Isaiah Youth Institute of New Orleans encourages youth by creating leaders of tomorrow

Civil Rights Activist Andrew Young speaks to St. Augustine High School students during Isaiah Youth Institute's leadership convention held last April. Photo Courtesy of Joseph Givens.

One local organization in New Orleans creates the leaders of tomorrow through community development and encouraging faith-based approaches to politics.

The Isaiah Institute is a group of faith-based organizations and local business leaders that come together to take responsibility for their community.
The Isaiah Institute of New Orleans prides itself in assisting local youth in creating a support-base for assessing critical issues affecting local communities and neighborhoods. The local Institute has partnered with the Andrew J. Young Foundation and the National Urban League.

“If people don’t obligate to change it, the government is under no obligation to fix it. We don’t function with a benevolent government,” said John Johnson, the outreach reach coordinator for the Isaiah Youth Institute.

Johnson has worked with the Institute for the last five years. As a retired veteran, and a former volunteer during Hurricane Katrina, Johnson spends his time mentoring economically challenged men and women.
In working at the Institute, Johnson teaches students how the government operates. During mentor sessions, Johnson explains how legislative and judicial branches in city, state, and national governments move people, communities and governments forward.

Every semester, the Institute conscripts a new group of students to become community leaders. In politics, Johnson noted, students are often not at the table of discussion. The Institute plans to change that.

“When we teach young people the truth, that this is your government, that this is your country—and you have to take responsibility of the government.”

The Institute encourages the use of faith to bring forth change in communities. In order to make change, Johnson said, one has to believe in something.
According to Johnson, youth that have participated in the Institute have been more aware of more social issues than their college peers.

“We’re looking for a conscious group of young people that are willing to see and act on issues via voting and other democratic tools,” Johnson said.
The Institute gives youth leaders the access to information and training to learn how to change things and how to do research and listening campaigns. Youth leaders take the knowledge they learn through the Institute, and hold listening campaigns, to understand sentiments in a community. This way, students get a grasp on what the public needs and uses learned resources to suggest fixes to the problem at hand.” 

“We teach the students the difference between protesting and demonstration. Protests beg for attention. Demonstration is having the power to make people react. Demonstrations need public officials in their corner.

Youth Institute Events

In April, the Institute held a youth convention at the University of New Orleans with over 200 student leaders. Students came from the University of New Orleans, Southern University at New Orleans, Dillard, Loyola University, Tulane University, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

At the convention, the students gathered to identify and discuss issues that affect people on the local, state, and national level. Civil Rights Activist and 55th Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, spoke to the student leaders about impacting government.

On May 24th, two dozen Institute leaders met to discuss the outcome of their planned listening sessions. On Labor Day weekend, another leader-wide convention will be held in New Orleans.

This year, the Institute’s will spearhead a campaign to young people voting in New Orleans. Student leaders plan to hold voting registration drives in September, aiming for 80 percent of college and universities students to registered to vote.

“If you want your voice heard, you must be a registered voter,” Johnson said.

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