youth-led research after Katrina

My organization, CIRCLE, has made grants to teams of young people who design and conduct community research projects. We are able to make these grants thanks to funding from the Cricket Island Foundation. We also provide the youth teams with some guidance.

Some of our current grantees are a group of homeless youth from New Orleans, who were planning to study the police treatment of their peers (i.e., other homeless young people). Katrina made that research impossible by scattering them across the country. However, they have changed their project to investigate the Katrina experience and its aftermath.

Last week, the Chicago Tribune ran a helpful story on these young people’s work. The reporter, Dave Wishnowsky, kindly included some contact information for dispersed New Orleans youth to use if they wanted to be included in the research. The story is entitled “Collecting Katrina memories: Young evacuees plan to write book.” You have to register with the Tribune to read the whole story here; but I quote some portions below:

[Matthew] Cardinale, 24, and [Shannell] Jefferson, 21, of New Orleans, are spending this week in Chicago interviewing Katrina evacuees ages 14 to 24 for a project they are hoping to turn into a book.

“That’s what’s really unique about this project,” Cardinale said about the Hurricane Katrina Evacuee Youth-Led Research Project. “We’ve got evacuees interviewing evacuees.” …

Cardinale and Jefferson are former residents of Covenant

House New Orleans, a homeless shelter for youths.

When Katrina hit in August, Cardinale, a graduate student at the University of New Orleans, was volunteering as a mentor at the shelter. With a $10,000 donation from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, he had organized a project for a three-person team of ex-shelter residents, including Jefferson, to research how New Orleans police treated homeless youths.

When Katrina devastated the city, however, the team’s plans changed. They decided to instead use the money–plus an additional $7,145 from the same group–to interview young evacuees in Chicago, Houston and New Orleans about their hurricane experiences.

“I think the young people in this whole thing have been overlooked,” Cardinale said. “And with this project, this is the first time that a lot of them have had a chance to share their stories. We’re giving a voice to so many youths out there, and we’re documenting it all.”