By Edwin Buggage
February 3, 2018 Free Event at Superdome to Give Information on School Choice
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans School System has changed in many ways. No longer are the days of neighborhood schools; today it is decentralized and these changes for good or bad seems here to stay. To help parents navigate through this maze of educational choices the Urban League of Louisiana’s Annual Schools Expo has come to assist parents and is the largest school choice event in the City of New Orleans. As new school options continue to emerge, it is critical that parents have an opportunity to meet with school operators up close and personal.
Since its inception over a decade ago, thousands of attendees are greeted at the Superdome and welcomed to an array of education providers, community resource organizations, STEM activities, entertainment, food and giveaways! The entire event is FREE and open to the public. It is a premiere event with thousands in attendance and continues to make a strong community impact.
School Expo 2018: Education, Information and Inspiration
Erika McConduit, is the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, speaking to Data News Weekly about the event says, “This is an event we have been doing after Hurricane Katrina when the education landscape changed, and we felt it was very important for families to have a place to come and meet with school leaders and get information one-on-one directly from the source and get answers.”
The Urban League has partnered with not only public and charter schools but private and a catholic school to give parents the full range of educational options. The event takes place on Saturday February 3, 2018 from 10A.M. TO 2 P.M. on the field of the Mercedes Benz Superdome and is free and open to the public and parking is also free. During the event parents will have the chance to meet with school leaders and community resource providers, apply to PreK-4 programs, early childhood centers and schools on-site (including scholarship schools through OneApp), Complete OneApp income verification, STEM activities, games, inflatables and rock wall, performances by schools and organizations, Health Screenings, refreshments provided, FREE school supplies, FREE uniform vouchers.
Uplifting A Community: It Takes a Village
McConduit understands that choosing a school by itself is not the sole ingredient of a quality education. Therefore, the Urban League has taken a holistic approach and partnered with other stakeholders in the community. “We will have community resource providers that are there, something that we understand that for kids to have a full and robust child development experience go beyond the classroom as well. We wanted to make sure this was a one-stop-shop for families and they could come in to visit schools and ask questions. And also, to meet organizations that provide things such as tutoring, extracurricular activities like dance, sports and some that do summer programs. That is a new addition for us this year; because we want families to continue to have access to stimulating activities for children when school is not in session.”
This year they have also added as per request early childhood providers that will be there sharing information regarding educational support for families with children regardless of their age or national origin. McConduit says this is an event for the whole family; in addition, STEM NOLA will be onsite with activities and information exposing the young people of New Orleans to the jobs of the future.
“This is a family friendly event; we encourage people to bring their kids. We have daycare that is available onsite. We have the Urban League Licensed Head Start staff onsite.” Continuing she says, “We have interpreters’ onsite for our Hispanic families and our Vietnamese families there and will be on hand to help and walk people through the expo to make sure they have the same access as everyone else.”
Knowing the relationship between education and future economic opportunities, she speaks excitedly about the expo and kids getting an opportunity to explore the in-demand careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, “STEM NOLA is going to be there and that is the jobs of the future and we want our young people to get that exposure. We have a large space where kids can do hands on stuff with Dr. Calvin Mackie, who leads STEM NOLA.”
A Passion for Education and Carrying on a Tradition
McConduit’s passion for quality educational access is personal. Throughout her life as the daughter of a longtime school principal and administrator the late Darrell McConduit and her mother Denise McConduit, an Author of children books and advocate of literacy planting the seeds that’s been sown where Erika continues to value education and uplifting her community. With passion ringing in her voice she says, “I really do come from a family that was dedicated to literacy and education. I was raised in a household where education was important. Giving back to community was also important and that is fundamental to my upbringing and the person that I am. Education is near and dear to my heart and I feel all families deserve to have the choice that speaks to the needs of their child and I am deeply committed to this mission.”
The National Urban League continues to be a relevant organization with its mission to empower African-American and vulnerable citizens. Today many would argue that access to a quality education is one of the most important Civil Rights issues of the 21st Century. For it is in education that many will be given the keys to a successful life in America; it is the thing that can make communities more stable. “We at the National Urban League continue to work towards bettering our communities in a changing landscape and changing systems. We want to make sure that we are in a position to assist the community and transitioning to those changes. And we in the Urban League of Greater New Orleans believe education is important to the building of a healthy community and everyone regardless of race or income deserves a quality education. This is something that not only benefits the individual and their families, but the entire community.”