has the resources she needs to do whatever it is she wants to do.

The Charter School Reporting Corps Lets Parents and the Community Know About News That Affects Our Children By: Dennis Persica, The Lens


he Charter School Reporting Corps is a project of The Lens, a non-profit, online newsroom. As the name suggests, it uses an army of reporters to cover the 40-plus boards that govern charter schools in New Orleans. This is a task that mainstream news organizations -- whether newspapers or television -- cannot take on without hiring more staff or freelancers. It is time-consuming and expensive. In a recent report from the journalism lab at the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, author Linda Kinstler pointed out how The Lens’ charter-schools reporting team is a boon to reporters at other news organizations, including The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and local television stations. Sometimes, The Lens’ reporting leads other news organizations to do their own stories. But on other occasions, The Lens will partner with those organizations, including WWNO-FM, the local National Public Radio affiliate, to jointly report those stories. By using freelancers who cover only one or a handful of the many boards, we can spread the work around. In addition, having several reporters covering these boards helps avoid conflicts when more than one board meets at the same time. Also, by being online instead of a print publication, we don’t have to worry about finding the space to run our stories.


The other advantage we have over print publications is that our information is always there. Parents and other interested observers can go to our charter page (http:// to look up stories we’ve done in the past. There is a link to let readers select a school by name, or select a school board that may oversee several schools. We also try to provide information on each individual school such as performance data, school web site, student handbooks and other information. We put documents, such as budgets and memos, online so anyone can access them from our site. The efforts of the Charter School Reporting Corps were recently honored by the Press Club of New Orleans, which awarded The Lens first place in community news coverage because of the charter school team. The judges’ comments said The Lens’s “commitment to covering the local schools has a profound effect on the quality of life for residents.”

You can read the Corps’ reports at and you can reach the Charter School Reporting Corps via email at







Getting an Islamic Education Here at Home By Jenny Yanez, MSW, CSW


“Where are you from?” This is a question our family is asked often. There is no simple answer as far as my husband and I are concerned. My heritage is both Spanish and Cuban. Islam is my religion and way of life, and I was born and raised in the United States. My husband, also a Muslim, is of Iraqi and Saudi heritage and acquired U.S. citizenship through his father, a U.S. resident. Our household is quite multi-cultural. However, if you ask my daughter, Sabah, or son, Junaid, the answer is quite straightforward – “from here,” they would say, as in from New Orleans.

t is hard to imagine a loftier job than raising children, and raising multi-cultural children adds to that labor of love. In a city where many families send their children to parochial schools, my husband and I envisioned that if and when we had children, God willing, they should get a great academic education, as well as a religious one. Among our hopes and dreams for our children was that they attend a great Islamic school, that we would make our religious holidays memorable events, and that we would give our children opportunities to be part of a diverse community. As a convert to Islam, I knew how sad it was that my non-Muslim family (although my sister and parents are also converts to Islam), friends, or peers know little about our special celebrations, holidays, and general way of life. Teaching our children Islam and giving them the opportunity to interact with Muslim peers in their formative years was imperative for us. It was also an interesting conundrum, considering that there were no Islamic schools in the Greater New Orleans area at that time. My husband and I are UNO graduates and wanted to stay in the city and to invest in its future and continued development. As an alternative option to leaving the city for one with a larger Muslim population, we joined the existing efforts to develop Islamic schools in this community. The first Islamic school in our area, the Islamic School of Greater

New Orleans (ISGNO), began as a small school. Throughout the years, my husband or I volunteered and served in numerous capacities: in the PTO, as a teacher, even as a school board member. We did not have to leave the city after all; instead, we were able to invest in our children, the Muslim community, and the growth of a diverse and dynamic metropolitan area in the place we called home! Thankfully, the Greater New Orleans area afforded us the opportunity to give our children the Islamic education we desired and much more. There are now two Islamic schools that serve about 500 students; ISGNO, an elementary and middle school, and Muslim Academy, a Pre-K-12 school. My children both moved on to attend magnet schools in Jefferson Parish. As they continue to grow, I know our job as parents will never cease. My family is one of many first and second generation immigrant Muslim Americans in the city. At any given time you will see Muslim families at the local parks cheering on their child’s team, or volunteering for a booster club. We are den leaders with the Cub Scouts, Girl Scout volunteers, civic leaders and professionals. There are over 7,500 Muslims in the Greater New Orleans area, from diverse ethnicities and over 25 different nationalities. I’d like to think that we are part of what puts a little more spice in the New Orleans gumbo!

