A Rally for Educational Excellence in New Orleans

A Rally for Educational Excellence in New Orleans

Tollette George, a local football star who excelled at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans, was admitted to Alcorn State University in Mississippi, and graduated with a degree in recreation and physical education this past spring.

Just weeks after returning to his hometown after graduation, he was shot and killed only blocks from home.

This fall, nearly 4,000 students from across the city gathered to talk openly about the scourge of youth violence — and to come together to press for an excellent education and a better life. 

“Our students are our future, so I hope today inspires them to greatness,” said Jamar McKneely, the CEO and co-founder of InspireNOLA, which organized the September 23 rally. “I hope today inspires them as they leave our rally to understand that they can overcome all obstacles.”

Brice Brown, the head football coach at Edna Karr, who coached Tollette George when he was quarterback, said even in a city familiar with violence, Tollette’s death has been a shock to the community. He said he hoped rallying together would help to save other lives.

This message also resonated with students who attended.

“It’s important for us, as a community, to be unified and know that we are all trying to meet the same goal together,” said Emmanuel Lain, a 12th grader at Edna Karr.

Diamond Moore, a 10th grader, said the rally made her realize her “destiny” is “being built now.” She said the rally gave students a voice — and reminded her of the importance of staying focused on building the future she wants for herself.

Jahquille Ross, a New Orleans public school graduate, who is now a second-grade mentor-teacher at Alice Harte Charter School, put it this way: “If we have the dialogue, we can prevent some of the things going on within our community and within our nation as a whole.”

The Rally for Excellence was sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation. Participants included students from more than a dozen networks of schools — including public charter schools, traditional public schools and private schools — as well as local elected officials and school board members. Local organizations, including 100 Black Men, Democrats for Education Reform, EdNavigator, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, Mother to Mother, and New Schools for New Orleans also participated.

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