The New Orleans Kids Partnership was established in October 2006 in response to hurricane Katrina (Nielson, Beth, email interview by Alexandra Baum, November 1, 2012). The organization is a collaboration of 40 nonprofits working toward the same goal of improving and expanding services for children who are underserved in the New Orleans community. NOKP membership is completely voluntary and employees of member organizations donate all their time free of charge. The organization focuses on children and youth ages 0-21 as well as parents, teachers and other leaders of children (“New Orleans Kids Partnership,” New Orleans Kids Partnership, nokp.org (accessed October 30, 2012)). The voluntary collaboration was created to insure communication between various children supporting volunteer groups to insure their impact was as large as possible.
The NOKP is a partner of the America’s Promise Alliance, a national network of educational partnerships founded in 1997. The NOKP is comprised of several working groups as well as a council. The working groups meet to complete tasks necessary for achieving their ultimate goals. The council is comprised of all the member agencies that are part of NOKP (New Orleans Kids Partnership). Its dedicated members and allies make decisions in support of engaging and empowering children and youth in the New Orleans area. Together, these groups work to develop, share, coordinate and leverage resources so that children can reach their full potential.
In 2007, the first Katrina’s Kids programs, Play Power and City Year, were developed at Algiers Charter School through the NOKP umbrella of six organizations called the “Katrina Kids Project”. As this proved successful in improving attendance and performance, the NOKP began offering this coordinated and integrated full-service community school programs throughout carefully selected sites in the Orleans Parish. In 2008, STAIR and HandsOn programs were added to the NOKP programs and this same year, seven more partners were added to the NOKP collaboration. In this second year, NOKP site based work launched in two more elementary schools focused on improving family literacy. By 2009, even more new member organizations joined the NOKP umbrella and the organization created the NOKP Working Groups comprised of individuals employed at member organizations that sponsor events and provide programs. In 2012, the NOKP co-sponsored the Solutions Summit Conference as well as the Connect2Educate School Expo and Global service Day. At this point in NOKP’s history, a total of 5,000 children and youth were impacted by their organization and sponsored a total of 2,500 hours of community school activities. Since then, the site-based work at the New Orleans schools has continued to grow and add new programs (Nielson).
Mission and Vision
According to the New Orleans Kids Partnership’s website, their mission statement reads, “Working together, we develop, share, coordinate and leverage resources so that all children and youth reach their optimal potential.” The NOKP believes that a child’s optimal potential is reached when he or she receives early childhood development and education, followed by school-aged development, education and enrichment. At this point children need a connection to young adults to help them progress and provide support to increase graduation rates and literacy. The NOKP works under America’s Promise Alliance 5 Promises for Children (Nielson). The framework consists of caring adults, effective education, healthy start, safe places, and opportunities to help others. The NOKP’s has a vision for New Orleans in year 2028. This vision, found on the organization’s website, is that in the future children will be valued more than anything else in the greater New Orleans area.
Activities and Programs
The New Orleans Kid’s Partnership is collaboration of resources provided by various organizations that serve New Orleans youth, making it easy to find an organization that fits ones own particular schedule. The NOKP has an organizational culture that values ongoing collaborative reflection and improvement in the areas of partnership cohesion and cooperation, integration with schools, increased community partnerships, providing support to families to meet basic needs, improve student attendance and behavior, increase parents participation in children’s education, enhance mental health services, along with advocacy and awareness.
The NOKP provides sitebased work to New Orleans Youth by getting involved with schools in the community. They provide programs to improve classroom attendance, behavior, course performance, create support systems, and prepare youth for college. They provide a variety of mentoring programs to give kid’s someone to look up to that has been trained on how to properly mentor and work with young people to achieve optimal results (Stelly, Kat, “Mentors promote efforts to help youth – Agency brings groups together”, The Times Picayune, February3, 2011). In doing so, the NOKP makes the youth engagement process as safe and organized of a process as it can be (Perry, Andre, “The Son Who Got Away”, WNNO: The University of New Orleans, October 12, 2012). One program called Mentorfest is an event to recruit and celebrate mentors and tutors.
The NOKP also provides community service opportunities, camps, mental health services, career exploration, play programs, and arts programs (New Orleans Kids Partnership).The NOKP also holds free forums to launch citywide efforts in aligning the community in support of at risk children. The forums feature presentations in promoting career readiness and academic performance as well as experts in urban planning, research, and evaluation for the organization’s school model (Stroup, Sheila, “‘It changed my life’ – Cafe Hope youth director reaches out to at-risk kids”, The Times Picayune, May 13, 2012).
Since Katrina, the New Orleans Kids partnership has improved the lives of 28,000 children from low-income households in the greater New Orleans area. From 2008-09, the New Orleans Kids Partnership assisted more than 20,000 school-aged youth from 72 schools throughout the area (New Orleans Kids Partnership). According to Stewart Young, youth services director at New Orleans Kid’s Partnership member Café Hope, the umbrella organization is collaborative rather than competitive. Each organization is trying to do the same thing, give young people support and encouragement. These member organizations use the NOKP as a way to discuss how to promote their common goals and support each other in the process. Participants in the various membership programs have stated that without the support they’ve received from their mentor, they wouldn’t have graduated high school or even thought about going to college and making a life for themselves (Stelly). The partnership has also become part of the Grad Nation Communities, a collaboration of groups working to increase graduation rates across the country. By addressing and supporting the needs of the vulnerable an disadvantaged youth of New Orleans, the partnership is supporting the generation that will rise to the task of bringing New Orleans back to full recovery.
1. New Orleans Outreach (www.nooutreach.org)
2. CASA New Orleans (www.casaneworleans.org)
3. The ReThinkers (www.therethinkers.com)