Leading by Example By Michal Erder, Museum Experience Manager, Louisiana Children’s Museum


hen Claudette Ashford graduated from high school, she knew one thing for certain: as soon as possible, she was moving back to New Orleans. A native of Gert Town, Claudette moved to New Roads, LA, when she was nine years old. A bright young girl with a passion for dance, Claudette’s connection to New Orleans never wavered and, one month after graduating, Claudette packed her bags and returned to her native city. Now a single parent to five-year-old Jonathan, Claudette explains that life has taught her many valuable lessons she can teach her son. Her inspirational story reminds us that even in the face of adversity, we can remain strong in our convictions. Claudette was raised by loving parents in a close, tight-knit community. She explains, “People say it takes a village, but in Gert Town it really was. All the neighbors looked out for you.” Babysitters, cousins, and even neighbors made sure Claudette was doing her homework. This emphasis on education was reinforced at home. Her mother was a librarian, and her stepmother, a schoolteacher. Though she wasn’t a big fan of reading as a child, Claudette was constantly surrounded by literature and understood how important it was. After graduating from Tulane University, Claudette experimented with a number of jobs, eventually settling on a job at the University of New Orleans. When her stepmother got sick, she applied for a transfer to Baton Rouge so she could be near her parents. Though almost denied the transfer because she was overqualified, Claudette agreed to take a demotion and a pay cut in return for being able to comfort and care for her


parents. When they passed, she once again returned to New Orleans. A few years later, she was blessed with a son. Being a single parent isn’t easy, but listening to Claudette describe her life with Jonathan inspires hope that, with strong values and dedication, anything is possible. Claudette focused on building a strong foundation for her son based on family, strength, and education, all things that she practices in her own life. She explains, “Just like building a house – if you set the foundation, set stones on top of each other, if one falls you may have to pick it up. But you have the foundation.” Jonathan knows that his education is important and even encourages his mom to go back to school, which she plans to do in the near future for a degree in business. When the neighborhood children are bored, Claudette gathers them together on her porch and reads them books that she received from the Louisiana Children’s Museum Wordplay program. Though his father is not a presence in his life, Claudette has taught Jonathan that anyone can be successful, using examples of men from single parent homes as varied as President Barack Obama to Tim McGraw. When asked what she is most proud of, Claudette replied, “That I was there with my parents until the end… and that G-d blessed me with Jonathan.” Above all, she encourages parents to stay involved with their children. Claudette leads by example, showing us that even when life is hard, we can be proud of our toughest choices, and that we can overcome hardship by holding fast to what we believe in.


Mama Jennifer’s Reading List Race and the legacy of slavery play a central position in power structures, racial relationships, and educational institutions of modern American culture. Mama Jennifer, of the Community Book Center, recommends these books for a perspective on African American history that is too often not taught to our young people. Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology • By Cheikh Anta Diop By Challenging societal beliefs, this volume rethinks African and world history from an Afrocentric perspective. Ida: A Sword Among Lions Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching • By Paula J. Giddings In the tradition of towering biographies that tell us as much about America as they do about their subject, Ida: Sward Among Lions is a sweeping narrative about a country and a crusader embroiled in a struggle against lynching. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision • By Barbara Ransby An award-winning biography of Ella Baker (1903-1986), one of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement.

Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D • By Chancellor Williams “Williams’ directness, forcefulness, and the partial warmth of an insider whose own destiny and that of his people is at stake has strong impact…It is a balanced appraisal of an ancient and contemporary African history.” – The Black World The Mis-Education of the Negro • By Carter Godwin Woodson Originally published in 1933, Dr. Woodson’s thesis argues that African-Americans of his day were being culturally indoctrinated to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. These books and more can be found at the Community Book Center 2523 Bayou Road, New Orleans, LA 70119 • Monday – Saturday:10am – 7pm or call 504.948.READ [7323]

Finding a Balance By Cyndi Nguyen

Cyndi Nguyen, mother of six, reflects on finding a balance between Vietnamese and American cultures, being a mom and the executive director of a community center, and fulfilling oneself and one’s children.


ecoming a parent was what originally led me to my community work. As a mother raising three daughters at the time, I couldn’t see how we would survive. But I was raised to believe that there is always a solution. I think that attitude helps in my role with VIET (Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training), which creates programs that focus on what parents really want.

