There are numerous projects that NOLArize! has organized, all of which are in line with our mission. Some projects focus on campus awareness and fundraising while others are interactive and involve direct work with New Orleans. Below is a list of the projects that NOLArize! has successfully completed with descriptions and their intended purpose.

Projects in New Orleans

Cutoff Youth Library Project

This project was aimed to provide a physical space to inspire youth ages 5 thru 15 affected by Katrina to excel academically through reading and writing. We created and completed the project at the Cutoff Community Center in Lower Algiers, on the Westbank of New Orleans. This is the community center with which we have established a relationship and will continue to work with for the long-term.

In the Swarthmore community and throughout the local Philadelphia area, several book drives were organized in different schools, libraries, and residential communities.

Over 900 books were collected and shipped down to New Orleans. Each book was manually and electronically catalogued and organized into 3 groups (Pre-K to 2nd, 3rd-5th and 6th-8th).

All of the bookshelves were handmade and stained by NOLArize! and members of the Cutoff Community.

Cutoff Youth Comeback Project

This project was an organized student trip to the Cutoff Community Center. The trip involved seventeen Swarthmore students who conceptualized and led a week-long tutoring/mentoring program for the youth at the Cutoff. The program included homework help, math and science tutoring, reading and writing sessions, arts, crafts and dance workshop.

The community center is the hub of all youth activity for the Cutoff community, so holding the week-long program at the community center was only appropriate. Additionally, in the mornings, while the Cutoff youth were at school, we volunteered with a church group in the process of rebuilding their church. We helped to create a dormitory space for temporary construction workers that were going to be housed on the church's property for a few months at a time.

Projects On-Campus

New Orleans Week

This project was a week-long series of events organized at Swarthmore College aimed to raise awareness on not only the culture of New Orleans, but more importantly, the issues currently facing the people and communities of New Orleans. The various events were shaped to engage all members of the student body, faculty and administration as well as the wider community, in the conversation on post-Katrina New Orleans. The events ranged from workshops and film screenings to speakers from New Orleans and a NOLArize! Benefit Concert, our extremely successful fundraising initiative which encouraged students to give back to New Orleans while learn more about the music of the city.

View a New Orleans Week poster with event listing here.

Fundraising Projects

Our fundraising efforts are all focused on fulfilling NOLArize!'s goal of purchasing as many computers as we can for the center.

NOLArize Benefit Concert

A benefit concert is a great way to raise funds and bring people together on any campus around a common cause. We found a venue, recruited performers, and convinced a charismatic emcee to help us bring everything together. With some final touches (decorations, snacks, and lighting), we easily put together a great night for everyone from the performers to the audience members. The bands even managed to incorporate traditional musical styles of New Orleans into their performances. We raised even more funds for the computer lab that night. We have found that music is a great way to have fun, but to also be mindful of work that remains to be done and people that still need help.

Cupid Shuffle Fundraiser

Who knew that this simple, yet charming dance would have caused such a stir on our small campus? When one of the children at the Cutoff Community Center grabbed our attention with this updated version of the electric slide while we were coordinating the Cutoff Comeback Project, we did not anticipate the fun the dance would bring to those who participated in it. A few days later, our twenty-person group ended up in the middle of a street taking a much welcomed work break while kicking our feet in celebration of this true New Orleans dance.

A week after our return to SWAT, and already missing the children, fun, music, and sun of beautiful New Orleans, we came up with the idea to share a little piece of the amazing trip with our fellow classmates.

"To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right..."

We did not quite understand what was moving us side to side or rocking our bodies to the music in our small dining hall, but we could not stop. Somebody had turned the song on, and we all found ourselves convincing those around us to join in. When the song finished, we all found ourselves bursting out in fits of laughter and giggles which quickly turned to surprise when we saw our classmates surrounding us, obviously caught by the spirit of the dance. We also found an empty, plastic napkin basket on the floor with donations for the Cutoff Community Center.

There are so many ways to share the spirit of New Orleans and raise awareness. You never know what might make people take notice. A charming dance turned into the opportunity to raise funds for a computer lab to be established in the center. For us NOLArizers, the dance ties us to the city and people that we love.

We continue to do the Cupid Shuffle today. We even perform the dance on stage. Always be creative and open-minded in your efforts to help others. Think outside of the box and consider every possibility. You never know what might catch on and spread the word.

Projects In Progress

Cutoff Computer Lab Project

We are in the process of creating a computer lab in the Cutoff Community Center, one of our largest goals to date. Many of the children who attend the center after school are students trying to complete their homework in a quiet area. A computer lab would be a perfect addition to the library we have already created there. With the dearth of supplies and resources for students in the public school system, providing computers for the children would only make their work easier.

We are also investing in educational software for the computers to encourage strong reading, writing, and mathematical skills in the youth.

We envision the computer lab to also be a space for adults seeking to learn about career building opportunities, computer literacy, and money management.

Pen-Pal Program

After a trip to New Orleans in Spring 2007, we wanted to remain in touch with many of the children we met. We found it very difficult to leave after our one week visit, as we had bonded in that short time with many of the Algiers residents. A pen-pal program is a practical way for us to mentor students in the community and engage with them on a deeper level.

Many of us are swamped with schoolwork and day to day concerns, but once we implement this program, writing a letter to our youth is not difficult. You can easily find a community center in New Orleans and compile a list of children interested in corresponding with a mentor. With careful planning and organization, something as simple as a letter can make a substantial difference.