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Meeting a New Orleans Hero

October 25, 2011

Vicki and Amy volunteer at the Ruby Bridges Foundation Book Fair (Photo by Laura Slotkoff)

By Laura Slotkoff, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Reed Elementary School

I have always loved to read, even as a small child.  A few of my favorites were anything by Dr. Seuss and a lovely illustrated picture book containing the story of a brave little girl named Ruby Bridges.  I remember my mother telling me it was a true story.  In 1960 a 6-year-old African American girl in New Orleans became famous for being the first black child to attend an all white school in the South.

The community reacted with riots, death threats and all sorts of atrocities towards this little girl and her family, but they fought through it so that all children could receive a proper education.

Read About Ruby Bridges (Photo by Laura Slotkoff)

I remember being fascinated but unable to understand why so many people were against integration and equality. It seemed so simple and obvious to me, a caring, vivacious second grader growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the ‘90s.

These memories of reading this book with my mother came flooding back to me as I volunteered with City Year for the Ruby Bridges Foundation Children’s Book Fair on October 15. It was delightful watching the children’s faces light up as they browsed through stacks of free books. Kids with painted faces listened to Mardi Gras Indians read stories aloud.  Corps Members and kids eagerly waited to pet an armadillo, a baby crocodile and a three-legged pony named Molly who was rescued after Hurricane Katrina.

Team Leader Pedro DuFoe bravely faces a large vicious crocodile. (Photo by Laura Slotkoff)

Corps members helped hand out books, blow up balloons and serve red beans and rice. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu strolled by us and cheered, “City Year is always ready!” One corps member, Spencer Perrenoud, had the special privilege of dressing up as Clifford the Dog for the children’s amusement.

At the end of the fair I had the honor of meeting Ruby Bridges, who now in her adult life continues through her foundation to spread “the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences.”  She thanked us for our service and conveyed that her son is a City Year Alum. She kindly signed a copy of the book about her I had read as a child. I had the surreal feeling that a part of my life had come full circle. Her story is just one piece of the puzzle that brought me here, proudly serving the children of New Orleans on their journey to achieve the education they deserve.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2011 3:33 pm

    Beautiful story Laura!

  2. October 25, 2011 3:34 pm

    And great photos too!

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