The Best of Both Worlds My husband’s and my upbringings were different from our kids’. Even though we grew up mostly in the United States, we were exposed mainly to Vietnamese culture through our parents. Our children are American-born, but we wanted them to have our traditional culture. However, even though they have our blood and speak Vietnamese, our children are American. We have American traditions, like big birthday parties and even Sweet Sixteens. Traditionally, Vietnamese families don’t hug and kiss, but our family is very affectionate. We adjusted because we wanted our children to have the best of both worlds. It’s always a challenge to know where you draw the line, but I love the balance we’ve found. Even though I wasn’t born here, America is the only home I know, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Being a Parent and Executive Director

Learning as a Parent

I never thought I’d be the executive director of a community center. I thought I would be working for a big company, not running an organization. That all changed when I saw what my children and community needed. When I started VIET, I had no idea how big it would become. We created it to link communities together, but it grew into something much bigger. Now my 14-year-old daughter tells me, “Mom, it’s really good we have VIET because without it my friends and I wouldn’t have a place to hang out.” For professional women, it can be hard these days. We want to be a good wives and mothers, but we also want our careers. Some days, it seems impossible for me to do all three, but I am able to with a good support system. Sometimes my kids don’t understand why I am constantly working and getting frustrated. But then they see how I’m helping the community and that we all have to make sacrifices. It can be hard to draw the line between being a parent and being an executive director. I have to make sure to not bring my work home, because, in the end, I’m just your average mom.

As a young parent, I was not very patient. With my older children, I could easily accuse them without listening to their side of the story. Now with my six children – from my 21 year old daughter, to my triplet 4-year-old boys – I’m learning to be more patient. As a director of an organization you always need to have the answers, but as a parent sometimes it’s better to listen. I’ve been learning to take off the “executive director hat” and have been learning to process things first. It is so important to love your children unconditionally for who they are. At the end of the day kids don’t want you to constantly buy them new shoes or brand new clothing to know they’re loved. In my years of parenting, I’ve learned not to shape my children into who I want them to be. I’ve learned to accept their weaknesses and find their strengths. I’ve also learned the importance of being honest and to not let materials things replace love. We parents are here to listen to them, mentally and spiritually, and that’s how our kids know they’re loved.



Asian and Latino Families Speak Out on Barriers to Education Access in New Orleans Public Schools

ESL: Lost in the System The following are excerpts from ESL: Lost in the System, a publication of VAYLA New Orleans’ Raise Your Hand Campaign, which advances educational equity through youth-led action research, grassroots leadership development, and policy-centered youth organizing. YOU2 (Youth Organizing Unity) is an initiative to promote English as a Second Language (ESL) rights across New Orleans. For more information or to get involved call (504) 253-6000 or email

Carlos Fortanel You2 Youth Organizer 9th Grader at an OPSB Direct-Run School As a student that has two Spanish-speaking parents and because I also speak Spanish, the elementary school I went to suggested that I should go to ESL. My parents didn’t know anything about it, so I told them that I was going to be placed in a class to help me improve in school. My parents said it was okay for me to go if it was for learning, and I went with five other students. I don’t remember being tested into ESL, and after graduating from elementary school I wasn’t placed in ESL anymore. ESL felt like a great waste of time. My mom had to always wait on my dad to find out what was going on because she doesn’t speak English. The school only called my parents to report negative things about me; they never praised my efforts or hard work. I excelled in band, and many times I performed but my mother was never called to be informed. All of the notices from school came home in English only. I sometimes felt very frustrated. I am now a freshman in high school and some things are still the same. There’s still no communication from school to home. The only thing that has changed is that now I am very involved in a group to make a change in this system. I hope that YOU2 can bring awareness and that teachers and parents can communicate with each other without the need to involve students. I am going to keep raising the issue until changes are made in every school.

No doubt Vietnamese was my first language, but it’s not my best language. Growing up, I was constantly put in and out of ESL. I used to love it because I got to skip class and go to a room to do absolutely nothing. It didn’t bother me much until I was in middle school and noticed how it was a big waste of time. There was no point being in ESL, so I got out. I don’t remember how, but I did it. They kept telling me I was supposed to be in ESL and kept trying to find ways to get me back in, but my name wasn’t on the roster so there was nothing they could do. As for the other students that tried to get out of ESL, the school made sure to keep them there. Occasionally when the other bilingual students were absent or not there for whatever reason, I would be pulled out at any time - whether it was during class, lunch, or even after school when I was in choir – to help translate between parents and teachers. I didn’t mind at first, actually, I thought I was doing a good deed by helping. That was until I found out it was illegal. As a student my job is to learn, not to be a free translator for the convenience of the school. It didn’t faze me much since I’m already in high school, and what’s been done is already over. What gets me really upset is that I’ve grown up and moved on while other kids are now being put into the position I was in. It’s like they are a part of a cycle of children being used because they don’t know better, and they get replaced when they figure out that it’s wrong. I was asked to join YOU2 after a speech I made on a VAYLA-NO retreat about a friend of mine who had been wronged by the ESL system. Since then I’ve become an active member of YOU2. I really wish that someone would have stood up and fought to fix the flaws of ESL when I was growing up, so I wouldn’t have had to face the issues I did. Now I’ll be the one standing up for the future little kids. They won’t know it but I’ll be their voice. There are also people who fought for things that now I don’t have to worry about, so this could be my way of giving back. We need a legitimate system where kids who need ESL are in ESL with bilingual teachers and there is staff in the office for non-English speaking parents. A system where kids can graduate from ESL when ready; where ESL is something that is successful when it gets kids on their level, not something that holds them back; a system that recognizes students who don’t need to be in ESL and gets them out.

