RESIDENT STORIES: PERSONAL ACCOUNTS FROM COMMUNITY MEMBERS

OPERATION PATHWAYS IN NEW ORLEANS, LA

At Forest Park, one young man came to our program as a 3rd grader after having moved four times during the academic school year. He was failing academically and showing some negative behaviors. He became a regular participant in "The Exploration Station"--our small group, and one-on-one tutoring station, participating in math and reading intervention twice a week. He loved the hands-on academic games and the freedom to return to skills from the 1st and 2nd grade that he had not mastered. He is now the lead organizer of our weekly Chess Club, continues to participate in "The Exploration Station" regularly, and just received his first report card where he is now succeeding in all of his subjects.

At Walnut Square Apartments, we have noticed outstanding progress of 3rd grade female since her participation in "The Exploration Station". When she first enrolled in our program, she was defiant about completing homework or participating in group activities that involved any text. Using our Brigance Word Recognition Assessment, we discovered that she placed at a kindergarten reading level. This young lady has signed into "The Exploration Station" over 20 times during the school year practicing her phonetic decoding skills of unfamiliar words and exposing herself to new sight-word vocabulary. Her interest and focus for completing homework improved dramatically, she is more social and cooperative during group activities, and she recently place at a 3rd grade level in our Brigance Word Recognition Assessment Post-Test, improving 3 grade years.

The Crawford family is more physically active because of the fitness options offered in the health & wellness programs at Walnut Square. Mrs. Crawford has been attending the group fitness classes and participating in the walking club since 2010. Over this time she has lost weight and says she is thankful for the energy she has gained back since becoming physically active. Mr. Crawford and his son started using the fitness center as soon as the equipment arrived. Though his son has returned to college, Mr. Crawford still uses the fitness center on a regular basis. He has lost weight, lowered his cholesterol, and says he is eating healthier to help make sure all is hard work is not being lost. He even finds time to volunteer to coach football for the kids who attend our after school programs. Because of our fitness programs, the Crawford family is getting more exercise and leading healthier lifestyles.

At the beginning of this year's program, Evin was very shy and reluctant to have his homework checked by either of the facilitators. He was not confident in his abilities and was very hard on himself about never completing his homework. Throughout the year, the facilitators worked with Evin to help him build efficient and effective homework skills so that he not only understood his homework but enjoyed completing it. Seeing Evin's growing enthusiasm from day to day shows our program's ability to help children develop long lasting homework skills and increase excitement to learn. The best part is that Evin has made it on the honor roll several times during the school year.

An important part of our program is health and wellness education. On a daily basis, and thanks to our partnership with Sodexo Remote Sites, we provide the children with healthy snacks such as fruit, yogurt, whole grains, and vegetables. Many children who attend our program start off knowing very little about healthy eating habits and report that they do not generally include fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet. One participant, LaNaiya, was never excited about the idea of having fruit for a snack. However, throughout the year, she tried different fruits during our program and quickly learned that fruit can be a tasty and healthy alternative to less nutritious snacks. Now, LaNaiya is always more than willing to try all of the healthy food options that we provide to our participants.

In the past year, we have opened up a brand new fitness center at Forest Park. The center included an elliptical machine, a stationary bike, free weights, core balls, a mini trampoline, and a blood pressure monitoring machine. We offer a variety of fitness programs that focus on aerobic exercise for adults and a gymnastics program for youth. Residents, many of whom do not have the transportation to travel to outside fitness centers, now have an opportunity to develop their fitness and monitor their progress.

— Chris Bentivegna, Resident Services Supervisor


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