2024 All-America City – New Orleans, LA

Since its founding, New Orleans has been a diverse hub where people of various cultures and backgrounds converge for mutual benefit, engaging in trade, celebrating rich culture, and participating in economic and social activities. Unfortunately, much of this early prosperity was rooted in chattel slavery and Indigenous displacement. Despite this history, New Orleans residents have consistently fought for justice and unity. 

During the 19th century, New Orleans had more free people of color than any other southern U.S. city. Indigenous people helped enslaved Black individuals escape to freedom, shaping today’s Mardi Gras Indian traditions. 

In recent years, New Orleans has faced challenges like Hurricane Katrina, the BP Oil Spill, and the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating racial inequities in wealth and opportunity, especially impacting children and families. Consequently, New Orleanians, including city leaders and residents, prioritize supporting children and families through featured projects aimed at advancing equity and opportunity. 

New Orleans City Seats 

In 2018, the Mayor and City Council of New Orleans responded to community and civic leader initiatives by investing $750,000 in early care and education for economically disadvantaged children under age four through the New Orleans City Seats program, modeled after Early Head Start. By 2019, this funding doubled to $1.5 million, serving 112 children under three across six centers. In 2020, the program’s budget increased to $3 million with continued support during the COVID-19 pandemic, but waiting lists persisted due to insufficient subsidies and limited early learning center capacity. 

To address these challenges, the City Council unanimously voted to propose a new property tax to expand the City Seats program and transform access to early care and education in New Orleans.  

Elected officials from across the city came together alongside parents, educators, social workers, and advocates under the banner of the Yes for NOLA Kids campaign to educate voters about the measure. A newly emerging childcare provider-led advocacy group mobilized thousands of teachers, early learning center directors, and parents to understand the measure, educate voters about its impacts, and help get out the vote. The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice mobilized its massive grassroots organizing network to knock on doors, send text messages, and phone voters to educate them about the measure. These groups offered educational materials in childcare centers and houses of worship, provided mini-grants for voter education, and offered rides to the polls. 

On April 30, 2022, New Orleans voters overwhelmingly passed the proposal with 61% support, establishing the largest dedicated local investment in early care and education for infants and toddlers nationwide. Program expansion began in 2023, engaging 40 centers to serve 1,659 children, supported by City and state matching funds and ensuring a minimum wage of $15 per hour for participating teachers. 

Mayor’s Office of Youth & Families 

The Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families (OYF) was established in response to community calls to prioritize New Orleans’ children. OYF launched various initiatives to promote youth leadership and address gaps in services: 

  • The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council engages youth in policymaking and government. 
  • The New Orleans Parent Leadership Training Institute is a 20-week program that enhances parents’ civic skills to advocate for children. Alumni have become educators and policy fellows. 
  • The Pathways Youth Internship Program provides workforce readiness and personal development to justice-involved youth, offering paid internships and workshops. 
  • The Summer Success Initiative supports justice-involved youth with enrollment in summer programs for stability and employment access. 
  • The Junior Civic Leadership Academy focuses on leadership development for youth. 
  • The Mayor’s Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program provided $350 per month for 10 months to 125 opportunity youth. 
  • NOLA Readers 2.0 gives second graders engaging library and museum visits. 
  • The “Mayor for a Day” program allows student essay contest winners to shadow the Mayor.

OYF has also advanced coordination, provided data for improvements, mobilized resources, and forged partnerships. Since its inception, OYF has distributed $14.7M to community-based organizations and $1.3M in direct financial assistance to over 700 young people and families. 

New Orleans Youth Master Plan 

In 2017, New Orleans faced challenges with youth education, poverty, and exposure to violence. The multitude of organizations working to address these issues lacked coordination and resources, hindering their effectiveness. The Office of Youth and Families (OYF) was established to tackle these obstacles, emphasizing the importance of coordinated efforts and resource allocation. 

The OYF led the development of the New Orleans Youth Master Plan, a comprehensive roadmap for creating a positive, youth-focused city. The plan was developed and implemented in three phases: 

Phase 1 involved over 400 participants, including youth, parents, and community leaders, who used data from the NOLA Kids Data Book and NOYA Youth Well-Being Data Dashboard to design 30 cross-sector solutions for a 10-year plan. 

Phase 2 engaged 56 cross-sector leaders and youth in a public process to prioritize 15 solutions with action strategies and metrics for immediate implementation over two years. 

Phase 3 focuses on ongoing plan implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. 

The Youth Master Plan outlines 30 solutions across six key areas and five developmental stages (from birth to 24) centered on Health & Well-Being, Space & Place, Learning, Economic Stability, Safety & Justice, and Youth Voice. 

Since its adoption in 2021, the Youth Master Plan has made significant progress, including increased investments in youth programs, expansions in early childhood education, and initiatives to enhance youth well-being. 

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