Dung Tran You2 Youth Organizer 11th Grader at a RSD Charter School

Luis Flores You2 Youth Organizer 9th grader at an RSD Charter School

My parents are Vietnamese, so that sort of makes me Vietnamese too, right? But I was born and raised in the United States. If there is anything I’m sure about, it’s that I’m an American. Why is it that a fluent-English speaking American is put in a special class to learn English? Why is it that every year, regardless of my fluency, I am tested? Is it because English is considered my second language?


I’m a student who makes wrong decisions like everybody does. But since my family has problems speaking English, when I got in trouble they didn’t have a translator for my mom and she didn’t know what was happening. Yeah…she didn’t know what was happening so the school gave me a bigger charge. I only had brought a lighter on the bus but they reported that I had brought a gun to school.


After I got in trouble with the school, they sent me to the RSD hearing office. We asked if they had a translator for my mom, and they said no. So during the whole expulsion hearing, my mom just kept asking me what was happening. My family couldn’t defend me, couldn’t say nothing, couldn’t understand nothing. That’s crazy. When I tried to apply for a new school, the school checked my record and asked if I really had a gun. When I told them I had a lighter and not a gun, they didn’t believe me because it was already on my record. Even when I told them they could call the lady at my old school who found the lighter, they didn’t try to contact her to figure out the real story. They ended up just sending me to an alternative school.

She told the teacher, but the only thing the teacher said is that she’ll send letters home to the boys’ parents. I tell her to try her best to bare it and learn until the end of this school year, and then maybe she can transfer. But when they hit her very hard, she cries. She just keeps crying. I want to talk to the principal or someone to make sure that this doesn’t happen anymore. I am very reluctant. I can’t communicate something like this in English. Tina says that only if it gets out of control, then I should come. I’d like for someone to maybe come with me and talk with them about all of this.

Mother of a 10th Grader at a RSD Direct-Run Mother of an 8th Grader at a RSD Charter School High School I lived in Texas for 11 years, and just came over last year. The first thing I needed to do was find a school for my daughter. Most of these schools don’t have anyone who speaks Vietnamese. The times I visited alone, I tried to reply to their questions as best I could. If there is a person who is Vietnamese and can help us, then that’s better. Or if I have a book in Vietnamese about all schools, it would make it easier for me. I worry about finding a compatible school, especially when I don’t know about each school, like the programs it has regarding this and that. Without information, choosing the right school is a matter of luck. I thought to myself: “If we happen to find a school that is compatible, then I’m “okay.” But if it isn’t compatible, then we would just have to endure it for a year and find another school.” Because how am I supposed to know what is what? One school finally accepted my daughter, but the other students pick on her because she is Vietnamese. Particularly the boys, they’re rude. They hit her, but she doesn’t dare to hit back because if she fights back she’s concerned she’ll have problems.

My son was in ESL in 9th grade, but not anymore. When he gets home, he says he’s doing well. He doesn’t say anything about any of his subjects. I know he is having some problems though. I’ve been there for parent-teacher conferences. It’s okay sometimes, because I have an older daughter to help out with translating. But she is constantly studying so I cannot rely on her to come with me. The teachers say they are trying their best to support my son, but I feel that it’s my fault. If the meetings were in Vietnamese, I can understand more. I can figure out what’s going on. I want my son to do better at a different school. I don’t know what to do right now because next year is the last year, and transferring schools is what I have a problem with. I don’t know where to begin. With Minh, I believe “Oh well, he’s almost done with high school.” It’s too late. So I guess my focus is now on my younger daughters.

