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The Crazy Idea Dinner

November 10, 2011

Photo by Laura Slotkoff


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

It started with an idea…one big, crazy idea. What if City Year New Orleans corps members were recognized as the future entrepreneurs of this country? What if they were given the chance to recognize a problem within their school, develop a solution and present that solution to investors? What if, all three teams competed against each other for the thousands of dollars donated by investors?

This is exactly what we did on Wednesday, November 2nd, after months of research, networking, proposal rewrites and budget development. All three teams poured their hearts into their ideas and gave it their all to give back to the students we work with everyday. The Sarah T. Reed High School team sought to develop a writing center in their school to improve the communication skills of their students. The Renew Accelerated High School, a new unique school specifically for overage students, wanted to start a career center to help their students achieve their goals after high school. My team, the Sarah T. Reed Elementary team, wanted to engage our students in their studies and help bring the New Orleans East community together by holding a science festival in the Joe Brown park.

We spent months painstakingly rewriting our proposal, conducting research, talking with leaders in the community and our students, until our idea evolved and took shape in ways we never imagined. As sometimes happens, we realized days away from the presentation that we were approaching our idea from the wrong angle, and that by turning it on its head we were able to develop a refreshingly new outlook on what we wanted to accomplish. We realized science was the tool we needed to engage our students and address the problem we had found to be the root of many other problems faced by our students and their families: a disconnect within the community. With just a few days left, we poured our all into the idea of starting a science festival for our students and their families.

On the day of the presentation, three representatives from each school presented their ideas to a large crowd of captivated investors. It took place in the backyard of a beautiful New Orleans house kindly offered by Jennifer and Doug Walner and catered by Portobello Catering for the event. Each presentation enraptured the audience and not a single question was left unanswered during the Q and A. It was clear we had all worked hard on our ideas and were passionate about helping our students.

We were ushered out while the investors debated who should win the prize money We meandered nervously, then were brought back outside for the big decision. It was a tie between the Reed High School and Renew Accelerated High School teams. Instead of being disappointed by our loss, I was excited that students would be received a new writing center and career center! My team agreed that its not a loss if students are winning. As for our idea, we were given a lot of helpful feedback by the attendees and a few business cards. We still plan on making our big idea happen, even if on a slightly smaller scale.

I am so grateful to have been a part of this amazing opportunity we were given. I learned so much from the experience that I will never forget and certainly will benefit from in the future. I was proud that all the city year corps members involved worked so hard to take advantage of this opportunity to the fullest of our ability. Usually change happens a little at a time, and it is rare to be able to see and feel all at once that we truly are changing the world.


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