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Service, Solidarity, and Solutions

For decades, our education system failed to meet its promise to all children. Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) children and children growing up in low-income communities across America are often denied an excellent education—and with it the opportunity for economic mobility and the chance to thrive. 

This is even more true in Louisiana, where the long-standing effects of slavery, racism, poverty, and systemic injustice has been dominant for over three centuries. 

The need for an equitable and excellent education system was so great in our state that it was chosen as one of the five original charter regions when Teach For America began in 1990. We now have two regional offices in Louisiana - TFA South Louisiana and TFA Greater New Orleans. Both regions have been working shoulder to shoulder with students, educators, community members, and local leaders for the past three decades. 

To date, more than 4,500 corps members have come to Louisiana to serve in open-enrollment public schools across the state. Many have stayed and continue to work at every level of education, from schools across the state to local school districts to the Louisiana Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Many other Teach For America alumni have answered the call for leadership in our communities and have chosen to make Louisiana “home.” 

To date, there are 1,400 alumni living across the state, with almost 1,100 in the Greater New Orleans area and 300 in the parishes surrounding Greater Baton Rouge and more across the state. They join the additional 175 corps members teaching in the eight parishes that the Greater New Orleans and South Louisiana regions serve.

“Since 1990, Teach For America has served our schools and students, worked in solidarity with our community partners, and created innovative solutions to some of the most challenging problems facing any education system in the country.”

After 30 years of impact, so much has changed for our state - but there is still work to do to create the education opportunities our students need to succeed. We know we can get there because our children have the potential for excellence and our leaders are dedicated to equity. As we reflect on our 30th anniversary of impact and transformation, their voices tell our story.

We asked 30 members of our communities - students, partners, corps members, alumni, and supporters - to contribute to our story in our 30x30 Transformation Series below. They answered the call with honesty, humility, hope, and pride. 

Join us in celebrating their stories, the stories of our students and communities, and the stories of Teach For America.

The 30x30 Transformation Series

This series is made possible through support from our partners at Entergy. After 20 years of partnership and $5,000,000 in investment, Entergy has been a steadfast supporter of Teach For America’s impact in Louisiana. 

Please check back each month through June 2021 for additional stories!

Joy Okoro: Executive Director, Teach For America Greater New Orleans

The 2021 TFA Greater New Orleans State of the Union Address

Service: Transformational Leaders

Wendy Kopp: Founder, Teach For America; Co-Founder Teach For All

Wendy Kopp: Founder, Teach For America; Co-Founder Teach For All

The Transformation Podcast: An Interview with Wendy Kopp

Education as a Family Value: Teaching Across Generations - Lorraine Fedison-Winder (Greater New Orleans ’13) and Christian Fedison (Chicago-NWI ’21)

My Teacher, My Advocate: When Teaching Extends Beyond the Classroom – Emily Klein Morris (Greater New Orleans ’99) and Laquisha Carr

The Legacy of a Teacher: The Pathway from Teacher to Leader – Robert Hill and Dr. Jahquille Ross (Greater New Orleans ’14)

A Tale of Two Corps Members: How a Student Became a Teacher – Alexandra Clarke Walsh (Greater New Orleans ’10) and Erika Brown (Greater New Orleans ’17)

Solidarity: Centering Community in Leadership

  • Melanie Askew (Memphis ‘12): Founder and Head of School at Élan Academy Charter School 
  • Dina Hasiotis (Greater New Orleans ‘02): Chief School Support & Improvement Officer at NOLA Public Schools
  • Jacob Landry (Hawaii ‘06): Founder and President of Urban South Brewery
  • Patty Riddlebarger: Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility for Entergy Corp.
  • Moderated by Alison Mehr (Greater New Orleans ‘98): Managing Director of External Affairs, Teach For America Greater New Orleans

Innovating for Equity

How local TFA alumni leaders and partners used their leadership to advocate for their community during COVID-19.

Five Questions With… 

Teach For America leaders in Louisiana have invested in building relationships within our network and community for decades. Through this work, they have created steadfast and dedicated relationships with students, families, community leaders, and other TFA alumni. Leadership pathways can take many forms in the education landscape, both inside and outside of the classroom or school building. The common element for our leadership is centering community in everything we do.

Below, we have documented the unique leadership experiences of five Louisiana alumni leaders by asking them five questions about their leadership journeys. Each leader has led in a different way and had very different experiences – but all of them have the shared experience of working in collaboration with others to create the strongest outcomes for their students

Eileen Bunton (South Louisiana ’97)

As she begins her 25th year in education, alumna Eileen Bunton reflects on what's she's learned about building a school community based on trust, mutual support, and authentic relationships. 

 

Scarlet Cornelius Greater New Orleans ’04)

Scarlet Cornelius has continued to support her students beyond the classroom, creating an extended family in the process.

Bernie January, Jr. (South Louisiana ’05)

How 2005 South Louisiana alum Bernie January, Jr. used his passion for educational equity and art to create career opportunities for creative youth in New Orleans.

Ronicka Briscoe (Greater New Orleans ’06)

When New Orleans native Ronicka Briscoe joined the Greater New Orleans corps in 2006, she began a 15-year journey that taught her the importance of centering community in every aspect of her leadership. 

Vasy McCoy (Greater New Orleans ’07)

In 2007, Vasy McCoy left his architecture career and joined the Greater New Orleans corps, starting a journey of lifelong learning that followed him from the classroom to school leadership.

 

Solutions: Leading into the Future

Rhonda Dale (Rio Grande Valley ’99): Founding Executive Director of Next Level NOLA

"Through my collaboration with Kaylee and other TFA alumni, I’ve been reminded of how similar we are despite age differences and of how important it is to have fresh eyes for problem-solving. Kaylee has a skill for asking the right questions which helps make me and everyone else on our team stronger."

Kaylee Mulgrew (Greater New Orleans ’18): Success Coach at Next Level NOLA

"Regardless of corps year and region, TFA alumni foundationally care about educational inequity. Rhonda started Next Level NOLA to fill a need in our community and bridge an access gap. TFA alumni are also constantly seeking growth, and Rhonda models this by asking for feedback and genuinely showing up as her authentic self daily."

Read about Rhonda and Kaylee’s work with Next Level NOLA, a college bridge and career program for New Orleans public high school students, in the New Schools for New Orleans Innovators Series.

Claire Heckerman (South Louisiana ‘11): Founder and School Leader at Laureate Academy Charter School

Claire Heckerman