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I didn’t come to New Orleans to change the world, I came to change my world

Hurricane Katrina unfolded via radio and television for me on my younger brother’s 10th birthday.  While home from college, I dropped him off at school with cupcakes for his class and a close listen to what was happening on the Gulf Coast via The Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Listeners from New Orleans and surrounding areas were calling in to share if they “would ride it out” or not.  Little did they know…

I didn’t come to New Orleans to change the world, but I did come to change my world.  Along the way, I had many family members, advisors and friends supported me in being a better woman, and my goal in New Orleans is to be that guide to my students that I lead each day.

Being mindful of the history of New Orleans, since its beginning and especially in the past ten years, I knew that I had been called to lead an extraordinary group of young people.  I thought that those people I heard on Tom Joyner and saw on TV and in magazines could have been their family.  One of my students shared with me pictures of when she met President George W. Bush and the First Lady in the White House because of being one of the last located children of Hurricane Katrina.  She didn’t quite understand what that meant as a 6th grader, as she was about 4 when the meeting took place. Elated, I explained, “You are destined for greatness!!! It’s written in these pictures.  If you have already met the president, NOTHING is impossible for you!”.  She laughed, yet I was serious.

The New Orleans education overhaul that occurred after the storm is debatable on many fronts.  But most importantly, whether it is the contributing factor to student’s current success is not important.  What I know is that the students of New Orleans are currently exposed to technology, innovation and schools equipped with learning and teaching.  As a transplant and product of an alternative certification program my hope is that other educators here in the city realize the uniqueness of our students here.  Teaching is not a profession where you can simply get your experience in a couple of year…And teaching in New Orleans has to be a commitment.  I have seen dozens of colleague’s cycle in and out of New Orleans.  Each time I would see one go with only a couple of years down here, I would be disappointed that many were not up to the true challenge, but then I would be pleased that the students here would have a solid opportunity to work with someone who truly believed in their growth and future long term.  As we continue to grow as educators of New Orleanians, we have to maintain the momentum socially and academically for students.  If we don’t…who will?  We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our city.

New Orleanians are regal people, rich with hope and filled with resilience.  Blacks in New Orleans have been living in established communities here longer than anywhere else in the country.  The will to survive and be upstanding and accomplished is nothing new.   And even though my current students may not have went through some of the same experiences as residents in the past, it’s in their pedigree to be hard working and brilliant beyond measure.  I believe that.  And I believe they can do whatever…ANYTHING that they decide on, using their innate New Orleanian abilities.

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