New Orleans, Louisiana, was named the murder capital of America in 1994 and the majority of murders were happening in the Third Ward's B.W. Cooper Apartments, affectionately called the Calliope Projects by locals (and pronounced KAL-ee-ope or KAL-e-o). At that time, I was in my second year at my private, Catholic college, majoring in Elementary Education and beginning to take my core courses.
By 1995, I began student teaching at a suburban elementary school in Metairie, Louisiana. The children were mostly white and I got a lot of questions about why I was so tan. The few African American students would come right up to me, tell me I had good hair, and ask me if I was mixed. I would say to them, "Aren't we all?" They'd walk away puzzled, but wondering if it was true.
I graduated in May of 1996 and was sent out into the world in the Catholic tradition to serve and teach.
After blowing off most of that summer in an attempt to recover from school, I realized that it was time to get a job and applied to New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS). In mid-August, I got a frantic, but nice call from a lady in the NOPS Human Resources Department who gave me the name and phone number of a principal who had just been appointed to an elementary school on Martin Luther King Blvd.. She said they had an immediate teaching opening and that I should call, but I first drove to the neighborhood to check out the location. MLK Blvd., was the main thoroughfare into the Calliope and I saw that the school was located a block from the projects. To me, this was a no brainer, I wasn't going to follow up.
A few days later, the nice-but-frantic lady from HR called back and asked if I had connected with the principal. I lied and said that I had called him, but that no one answered. She then proceeded to get off the phone with me and hunted down said principal at a birthday party at his mother's house. He called a few minutes later and set up an interview time to meet with him the following day.
Photo credit: time.com
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