Over spring break, 11 Tufts students traveled to New Orleans to work and learn at Langston Hughes Academy (LHA), a K-8 charter school in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. Supported by Tisch College and the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development in the School of Arts and Sciences, the trip continued a partnership that started in 2006, when a group of Tufts students traveled to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Over the course of seven days, the students provided needed services in partnership with the teachers and students at Langston Hughes Academy and Wilcox Academy their partner childcare center. They explored a new city, met with alumni and learned firsthand how to enter a new community and engage as responsible citizens.

“We made great connections with alumni and community members,” said Lindsey Kellogg, A15, who participated in this year’s trip. “By the end of the trip it was truly incredible how much we had all seen, experienced, and grown as a result.”

Led by Tisch College student program coordinator Rachel Szyman and Calvin Gidney, associate professor of child development, the trip put a strong emphasis on connecting students to the community.

“I was in awe of the many supportive, loving people currently working towards the common goal of helping children in a post-Hurricane Katrina environment,” said trip participant Julianna Ko, A15. “I’m am so thankful to our hosts and partners for introducing us to inspirational non-profit organizations and providing the opportunities for us to grow as students, volunteers, and human beings.”

Trip host, Lisa  Schlakman, AG07, added that the Tufts students bring great value to a city still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina.

“Hosting this trip is one of my favorite weeks of the year,” Schlakman, a former Eliot-Pearson student said. “Not only do I get to reconnect with Tufts, but each year, I meet bright, energetic young people and get to introduce them to the city I love.  It these tough times, it always renews my hope in the future!”

 Community partners in New Orleans also enjoyed the energy Tufts students brought with them.

“I love and appreciate the energy and enthusiasm of the Tufts folks,” said Nancy Freeman, executive director for The Institute for Mental Hygiene. “The enthusiasm extends to faculty and staff then gets multiplied in the students. It’s infectious, a real shot in the arm for those of us on the ground here.”

During this year’s service trip, the students also met with area Tufts alumni and partners from numerous community organizations as Tisch College prepared to launch a new summer component to the partnership.

“It was a great opportunity to bring together Tufts students, alumni and our New Orleans community partners,” Szyman said. “We all have so much to learn and gain from one another. Its exciting to be expanding our New Orleans partnerships an deepening our connections in this city.”

Building off the existing Tisch College Active Citizenship Summer (ACS) program, the New Orleans initiative will bring 4-10 Tufts students in the city in its inaugural year.

“Throughout the trip, I improved my communication skills and established my professional goals,” said Renee Lamoreau, A15, who is pursuing an ACS fellowship in New Orleans this summer. “I began to recognize my leadership capabilities and envision my future career path. This summer, I hope to utilize new these skills to benefit a New Orleans child advocacy organization.”

To date through ACS, Tisch College has supported over 500 summer fellowships and developed strong working relationships with placement sites in Washington, D.C. and Somerville, MA. In addition to launching the New Orleans program, Tisch College is launching a New York based version this summer as well as maintaining existing programs in Somerville, D.C. and internationally.

Originally published April 2012