For some students in New Orleans, going on to college is a given. Their families offer ample support, and they receive sound guidance from trained professionals in their schools.
Others, however, have never left the city and don’t have anyone in their family who has gone to college.
A local organization is working to change the outcomes for those less supported students by taking them to college. Literally.
“This year we’re taking 450-500 kids to five different cities throughout the United States to visit colleges,” said ReNEW Schools board member Liza Sherman. “We want to get them on a college campus so that basically they can get a feel for it.”
Students on these chaperoned summer college visits engage in specific, unique opportunities and experiences, from admission to the MoMA, to a college t-shirt, to a lunch in a dining hall.
When “Brittany” went with her ReNEW peers on a trip to visit colleges in Texas, she learned that despite having two kids, she could still continue her education as most colleges provide dorms for students with children. Brittany is now proud to be a student at the University of Texas-Arlington.
“I never thought about going to college because they are far away and I wouldn’t have a place to live,” said 17-year-old Barnyka, another veteran of a ReNEW college visit. “Now I know colleges help with a place to live and you can meet lots of different types of people.” Barnyka now says she wants to study in either Florida or New York.
When ReNEW isn’t bringing students to college campuses, they are working to improve local schools. The organization operates five schools serving over 2300 k-12 students throughout the Uptown and Irish Channel area.
Of those five, two are Irish Channel Alternative high schools that serve very at-risk youth, those who have dropped out or been through the justice system, or any other problems that have severely impacted their prospects for the future.
“These alternative high schools offer alternative scheduling, they offer childcare, they pretty much do every thing they can to help these kids get their lives back on track,” said Sherman.
“The whole mission of ReNEW,” she added, “revolves around working with the schools with the most obstacles, the schools that have the most opportunity to improve.”
The results are evident. Over the past few years, ReNEW has taken over the former Laurel and Live Oak Elementary Schools and increased their School Performance Scores by 23 and 21 points respectively.
In the spring of 2010, over 80% of students at Laurel Elementary were not on track to go to college; students were over-age, under-credited, and uninspired. ReNEW chartered the school that fall, and now over 53% of their students are on track for college (more than doubling the previous percentage).
Join ReNEW Thursday night for their Future Takes Flight, Cocktails for a Cause fundraising event, from 6:30 to 9:30 at 3128 Constance Street, featuring small plates from Serendipity, Mondo, Shake Sugary Bakery, Dijon, One, Whole Foods and others plus libations from Yellow Tail and Luksusowa Vodka.
For more info and to purchase tickets, please visit www.renschools.org/ftf or the event Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/197493563715510/?fref=ts.