Hollygrove is a Best Babies Zone! By Remeka Jones, Associate Neighborhoods Editor, NPN


n Tuesday, July 16th the New Orleans Health Department and the Louisiana State University School of Public Health announced the launch of the Best Babies Zone in Hollygrove. The Best Babies Zone is a long-term, multi-sector approach to reducing infant mortality and racial disparities in birth outcomes by mobilizing communities to address the social determinants that impact health. “The Best Babies Zone is a great opportunity to bring existing resources together to create a healthy community for everyone, especially babies,” says Kim Williams a Program Director of Healthy Start New Orleans. The Best Babies Zone initiative is a comprehensive approach to addressing health disparities through economics, education, health, and community. Babies who are born prematurely or with low birth weights are at greater risk of having developmental challenges and long - term health problems. The Hollygrove neighborhood was chosen because of high rates of low birth weight, asthma among young children, and high rates of poverty and crime. The percentage of babies born with a low birth weight in the Hollygrove BBZ is 20.2% compared to 12.5 % for Orleans Parish. The area’s unemployment is higher than that of the City of New Orleans, at 20.1% vs. 7.1%. The project, funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, is a collaborative partnership between the New Orleans Health Department, LSU School of Public Health, Healthy Start New Orleans, Trinity Christian Community Center, and Carrollton-Hollygrove Community Development Corporation.

For more information about the Best Babies Zone, visit


ACCELERATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Link residents to employment

IMPROVE HEALTH Link residents to primary care physicians Increase access to reproductive health resources Improve local nutrition

BUILD COMMUNITY Implement communitydriven action plans

Every baby born in the BBZ weighs at least 5.5 pounds

REDUCE BLIGHT Map blighted properties Empower residents to advocate for blight reduction

IMPROVE EDUCATION Increase access to quality childcare Empower residents to reach their educational goals


Raising a Child in the Big Easy Isn’t Always an Easy Task By Ambata Kazi-Nance


was born and raised in New Orleans. I grew up in the 7th Ward in a red brick house built by my grandfather across the street from a sewage canal and train tracks. One of my fondest childhood memories is of my siblings and me running outside to wave at the Amtrak trains as they rumbled by. Despite an overall positive experience growing up in New Orleans, I always assumed that when I was an adult I would leave the city and start and raise a family someplace else. Dare I say it: I am not a die-hard NOLA fan. I am not “proud” to call it home like the bumper stickers say. It’s just home: majestic trees, beautiful homes, and peaceful parks; and also crime, poverty and poorly performing schools. But after a bit of moving around, here I am. Thirty-three years old, married for ten years and counting, and raising a four-yearold son in Uptown New Orleans. What I love about being a parent in my city is that it is child-friendly. As a full-time parent, my son is my constant companion and there are very few places we’ve been

where I felt he was unwelcome. With many restaurants offering outdoor seating, my husband and I are able to enjoy a good meal without worrying about our son disturbing others. I love that we can hop on the streetcar to take a stroll through Audubon Park or catch story time at the Latter library, or even take it all the way downtown and watch the ships pass along the river. Seeing the way people smile at my son or stop to talk to him, I feel that overall people here love kids. And as a Muslim parent, I appreciate the diversity of lifestyles and personalities in New Orleans that gives us room to practice our beliefs relatively peacefully. My optimism persuades me to see New Orleans as a progressive city. However, the crime in the city disheartens me. Growing up, I watched the slow degradation of my own neighborhood. When I was thirteen, a boy was shot and killed, and his body was dumped in front of our house. When I was sixteen, the apartment complex at the corner of my street became a crack house. And we didn’t live in a “bad” neighborhood. I don’t want my son to have a similar experience. And I want to see our schools improve. My husband and I were fortunate that our son was accepted into a good school, but it’s not in our neighborhood. Every child should be able to go to a school in their neighborhood and get a solid education. Our city cannot improve until our schools do, and that requires participation from the whole community: teachers, students, and parents. There’s a lot to love about New Orleans, but a lot to loath as well. If New Orleans can reach its potential to be a safe, fun city, then it can be a place I can say I am proud to be raising my family.

Our Young Men Need Strong Mentors By Vincent Brown


see a lack of mentorship for our kids today, especially for our young men. I’m particularly looking at the African-American community and at our children in poverty. When I worked on conflict resolution at Priestley High School, there were many Teach For America teachers who were well intentioned but didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. We don’t have bad kids, but some of them have real traumatic issue. Lots of their teachers were able to teach, but not able to connect. I wasn’t a teacher but would try to instill things that were not in the school curriculum. At the same time, the jails are bursting at the seams. Even when driving along the highway, on one side you can see OPP and on the other Xavier University, and you know there are a whole lot more black males in the prison than in the college. In prison everything flip-flops: what’s wrong is right and what’s right is wrong. Once a man gets that mentality, it’s hard for him to live on the outside. A lot of our children have family members who are in the jailhouse, and they’re learning from them, emulating them. It can be hard to tell a kid not to go out hustling when you’re in a ragged truck or have tattered shoes. It’s hard to break the slave mentality that I still see in our community. Now we have all these lions in cages. Our young men want to volunteer their lives to the prison system. Jail is nothing to them. They’re in and out; it’s just part of life. But they lose part of their life. The easy route is the quick hustle. But it is the quick hustle that is killing us. I want to start a program that connects the child with the right mentor. Our young men are often surrounded by college graduates who they


