Center of Education and Youth Development
In the Center of Education and Youth Development, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans has targeted its direct service and advocacy efforts toward empowering parents, recognizing and promoting educational excellence, and closing the achievement gap with direct service in early learning and extended learning (afterschool and summer programs). The future of New Orleans’ economic viability is inextricably linked to education. Utilizing research-based practices, the Center focuses its work on the most pressing academic needs of the community to increase availability of academic support closing the education gap from struggling youth.
The ULGNO EHS program evolved from Urban League’s long history of providing services to infants and toddlers through the Urban League Parent Child Center, which provided support to families for over 35 years. Since 1998, the program continues to promote healthy prenatal outcomes for expecting mothers, enhance healthy family functioning, and help children develop pre-K readiness. ULGNO EHS is a federally funded community-based program for low-income families that helps children develop physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially. It provides parent education and services such as home visits, comprehensive health services, nutrition, parent trainings, and peer support groups for parents. We also offer family literacy programs, such as PrimeTime Family Reading and the Male Readers Initiative, as well as partner with Catholic Charities’ Grandparents Program to provide positive intergenerational experiences. Our program is currently serving 30 children between the ages of 0 – 5 years, with plans to expand this spring to 53 children at our new location.
As New Orleans rebuilds an excellent public school system using a market-model, the success of choice at eradicating failing schools will be directly tied to how informed parents are about how such changes impact the key educational outcome – student achievement. Many members of the public still lack an understanding of the complexities created by the changes. The Parent Information Center empowers parents to be successful agents and advocates for excellent public schools by providing substantive information to the most vulnerable of our community. ULPIC reaches parents through workshops, leadership and capacity building trainings, and at school and community events created to increase parents’ access to school enrollment and registration information.
Many low-income and minority families lack access to critical information to inform the substance of a school choice decision (i.e. how relevant is class size, how should teacher quality be measured, how has a school performed compared to the district or to peer schools with similar demographics). The PIC provides parental advocacy, parental empowerment workshops and tools, and direct service using multiple interfaces (in-person, online, teleconference, social media, etc) to relay requisite information that will enable parents to make informed decisions. In addition, ULPIC annually hosts Schools Expo and the High School Fair, providing over 3,500 attendees with the opportunity to directly access to over 100 schools and 100 community-based organizations on-site. Publications such as the New Orleans Guide to High Schools, Hand In Hand Guide to Title I Parent Engagement Requirements, and the Summer and Holiday Resource Guides also provide parents with tools to make informed decisions about their child’s academic future while supporting appropriate youth development and family engagement.
Urban League College Track was created to address the lack of quality after school programs in the Greater New Orleans area. ULCT is an after-school college preparatory program designed to increase high school graduation, college eligibility and enrollment, and college completion rates among low-income students in New Orleans. The program serves 200 students, grades 9 – 12, and is structured to close the achievement gap among students from under-resourced communities.
The overarching goal is that all ULCT students graduate from high school eligible to attend and prepared to succeed in the college of their choice. Through our direct service approach and core service areas, ULCT has created a culture of success and ensures each student college readiness support that many do not have at home or school. ULCT provides academic support and advising, leadership development, guidance through the college application process, ACT preparation, life skills training, and the opportunity to constructively engage with local communities as active and informed citizens. Our success underscores the program model, with 100% of our seniors being accepted to 4-year colleges.
Moreover, we continue to support each Urban League College Track student once they are in college to ensure that they are academically and financially able to complete their degree. As a result, ULCT students are defying the odds and becoming a legacy to inspire and empower future generations of college bound students.
Center of Community and Economic Development
The Center of Community and Economic Development leads work to decrease the disparity between skill set and workforce, as well as stimulate and assist small business development. It houses both the Women’s Business Resource Center & Entrepreneurship Center and the Office of Workforce Development, in addition to economic inclusion initiatives. These programs represent the agency’s efforts to develop business capacity, prepare individuals for careers, and connect them to gainful employment.
The mission of the Office of Workforce Development is to build core competencies that produce a common set of knowledge and skills for career success and provide a foundation for job seekers to access a full range of occupations with livable wages. The Office of Workforce Development works with both job seekers and job owners to provide customized empowerment training designed to strengthen recruitment efforts, fill vacant positions, and increase employee morale and productivity. The program also offers employers professional services such as administration of pre-employment screenings and employee assessments including behavior, skills, capacity and values assessments.
Through our Job Assistance Program, our case management team provides support to youth and adults of varying skill and ability levels by connecting or reconnecting job seekers to the workforce. Individuals who have had prior criminal convictions also receive GED and/or placement services through this program. Finally, OWD offers financial literacy training to all of its clients to ensure proper fiscal management once employment is secured.
With funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration and National Urban League/Goldman Sachs, the WBRC/EC is one of ten entrepreneurship centers operating within the Urban League movement. The Center works in eight parishes and supports small and minority business sector growth at every stage of development. Our clients include both existing and aspiring business owners interested in concept/business development, growth, marketing, IT, fiscal management services, and access to capital.
In addition to our one-on-one counseling sessions, our signature events include Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, the Women I’mpowered Series, and the Women In Business Challenge hosted as part of Idea Village’s Entrepreneur Week. We are also a partner to Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Initiative. The WBRC/EC serves over 1,000 small business owners annually.
In order to build a thriving and equitable post-Katrina economy, it is vital that minority and local firms are given the opportunity to participate in the recovery projects in New Orleans. Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) are often excluded from bidding and securing contracts in New Orleans due to insufficient bonding capacity and over-arching access to viable jobs. Consequently, the Urban League has developed a program that both advocates for minority inclusion and monitors the use of minority and local firms in public projects. Our current contract includes the assessment of the level of economic inclusion on the public school rebuilding projects aligned with FEMA’s $2.9B facilities award.
This Center houses our overarching policy work and supports all issues relative to race, criminal justice, educational and economic equity barriers within the communities we serve. Our affiliate policy and advocacy work is directly aligned with the programs of our Centers of Excellence. The Center also publishes the State of Black New Orleans, a research publication that examines issues of education, health, economics and social justice in the region, and continues to host election cycle community forums for civic engagement and participation.