In its third year of operation, the Tulane University YIP program served 102 at-risk boys – 25 preparing for 6th grade, 31 preparing for 7th grade, and 46 preparing for 8th grade. All but one of these participants described themselves as African-American or of mixed race. The program had a large number of returning students (41 boys) and was able to use these “veterans” as leaders in showing the “rookies” how the camp works.
Having now served nearly 400 boys in New Orleans, YIP is still only beginning to address the need in an area that seems to experience continued challenges. The school system in Louisiana was split following Hurricane Katrina, with a state-based takeover of failing schools. Over 100 low-performing New Orleans schools were placed into the state-run Recovery School District (RSD). Based on a 2008 State of Public Education Study conducted by the University of Tulane, the performance scores (see chart) of schools in the Orleans Parish School Board District nearly doubled those of the Recovery School District. All participants who attended the Youth Impact Program attend a school within the Recovery School District (RSD).
In addition, the community of New Orleans and its youth must now contend with the impact of the recent oil spill disaster. The impact of this spill has extended far beyond the fishing and tourism industries and is having a ripple effect across the regional economy, adding further stressors and challenges to the youth already living in poverty and structurally devastated surroundings.
Highlights of this year’s program included a visit to the 2010 Super Bowl Champions New Orleans Saints training facility, made possible by owner Rita Benson LeBlanc and Saints staff. It was a thrill of a lifetime for these young men, where they met with Jermon Bushrod and Carl Nicks, who were very gracious and inspired the boys.