can’t relate to, or guys who got stuck in distorted prison mentalities. I want these kids to learn the value of hard work. These mentors may not have gone to college, but they work hard each day at the construction site, or as electricians, mechanics, maintenance workers. Our education focus is so geared to college that we forget to teach kids a trade. These mentors may not look clean cut, but they want to make a positive change in our community. They can share stories of their own hardships. I have a 9-year-old son – called Little Vince – and I’m expecting a twin boy and girl in early September. I want them to grow up in a village, a positive village. We have great culture, great sound, great reason. The way we love each other down here is different from anywhere else in the world. But there’s a terrible rage in our young people. Our communities are linked. We’re all a family. If we put good into our young people, we will get good out.


PRIDE Leadership Academy: Empowered and Inspired

The Urban League Supports Parents in Civic Engagement and Leadership By: The Urban League of Greater New Orleans


he Urban League of Greater New Orleans’ PRIDE Leadership Academy – designed to foster parent leaders and encourage civic engagement in public education – hosted a workshop series on early childhood education, leadership, and civic engagement. The eight-week series began in March with thirty registered participants recruited from around the New Orleans metropolitan area. Participants had the opportunity to attend the two-hour sessions at Central City Renaissance Alliance within Mahalia Jackson Elementary School or Parkview Fundamental Magnet School. The training consisted of four components: Smart Start: Foundations of Early Childhood Education; Leadership; Civic Engagement, and Mentoring. In the first component, participants learned the five key areas of early childhood development that lead to long-term success for children. In the second component, they obtained skills in strategic planning, creating change, and communication skills to become effective leaders in the community. In the third component, participants learned how public policy in education affects children and civic engagement strategies to influence these policies. The fourth component required participants to identify an education-related concern they would like to address. Participants developed projects addressing their concerns and will be executing them with the assistance of mentors. Facilitators were eager to share information and their expertise. They engaged and motivated participants with their unique teaching styles and provided positive feedback during group activities. Dr. Rashida Govan, currently the Program Manager for the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, conducted the first and second component courses. She introduced parents to early childhood foundations and followed with several leadership courses. Various facilitators covered the third component courses. Ashley Shelton, Louisiana Director of One Voice, and Deirdre Johnson Burel, Executive Director for Orleans Public Education Network, presented “Creating Change through Civic Engagement”. Ted Quant, Director of The Twomey Center for Peace through Justice at Loyola University led the “Parents as Change

Agents” session, teaching participants to think outside the box. Nailah Ricco, community organizer and former Director of Civic Capacity at New Orleans Public Education Network, assisted by Courtney Hardwick, Policy Analyst for the Orleans Public Education Network, instructed “Understanding How Government Works and How to Navigate the System.” In addition, mentors are continuing to guide and encourage participants in moving forward with project development and execution. The mentors are Courtney Hardwick; Nailah Ricco; Peter Davis, former Policy Analyst at Orleans Public Education Network; Lynne Farlough, Parent Family Engagement Facilitator, Trainer, and Advocate with Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center and Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group; and Aesha Rasheed, Executive Director for the New Orleans Parent Organizing Network. Several participants, with the guidance of their PRIDE Leadership Academy mentor, are in the process of writing a “white paper” on the need for certified and qualified special education teachers in New Orleans schools. The paper will include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act definition of “highly qualified teachers”. The group and project leader, Cynthia Parker, plans to detail parents’ experiences in the schools. The paper will also contain numerous recommendations. Upon completion, the group plans to submit the white paper to charter school boards, the Louisiana Senate Education Committee, the Louisiana BESE Board and Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education. They will also develop and disseminate a brochure to parents and other groups to bring awareness to this highly charged topic. Participants in the Academy who worked on building relationships between parents, teachers, and school administrators developed a flyer containing information and tips on fostering healthy relationships for the benefit of the students. They are prepared to canvass the Central City neighborhood in New Orleans to distribute the flyers and engage members of the community. In the fall, they will be reaching out to teachers and administrators at several of the schools.

Other PRIDE Leadership Academy projects in development by participants include youth mentoring, bullying awareness, early childhood education, a bilingual program, and additional security in schools.



