Jack Wiles, Latrice Sampson, Alicia Labat and Markus Crockett
Cheryl Gerber Photographs
RECreate provides quality educational recreation activities for children in the Harmony Oaks neighborhood of Central City. Very active prior to Hurricane Katrina, the program was just revived last year to great success. RECreate is the longest running program from the Young Leadership Council – a nonprofit, civic organization designed to develop leadership through community projects – and one of YLC’s most beloved programs. According to project leader Latrice Sampson, RECreate’s goal is to “teach children to be better community partners.”
RECreate holds two 10-week seasons per year in the spring and the fall. The volunteers and children meet every Saturday during the session, and the program hosts several field trips throughout the year to maintain their connections.
On a typical day during the 10-week season, the volunteers arrive at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. First, they provide the children with a nutritional breakfast to encourage healthy eating. Then the children participate in an icebreaker, which is typically a hands-on teaching activity. Next, students learn a “Word of the Day,” which the volunteers present and use throughout the program. The words and terms, such as “team-building, are geared toward leadership.”
Afterward, the children split into two groups. One group ventures outside for a fitness component to play basketball, tennis or soccer. A second group participates in a cultural awareness component. There, the children are exposed to all sorts of new cultural information, such as studying different countries and learning about that country’s flag, food and culture. During another program, the students learned about Mardi Gras history and a Mardi Gras Indian visited the class. Through this program, the students learn about different cultures in a unique, engaging way.
RECreate also exposes the children to creative career opportunities. Students learn creative skills such as painting, music, dance, cooking and beading. They then learn how to use these skills in a relevant career in culinary arts, music industry or the educational field, for instance.
Lastly, the students regroup for a healthy, homemade lunch and review their day’s lessons.
What is the most rewarding component of the program?
“It’s the kids. Definitely the kids. They get so excited to see us!” says Sampson. One of the best aspects of the program is the “bond that the kids have with the volunteers.” Seeing the children’s joyful connection with the volunteers “makes the hot days cooler and the frustrating days easier.”
“YLC in general goes to great lengths to provide quality programming in our community,” Sampson notes. Furthermore, RECreate helps young professionals in the New Orleans area build leadership through service. With great leadership skill building for the volunteers and tremendous education for the students, RECreate is a successful program for all participants.