Anna’s Place NOLA offers a helping hand in studies, arts and health for at-risk youth – NOLA.com

Established during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Annas Place NOLA is moving ahead with its mission to support underserved youth in New Orleans while facing a different kind of adversity the coronavirus.

Throughout the year, the organization provides primarily Black youth, ages 5-18, with after-school music- and arts-based programming, along with academic education. Its annual summer camp typically runs five full days a week and offers instrumental music lessons and computer coding classes, along with field trips and activities that focus on virtual arts, dance, mindfulness and leading a healthy lifestyle.

This summer, because of COVID-19, Annas Place summer camp went virtual. Partnerships with local community groups and individuals have enabled it to supply students in need with laptops.

I have to say we are very lucky in this time to still be able to connect with them, and that people are still so motivated to help our students, said Brianna Carr, who became the director of Annas Place NOLA about a year ago. There have definitely been challenges in my first year, obviously, but it still brings me a lot of joy just to be able to connect with them, even in this virtual platform.

Annas Place also operates a food pantry, which has more than doubled its distribution within recent months. Around the time coronavirus began spreading throughout New Orleans, Annas Place was providing 25 families per month with bags of groceries. That number has grown to 63 families per month.

Our food pantry is doing amazing work, Carr said. They are working diligently to provide the homeless, out-of-work musicians and families with food.

Although Annas Place currently caters to youth and families in Treme, the Lower 9th Ward and Uptown Gentilly, the group initially concentrated its efforts on Treme, which carries high rates of poverty, crime and homelessness.

According to The Data Center, the average household income in Orleans Parish is $67,224, while the average in the area served by St. Annas Place is $28,970. The life expectancy in Orleans Parish is 75.8; in the St. Annas Place area, its 63.6.

Through collaborations with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Loyola University, NOLA Code, The Microsoft Store and Tulane University, among other institutions, Annas Place helps youth in struggling neighborhoods discover their potential and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Shalom Andersons 11-year-old son Caleb Montgomery has participated in Annas Place programs for more than four years. He is currently enrolled in the virtual summer camp.

He misses the interaction with the kids, which is not abnormal, but overall he loves it, said Anderson, noting that Caleb especially enjoys the music and art lessons. Hes drawing like crazy now.

Felicia Parish has three children enrolled in the program: Chyna Beaulieu, 15; Felein Beaulieu, 14; and Chy'anna Beaulieu, 13.

I signed them up because I needed them to stay busy. I didn't want them to not be doing anything, she said, explaining that they have participated in the organizations after-school programs for several years. I thought it was a good place for them to meet new friends and still learn at the same time.

Chyna and Felein now attend parochial schools.

(Annas Place) gives you great opportunities opportunities that you wouldn't get anywhere else, said Parish.

Although the youth centers fall programming will likely take place on a virtual platform, it will focus on academics and music lessons. Registration runs from July 17 through Sept. 15, via annasplacenola.org. Students who are disproportionately affected by poverty are given priority, Carr said.

We do make it a point to look at those applications first, because we are here to hopefully create some kind of equal footing in the system for Black and Brown youth, and for children highly affected by poverty, she said.

The transformation of certain students points to the programs success.

One (student), who (likely) would have followed down a path that most of his family did in the drug trade, has graduated high school and is looking into college. We're just beginning to see our older students' lives change from that of their parents and their grandparents, Carr said. I love seeing their perspectives change once they've been here for a while.

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Anna's Place NOLA offers a helping hand in studies, arts and health for at-risk youth - NOLA.com

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