PRIDE Leadership Academy: Empowered and Inspired

A Mother Brings New Reading Program to Her Daughter’s School


By The Urban League of Greater New Orleans rystal Glasper, who has a 5-year-old daughter that will be attending Bricolage Academy of New Orleans, a new school for kindergarteners opening in the fall of 2013, wants to incorporate educational programs to reinforce learning through the arts into primary education schools. Having participated in the PRIDE Leadership Academy, Krystal absorbed the early childhood information presented, and through the training, she acquired the necessary tools to develop her project and move forward with her ideas. With her mentors’ assistance, she extensively researched several reading programs and formulated a plan. Krystal opted for the Scientific Learning Reading Assistant Program. Reading Assistant provides individualized coaching to students every time they use the program’s software. Students preview and read silently, listen to a model reading and answer reading

questions. The students also read aloud and take quizzes. The program generates teacher reports, which helps them monitor students’ progress, customize instruction and motivate students. Krystal compiled the necessary information and proposed the Reading Assistant Program to parents and school officials at Bricolage Academy. Much to her delight, she received positive feedback from the parents, and Bricolage leaders have expressed an interest in funding the program for the fall. With additional support from the Urban League of Greater New Orleans to assist with the purchase of the software, the program will benefit seventy-five students. Krystal also wants to create a monthly publication, made available at various agencies, with information pertinent to parents of young children. She intends on pursuing partnerships with a local organization and newspaper to assist her in her efforts.

Parent Leadership Training Institute Graduates are Ready to Advocate By Julia Ramsey, Communications Coordinator, OPEN


he Parent Leadership Training Institute of New Orleans (PLTI-NOLA) recently celebrated the graduation of its inaugural class at the New Orleans City Hall Council Chambers. This group of 18 New Orleans parents went through a rigorous 20-week training program, sponsored by Orleans Public Education Network, designed to enhance their civic knowledge, leadership skills, and advocacy capability. The end goal of the program is to transform parents and citizens into effective advocates for their children, capable of creating substantive change in their local schools, communities, and governments. “This program has encouraged me more than anything because it has given me hope for a hopeless situation,” said Daphne Cross, PLTI class of 2013. “They have taught me how to use my voice on the local, state, and federal level.” In addition to leadership

training, participants also went through real-life exercises on topics such as media relations, racial tension, political campaigning and more. One exceptional facet of the PLTI experience is the emphasis on the difference that one parent can make. Each participant is required to create a project that makes substantial change in their local community and stick with it after the program is completed. “I plan to approach local elected officials about youth-led urban agriculture on the Westbank,” said PLTI graduate Amelia Pellegrin. The facilitators and fellow graduates plan to stay involved with each other to keep the momentum going. Ms. Cross said, “PLTI training gave me unlimited resources and great staff members that I can still contact when I need help or guidance through my journey.” Other projects include an online homeschooling program; facilitation continued on page 19



for incarcerated fathers to reconcile with their children; mentorship programs for underprivileged teenage girls, and more. The graduation ceremony took place on July 1, 2013, at the City Hall Council Chambers on Perdido Street. Among the distinguished guests were State Representative Wesley Bishop, The Declaration Initiative’s Linetta Gilbert, and PLTI National Founder and CEO Elaine Zimmerman. The keynote speech was delivered by the Honorable Councilmember LaToya Cantrell of District B.

“Since participating in PLTI, I am more committed to being the voice of my community and not just the people I encounter,” said Mischell Davis, class of 2013. “I know that my civic duty as a parent leader is to empower, advocate, and effect change for the people and to build a working relationship between families and government… I am very vocal on many issues but had never attended a school board or council meeting. Thanks to PLTI, I know how to effectively deliver a public statement with confidence and success.”

The current PLTI roster is currently recruiting parents from across the New Orleans area. The program runs from October 2013 through April 2014, and meals and child care are provided. The classes are provided free of charge. To learn more and to submit an application, visit, or contact OPEN Communications Coordinator Julia Ramsey at or 504.821.4004 extension 500.

PRIDE Leadership Academy: Empowered and Inspired

A Whole Family Gets Advocacy Training and Takes on an Anti-Bullying Mission

By: The Urban League of Greater New Orleans

Pictured left to right: Justina Williams, Tanya Thomas, Donna Powell, Tanisca Austin, Dwayne Dantzler Jr., Loretta Powell, Wilnika Powell, and Diamond Powell.


ustina Williams, a mother of 5 and a grandmother of 6, participated in the PRIDE Leadership Academy, an eight-week workshop series hosted by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. The series is designed to educate parents in early childhood development, foster parent leaders, and encourage civic engagement in public education. Justina, who has spent the last fifteen years promoting parental involvement, and is currently an actively involved grandparent at the school her grandchildren attend, signed up to participate in the workshops because of the educational changes brought on by Hurricane Katrina. She believes there is a lack of parental involvement. She also believes that the relationship between parents and school officials is no longer what it used to be. After attending the first workshop, Justina encouraged her daughter Tanya Thomas and her sister Loretta Powell to register for the courses. Loretta decided to invite her son Diamond and his wife Wilnika. She also brought her daughter Donna, her niece Tanisca Austin, and Tanisca’s boyfriend, Dwayne Dantzler, Jr., to the workshops. The entire family completed the workshop series. Justina and Loretta are extremely proud of their family’s accomplishment and their desire to learn. “Families do make a difference, they really do!” said Justina.

