Inside New Orleans Schools, Part 1

I have returned from my recent trip to New Orleans with a lot on my mind and the start of a new project. I can not recall a time in recent memory being as inspired, moved and touched by the teachers and coaches I have spent the past two weeks with. Their never ending generosity, love and commitment to positive changes in their kids lives has had a profound effect on me and knowing that there are people like this out there in the world gives me confidence that there is hope for the future. The challenges and uphill battle that both teachers and students alike face would be daunting to most and leave many doubtful, yet everyday they fight and move closer to the light at the end of tunnel, some days are lost and some days are won, but each day is new and full of promise. I dont really know where to begin in trying to fully explain all this in some little blog entry, so I will post an excerpt from one of my interviews. Here is how Coach Dale Valdery of Walter L. Cohen High School described things:

"The biggest problem we face with the kids is the fact that Katrina was so devastating in so many ways, it broke families up, separated families. Families wanted to move back but they just don’t have the resources, the federal government is moving real slow. We still have a lot of families that are not here. So what you have is a lot of kids who have come back and are living in the trailers by themselves that are owned by their parents who cant afford to move back because of the job situation so they are staying in different areas working. You have a lot kids raising themselves, putting themselves through school. The biggest thing is they come back and their mental state is not the same because they have been through so much, it has been such a trauma. It has been hard for them to adjust and to realize how important an education is at this point in time. But it is understandable because a lot of them are working and going to school and taking care of their younger brothers and sisters. From an educational standpoint I have been overwhelmed by the numbers of problems that they have, but I hope through sports some of that can change for them, hopefully they can make a difference.

One of the positive things about basketball is that it is able to create a type of discipline that these kids need, not just in basketball but also in class and their daily activities. If a kid has to think he normally improves his ability to be able to deal with a whole bunch of things. I tell the kids, man, if you are thinking in the classroom, studying and doing what you need to do, then you can do it out here on the floor. I try to give them an understating of how important it is to remember everything that they are being given and hope that it will enlighten them and help them realize how important an education is.

As a coach I try to make a difference not only in terms of basketball but also in terms of an education, because an education is actually more important than basketball. Basketball is just a means in terms of them being able to get a quality education. I always speak to them on how important an education is. I feel if you are doing well in the classroom you are going to do well on the basketball court. Through the years, that’s always been number one for me, to see them succeed after basketball."