News Release

Service-learning grants focus on teacher crisis preparation, oral history projects

Contact: Rene Abadie


ULS President Sally Clausen, Southeastern education professor Cynthia Elliott, Center for Faculty Excellence Director Tena Golding, communication professors Amber Narro and Suzette Bryan, and ULS Student Board Member Olinda Ricard

Caption …
-- The University of Louisiana System has presented to Southeastern Louisiana University $44,000 to fund two specialized service-learning projects focusing on partnerships with area agencies and school systems. From left, are ULS President Sally Clausen, Southeastern education professor Cynthia Elliott, Center for Faculty Excellence Director Tena Golding, communication professors Amber Narro and Suzette Bryan, and ULS Student Board Member Olinda Ricard.

     HAMMOND – Two grants totaling nearly $44,000 have been awarded by the University of Louisiana System to Southeastern Louisiana University for specialized service-learning projects that involve partnerships with area agencies and school systems.

     The grants will allow Southeastern students, working under the direction of faculty, to carry out projects designed to enhance teacher preparation in responding to the needs of children and families in times of crises or catastrophes and to conduct oral history recordings of founding members of the local NAACP who were involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

     The University of Louisiana System on Thursday (January 24) distributed 22 grants totaling more than $450,000 to its eight member institutions. The grants require a one-to-one campus match, yielding a total investment in service learning of nearly $1 million. Projects involve hurricane recovery efforts such as home and church rebuilding, rural well water quality assessment, computer and technology training for the general public and truancy prevention programs in the New Orleans Recovery School District.

     Cynthia Elliott, professor of teaching and learning in the College of Education and Human Development, received $30,000 for “Everybody’s Child: Teacher Preparedness in Times of Crisis and Recovery.” She said the project will develop a curricular framework for teacher preparation that can be shared as a model with the larger educational community.

     The initiative involves collaboration between Southeastern, schools in St. Bernard, Livingston and Jefferson parishes, and the International Center for Everybody’s Child (ICEC) at Hofstra University in New York. The center is a nonprofit organization that provides teachers and other professionals with the opportunity to work with others professionals in areas of extreme poverty, armed conflict and natural disasters. The grant will also allow the establishment of a Gulf Coast site for the ICED. Denny Taylor, Hofstra professor and director of the ICEC, will serve as a collaborator-consultant on the project.

     “As we saw so graphically following Hurricane Katrina, the everyday lives of children and families were greatly affected,” said Elliott. “It’s important that teachers are well prepared in times of crisis and recovery, as they are often first responders for children and families. This project will develop a curricular framework for using literacy-based strategies and activities -- such as reading and writing -- that will continue to support a child’s academic development while also helping to meet the basic social and emotional needs of the family in times of crisis.”

     Suzette Plaisance Bryan, Amber Narro, and Joe Burns from the Department of Communication developed the oral history project with Patricia Morris, president of the Tangipahoa Parish NAACP.  The project will link students from the Department of Communication with individuals associated with the early Civil Rights movement in the parish. Students will be trained in oral history recording, including interviewing, audio and videotaping techniques, then conduct face-to-face interviews. The interviews will be edited and disseminated through a variety of channels, including Podcasting, radio programs and a permanent interactive display in Southeastern’s Sims Memorial Library envisioned by Eric Johnson, library director.

     “Many of these individuals have relocated to other areas of the state and country following Katrina, and many also are elderly,” said Karen Fontenot, head of the Department of Communication. “In addition, a number of these NAACP members have died before their stories could be told and preserved for later generations. It’s important to collect now the recollections of those individuals who are still accessible.”

     Fontenot noted that another benefit of the project is exposing students to the relatively recent history of the Civil Rights movement.

     “Students who were born 20 years after the beginning of the Civil Rights movement have little experience or knowledge of the early history that provides the basis for what is occurring presently in their lives regarding civil rights,” she said. “This effort and the recordings and exhibits that it generates will inspire a younger generation of students with these compelling narratives.”

More News...