Students Help the Grass Roots Grow in New Orleans

March 4, 2008
Molly Lanzarotta

The residents of the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans have been traveling a path of self-renewal since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005 – a journey on which they have been joined by students from Harvard Kennedy School.

“I went into public policy thinking, ‘I want to make a difference,’” said Alexis Watson a first-year public policy student, after volunteering with the Broadmoor Project in 2007. “To come here and really apply and understand what we’re learning and to be able to meet the people that we’re working with and working for makes it that much more worthwhile.”

Kennedy School volunteers and interns have put their classroom training into hands-on practice by working with neighborhood residents to gather data, launch a charter school, open a public library, and continue to develop and implement a redevelopment plan.

“The students’ help is invaluable,” says LaToya Cantrell, president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association, “not only their brain power, but the momentum and the hope that they instill in residents.”

Henry Lee, director of the Belfer Center’s Environment and Natural Resources Program and faculty chair of the Broadmoor Project, noted after visiting the neighborhood that “the collaboration with New Orleans’ Broadmoor community is a great opportunity for the Kennedy School to put into action the governance skills we teach in order to help bring back one of America’s great cities. The School and our students are also learning important lessons in designing and implementing policies at a grass roots level that will help future leaders.”

Harvard support for Broadmoor has been facilitated by Belfer Center fellow and New Orleans resident Doug Ahlers. The Kennedy School’s multi-year commitment to the Broadmoor Project also includes executive education and training for ten New Orleans residents at the Kennedy School; the sponsoring of community forums in New Orleans; and the funding of research grants for Kennedy School faculty working on issues relevant to post-Katrina recovery.

Image of HKS students, Allison Van and Rebecca Hummel.

Working alongside Broadmoor residents, Allison Van MPP, researches real estate data while Rebecca Hummel MPP, works on a proposal to fund a charter school.

HKS students and staff in New Orleans.

Carolyn Wood, Harvard Kennedy School assistant academic dean; Mohamed El Dahshan MPA/ID; Joshua Wright MPP; analyze data related to the recovery process in New Orleans.
Photos: Scott Salzman, copyright 2007.

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