The family enhanced their knowledge in early childhood development, honed leadership skills and obtained tools they can use to ensure all of the children receive a quality, equitable education. For Diamond and Wilnika, whose daughters are 7 months and 18 months old, enhancing their parenting skills and knowing what to look for as the children develop, gives them an edge in providing guidance and support to ensure a bright and successful future for their girls. Justina credits having participated in the PRIDE Leadership Academy for her empowerment and renewed inspiration. “I felt discouraged in my efforts to work with school officials, and felt thrown away. Now, I feel empowered and inspired to continue to work on behalf of all the children, and doing my part in improving parental involvement.” She said because of what she learned, she was able to persuade the principal at her grandchildren’s school to agree to meet to discuss ideas for an anti-bullying campaign event. Participants of the PRIDE Leadership Academy who completed the workshop series identified an education-related concern that they would like to address. Justina’s family is working as part of a group along with other participants and their mentor on the logistics for an event. The group’s intention is to bring awareness to bullying and the negative impact it has on children and their families, through increased parental involvement. They are committed in their efforts and expect positive results.

“Families do make a difference, they really do!” said Justina.




New Orleans Family Resources

Information is Power. And here are some guides, resources, and organizations that can help connect you with the information you need for your family. This list is just the beginning. We want advice from the experts: parents.

Tell us what resources your family uses and we’ll include the information in our monthly ‘Parent Tidbits’ e-newsletter. To share information or join the mailing list, contact Julia at 504-940-2270 or

For Health and Wellness The Common Ground Health Clinic puts out these guides of health services in the city: Community Resource Guide (Greater New Orleans) ● Community Resource Guide in Spanish/ Guia de Recursos Comunitarios de New Orleans en Espanol “2013 Update Coming Soon!” ● Women’s Health Resource Guide “2013 Update Coming Soon!” ● Mental Health Resource Pamphlet “2013 Update Coming Soon!” PDF versions can be found at, and print versions are available at the clinic office: 1400 Teche St. (corner of Socrates), Algiers, New Orleans, LA 70114 ●

For the New Baby: Prenatal and Neonatal Care For information on planning to pregnancy call the “Map Your Life” Hotline 1-800-251-2229 (BABY)

For Fathers New Orleans Fatherhood Consortium: a collaborative of organizations and individuals dedicated to developing comprehensive social supports, programs, public awareness and policies that will assist fathers in reaching their fullest potential. Contact: Gregory Rattler, Director ● ● 504-864-7042 ●

For Kids in School and Beyond New Orleans Parents’ Guide: provides quality and transparent information about schools with the New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools and the NOLA Parents Guide smart phone app. It works with community partners to provide workshops and information sharing sessions to help parents navigate school options and learn from each other about how to advocate for quality public schools. Download the guide at or look for the print version at schools, community centers, and libraries. Connect2Educate Notebook: A Guide to Community Resources for Families and Schools by the New Orleans Kids Partnership is a comprehensive handbook of organizations, both education-related and community based. It includes camps, arts, family activities, mentoring and tutoring, academic supports, and more. Find it at Urban League Parent Information Center: PIC provides a wide variety of information and services for parents including a school expo, The New Orleans Guide to High Schools, and the Parent Leadership Academy. Learn more at The Parent-Family Resource Centers are partnerships of the Recovery School District and The Urban League’s Parent Information Center. Each center provides the following services: student enrollment information, transcript and records requests, conflict resolution, up-to-date school information, parenting skills literature, community resource literature. They are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the following locations: Sarah T. Reed High School, 5316 Michoud Blvd. L.B. Landry/O. Perry Walker High School, 1200 L.B. Landry Ave. ● Walter L. Cohen High School, 3520 Dryades St. ● George W. Carver Elementary School, 3059 Higgins Blvd. ● ●

For more information call 1-877-343-4773. Total Community Action, Inc. is a community service organization that provides aid to lowincome residents of New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana with programs that include Head Start and Early Head Start. Learn more at

The Trumpet Parents First Issue  

August 2013

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