Better Know a Corps: New Orleans

Philip Curley

With the coming Literacy*AmeriCorps conference, I thought it would be nice to introduce another one of our 6 sister corps from around the country. Of course we are aware of what we do in Pittsburgh, but I wanted to see where there were similarities and where we differ in our mission and service.

I got a nice response from Angela Conchita Isla from New Orleans, LA. She is the program coordinator for Literacy*AmeriCorps at the Literary Alliance of Greater New Orleans and provided me a brief overview of their program. Hopefully at the conference we will have the opportunity to learn something from their corps members.

If you’d like to get in touch with Angela or the Literacy*AmeriCorps of New Orleans, you can contact her at literacyamericorps.nola@gmail.com. The homepage for the Literary Alliance of Greater New Orleans is http://www.literacygno.org

  • How many members are serving the 2011-12 term in your AmeriCorps?

We began with 20 but there are currently 19 members serving this year.

  • About how many service sites do you have in the city?

We currently have 10 service sites in Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes.

  • Is your Corps a program of a city organization or have a close, working relationship with one? (like the GPLC?)

Literacy*AmeriCorps is a program of the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans which is a local nonprofit dedicated to the issue of adult and family literacy in the Greater New Orleans area.  We work to improve literacy levels in our community in the following ways:

Public Policy and Advocacy – starting the conversation with policy makers and the community at large about the need for literacy services and best practices for solutions.

Increased Resources for Literacy –seeking private funding for increased instructional services, especially for low level readers.

Literacy*AmeriCorps – 20 members serving for 11 months in teachers/tutors in GED, ESL, computer literacy and family literacy programs. Some of the members serve as transition coaches by assisting GED graduates make the leap to college, training or jobs.

  • Do you have a mission statement for your AmeriCorps? If not, one for the organization you work closely with?

No, we do not have a mission statement for Literacy*AmeriCorps New Orleans because we follow the mission statement for GPLC in regards to Literacy*AmeriCorps.  The mission statement for the Literacy Alliance of Greater New Orleans is “to increase adult literacy by supporting existing adult literacy programs, and by advocating for increased resources and support for adult literacy initiatives in the greater New Orleans region.”

  • What is unique about your city and the needs of individuals and groups you serve?

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, “One in six adults in Louisiana reads at the lowest literacy level,” and according to the Louisiana Department of Education, “Louisiana spent less than $40 in state general funds per student in
Adult Basic Education” in contrast to the Louisiana Department of Corrections, “Louisiana spends almost $40 per day to incarcerate an adult.”  Based on this information the needs of individuals and groups that Literacy*AmeriCorps New Orleans serves is great.

  • On that note, what are your biggest challenges as a Corps?

One of the biggest challenges the Corps faces is recruitment and retention of students due to the stigma and shame associated with low literacy.  Although there are many programs available, there has also been a decline in recruitment due to the students’ personal needs and commitments outside of the programs which has also affected retention. This is occurring with even the most dedicated students.

  • Have there been any notable, unique, awesome accomplishments by your Corps so far this year ?

The first  service project, “Pick a book, Read a book,” which was coordinated by a first year member was very well planned out and all of the members participated in it.  The project was that of service and outreach. The feedback from many members was that it was a very meaningful project and had a very positive outcome.

 

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