STEM NOLA Brings Online Education to Participants in Response to COVID-19

As COVID-10 continues to impact communities, STEM NOLA has launched new ways for families and kids to interact with hands-on STEM activities in the comfort of their homes.

Founder Dr. Calvin Mackie says STEMNOLA @ HOME has helped propel inclusion in education and access to STEM.

STEM NOLA was founded by Dr. Mackie in 2013 with the mission to grow future innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs through inspiration, engagement, and exposure to opportunities in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The program addresses the lack of support for low income and low resource communities to pursue future careers in STEM and the significant economic opportunity they bring.

STEM NOLA’s online offerings include: hands-on STEM demonstration instructional videos on the STEM NOLA website, live virtual STEM sessions at 1 p.m. every Thursday, STEM NOLA @ Home for Grades K-2 and Grades 3-12, and other digital resources, such as the STEM NOLA Parent Resource Guide. The online offerings are interactive, engaging, and packed with STEM hands-on experiences, Mackie says.

“This is only the beginning! We would love to work with families to engage them in these new touch points we’re providing to all,” says Mackie. “Our goal is to help parents encourage their children to pursue and participate in STEM activities and learning at home.

City of New Orleans to Explore Feasibility of Reopening Lincoln Beach 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell has authorized the launch of a study to explore the feasibility of re-opening Lincoln Beach to recreation, an effort that has the potential to revitalize New Orleans East.

“We are excited to look at the potential to bring this cultural gem back to life in a neighborhood that deserves more recreation options. We look forward to learning more about what we can do for all of our residents,” said Mayor Cantrell.

The study, which will be completed in 2021, will assess the current conditions of the beach to determine the kind of mitigation activities that would be necessary to clean and return it to public use.

“Bringing back Lincoln Beach has been a top priority since I’ve been in office, and we’re excited to see these initial steps being taken to bring the property back to public place of enjoyment it once was,” said District E City Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen.

Lincoln Beach served African Americans during segregation. Over the years, multiple parties have attempted to re-develop the site but those plans never came to fruition and as a result, its structures have continued to gradually deteriorate over time.

The feasibility study will include environmental site and habitat assessments to determine plant species that are present on site, and characterize habitat types and percent cover. Specifically, identify potentially poisonous flora, such as poisonous oak or ivy, which could pose a risk to staff or volunteers performing clean-up activities. Identify invasive species and percent cover, provide an estimate to facilitate removal of such invasive species.

Facility asset and access assessments will take inventory of and assess the conditions of the beach’s structures such as the parking lot structures, shelters, tunnels, swimming pool, concrete pads  as well as evaluate current pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular, and public transit access possibilities and limitations. Potential future access points that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act will be identified. And opportunities and challenges for creating new access points for pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular and public transit will be evaluated.

The study will also include a topography survey and a comprehensive site assessment along with an assessment of the existing drainage, sewerage, potable water, gas and electrical utility systems.

The city currently only has funds for the study, the results of which will determine estimated costs for clean-up activities.

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New Orleans Receives $10.4 Million in Affordable Housing Grants from the State in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

Earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the state has committed $10,382,000 in community development block grant (CDBG) funds to the city of New Orleans to support nine affordable rental housing projects that were in danger of losing their funding as a result of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The funding will be administered through the Office of Community Development. It will allow the nine projects that were awarded by the City in January 2020 to continue on their development time line. The developments were at risk of being postponed or halted after the City redirected local funding from the long-term multifamily developments to combat the effects of the outbreak, which has exacerbated New Orleans’ already critical affordable housing shortage.

“City and state collaboration is an essential part of meeting people where they are in times of emergency,” Said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “I want to thank Gov. John Bel Edwards for working with the City to make sure we can continue the long-term work of expanding affordable housing opportunities even while fighting the homelessness challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak.”

In order to assist these households, the city has shifted funds to three programs: the Rental Assistance Program, which provides rental and utility assistance to low income households that have been impacted by COVID-19 pandemic; Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA), which will provide payments to make up the difference between the amount a household can afford to pay for housing and the rent standard; and the Shelter Expansion and Rehabilitation Program, an effort to increase the number of available shelter beds to address the nearly 400 unsheltered homeless individuals in New Orleans. 

City Celebrates Completion of $4.5 Million Filmore North Group A Roadwork Project

City officials and neighborhood leaders celebrated the completion of the $4.5 million Filmore North Group A roadwork project in the Gentilly area earlier this month.

Observing social distancing measures undertaken during the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Infrastructure Deputy CAO Ramsey Green and Councilman Brossett performed an “air ribbon cutting”.

“There is much more to come in District D,” said Green. “There will be an estimated $305 million more worth of construction over the next several years, and $37 million of that will be in the Filmore North and South neighborhoods.”

The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) is a partner in the Joint Infrastructure Program. About $833,000 of the $4.5 million budget for this phase of the project came from the SWBNO.

“The completion of the Filmore North Group A roadwork project marks a major milestone for the Filmore neighborhood. Not only did this project bring repairs to 25 streets, it marks the first stage of more than $37 million in repairs for the neighborhood,” said District D Councilman Jared Brossett.

The Filmore North Group A project began in February 2019. Work included: replacing damaged underground water, sewer, and drainage lines; repaving asphalt roadways; patching roadways with asphalt or concrete; repairing or replacing damaged sidewalks and driveway aprons; and Installing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps at intersections

“As we’ve noted recently, while we continue to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, we also remained focused on our need to improve our city’s aging infrastructure, spend our federal funding on time, get projects completed, and have that infrastructure as sound as possible heading into hurricane season. This project is another example of that work getting done,” said Mayor Cantrell. “Now, the residents who live on the more than 60 blocks between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and Mirabeau Avenue have better streets and an overall improved quality of life.”

Urban League of Louisiana Teams Up with Verizon to Connect Greater New Orleans Residents

Urban League of Louisiana has teamed up with Verizon for the Verizon Technology Loaner Program, a new initiative to support Urban League program participants in the Greater New Orleans Area impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 

The program will provide technology support to residents who are home-schooling children and those who are unemployed due to the pandemic in support of their job search efforts.

“We are proud to support our community by providing devices, connectivity and resources,” said Verizon’s Louisiana Government Affairs Director Tandra LeMay. “Communication is imperative now more than ever. Verizon is committed to keeping communities connected during this time of crisis.”

According to a recent report by the Data Center, 20 percent of New Orleanians do not have access to internet access, making job-searching and online schooling difficult and near impossible for many.  The pilot phase of this program will begin in May with an official program launch slated for early June.

“We are grateful to Verizon for providing Urban League students, families and participants with the technology they need to respond to COVID-19,” said Judy Reese Morse, president and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. “We know all too well about the digital equity access issues that existed before the pandemic, and those issues have been magnified. This program will help to close the gap.”

Through the Loaner Program, Verizon will provide Urban League program participants with access to laptops, hotspots and the web connectivity needed to keep up with school and work during the quarantine process.  

“We are thankful to be able to continue our programming in innovative ways and offer critical technology tools and resources allowing our program participants to remain engaged,” said Cathy Washington, executive vice president of the Urban League of Louisiana.

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