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At-risk New Orleans children get a helping hand from Loyola students

Loyola press release - December 6, 2010

For more than 100 years, the organization now known as North Rampart Community Center has provided a nurturing, safe haven for inner-city New Orleans children. Loyola University New Orleans is now partnering with the center through its service learning program, placing college students there to help mentor, tutor and sometimes just listen to the kids. The students help with homework, coach youth basketball teams, lead music and arts activities, and give computer tutoring to children who might otherwise be exposed to unsafe or unhealthy alternatives.

“Loyola students are the best…they help with our homework and they play with us,” said Brishel, a fourth grader at the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School. Derek, a second grader at McDonogh 35 said, “I like when the Loyola students come…we get to learn how to play soccer.”

While the children benefit from the interaction, the college students also get some valuable takeaways. Kelly Brotzman, director of Loyola’s Office of Service Learning, said students gain a better understanding of social justice by serving organizations such as NRCC. “They also learn concrete skills like leadership, listening, teamwork and problem solving.”

Service learning staff work with Loyola faculty members to implement real-life, community-based learning experiences in their classrooms. The goal of the program is to bring education to life by connecting classroom learning to community needs. Each semester, hundreds of Loyola students enroll in service learning courses and contribute their time, energy and talent to more than 35 New Orleans community organizations, gaining valuable real-life learning experiences in the process.

“Service learning is an enriching experience for everyone,” Brotzman said. “Students and professors benefit by having a more three-dimensional academic experience and our community partners benefit by having more volunteers and assistance with important projects.”

According to NRCC Executive Director Jeffery Parker, Loyola consistently offers top quality volunteers for the center. “Loyola’s volunteers are a blessing to our program. They come from diverse backgrounds and work easily with the children in all areas from music and art to math and science. Without these volunteers like the ones from Loyola, I doubt we would be able to continue.”

This semester, seven Loyola service learning students have been volunteering at NRCC. Four of these students are enrolled in the course “Race, Class and Schools in New Orleans,” taught by Loyola’s Sociology Department chair Sue Mennino, Ph.D.

“Although service learning is not required for this course, most of the students choose the service learning option,” said Mennino. “This year, 25 out of 30 students are volunteering at 10 different organizations in the community. From my standpoint, the service learning activities are valuable because the students experience firsthand the issues they’re reading about in class, such as educational inequality.”

“Volunteering at NRCC fits perfectly with Dr. Mennino's class since every sociological theory we learn can be applied to almost every aspect of the experience,” said Mario Zavala, an NRCC volunteer. “For example, learning about race helps me to understand the differences in dealing with Asian, Hispanic, black and white students.”

Brotzman said teaming up with NRCC has created robust learning opportunities for Loyola students. “Our community partner agencies put a lot of time and energy into providing students with dynamic, vibrant service learning experiences. We’re grateful to North Rampart for welcoming so many of our students.”

For more information, contact Sean Snyder in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at smsnyder@loyno.edu or call 504-865-2074.

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LoyNews is an e-newswire produced by the Loyola University New Orleans Office of Public Affairs. LoyNews is distributed weekly to local, regional and national news media outlets, communicating the latest news and accomplishments of the university and its community.