Campus & Community

Kennedy School students help New Orleans rebuild – and regroup

2 min read

Masters in public practice candidates Nick Grudin, Rebecca Hummel, Tim Coates, and a team of other Kennedy School students are putting political theory into real public practice on the devastated streets of New Orleans. Along with students from other Harvard Schools, including the Business, Law, and Design schools, they are working on practical solutions to knotty problems and providing residents with expert advice and hands-on assistance. Visit the Kennedy School Web Sites (below) to read Grudin’s, Hummel’s, and Coates’ vivid first-person accounts of their realest of “real world” experiences. Below is an excerpt from Grudin’s story.

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HDS panel IDs crises in African-American community

Walking down a city block in the heart of New Orleans, it seems like Hurricane Katrina struck last week rather than half a year ago. Smashed and abandoned cars straddle sidewalks, body counts remain spray-painted on front doors, and toxic mold grows inside boarded and condemned homes.

I spent the last week in Broadmoor, a neighborhood at the heart of New Orleans, as part of an ongoing Harvard volunteer effort organized by Doug Ahlers, a senior fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center. After Katrina hit, the breach in the levees submerged this community of more than 7,000 residents, killing five and dislocating nearly everybody …

Here, I’ve worked with a small team of students from the Kennedy School and the Harvard Business School to help a community group called the Broadmoor Improvement Association (BIA) structure a redevelopment plan for the neighborhood. This week, 25 more students – predominantly from the Kennedy School, but also from Harvard’s schools of design and law – are joining the effort to write that plan.

As a student at the Kennedy School of Government, I have spent the last two years learning about the theories, ideals, and iterations of democracy. But it was not until I stepped into a Broadmoor neighborhood association meeting that I saw self-government in its rawest form – citizens organizing to save their own livelihood.

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