GPS Project Update #3

GPS Project Update #3

Dear Community, 

We are very excited to report that six (6) Northside High School students will receive a $350 GPS Scholarship to be given directly to their post-secondary school of choice to assist with books and/or fees. 

The GPS team worked closely with Ms. Jessica Grogan’s senior students at Northside High over a period of five months (January to May) to help them prepare for the March ACT exam given at school, assist with completing FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and complete the application process to their schools of choice. We also conducted a financial literacy workshop with seniors to discuss the true cost of adulting. Students learned about life insurance, rent vs. mortgage, credit management, budgeting daily expenses, and correlated these costs to their earning potential in their careers of choice. 

The following Northside students completed all GPS requirements and have been selected to receive GPS Scholarships. These students were recognized during Senior Awards Night on May 15th: 

Shamiya Morrison – University of Louisiana Lafayette 

Mac’Kinze Williams – Unitech Training Academy 

Amari Williams – Infinity College
Deneyah Celestine – Infinity College 

Bakari Thomas – South Louisiana Community College India Antoine – South Louisiana Community College 

Unitech Training Academy under the leadership of Noah Brandon also awarded FULL Scholarships to Arquetta Celestine and Mac’Kinze Williams for their interest and commitment to continuing their educational journey at Unitech Training Academy. These young ladies were also recognized during Northside High School’s Senior Awards Night. 

Our next steps for GPS Project include walking these students through completing the enrollment process for their schools of choice to ensure they have a smooth transition from high school to post-secondary education. 

Our pitch for the GPS Project focuses primarily on graduating Seniors. Our experience during these few months highlights the dire need to begin walking alongside students much sooner than senior year to ensure they are in the best position to have options and make informed decisions about their future. Ms. Grogan and Mr. Darby, Northside High’s senior counselor have done a wonderful job exposing students to options that are available to them. While working with students, we learned that many simply did not follow through with applications or became stagnant when ran into an obstacle or a question they did not know the answer to. Many students would benefit from developing executive functioning skills and communication skills needed to navigate through some of these processes.

Our goal is to continue working alongside Ms. Grogan and Mr. Darby next school year to offer more hands-on assistance with students and hopefully begin working with 9th -11th grade students as well. 

Thank you Team GPS Project

Freetown Sound Lab Update #3

Freetown Sound Lab Update #3

Dear Community,

We are elated about the progress we are making with our community sound recordings. We are still busy gathering stories and have heard from some very interesting individuals. Our latest project and perhaps most ambitious, is that of 103 year old WW2 veteran, Major Fannie McClendon who grew up right here in Lafayette. She is the last surviving member from Louisiana of the All Black, female WW2 troupe, the 6888 Army Postal Battalion. We are taking our sound lab on the road to get her story. As we near Memorial day and celebrate Lafayette’s 200th birthday, it is amazing to think she lived more than half of that time and risked her life to protect us. We are continually surprised by the hidden gems in our community! We can’t wait to share these stories with you!

Team Freetown Sound Lab

Major Fannie McClendon
Healthy Acadiana Seed Library Update #3

Healthy Acadiana Seed Library Update #3

Dear Community,
We are thrilled to announce that Healthy Acadiana’s Seed Library has officially launched, and the response has been incredible! We are delighted to witness the enthusiasm and participation of our community members as they embrace the opportunity to borrow seeds, replenish our collection, and begin their gardening adventures.

Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a novice just starting out, the Seed Library is here to support you. Our diverse selection of seeds is available for “borrowing”, allowing you to cultivate a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and pollinator-friendly plants. We are thrilled to witness the abundance of green thumbs within our community, and we encourage everyone to visit the library and explore the incredible array of seeds available.

We are excited to announce that our seed inventory is continuously replenished, ensuring that there will always be options for you to select from. As you sow your borrowed seeds and your plants begin to flourish, we kindly ask that you consider saving a portion of the harvested seeds to replenish our library. By doing so, you actively contribute to the sustainability and growth of our seed collection, enabling future gardeners to embark on their own fruitful journeys.

In addition to providing access to high-quality seeds, we are delighted to share that we are about to launch an engaging lineup of programming at the Seed Library. These programs will be centered around gardening techniques, seed saving, and cultivating a thriving garden ecosystem. Whether you are interested in learning about organic gardening practices, discovering the art of seed saving, or exploring innovative ways to enhance pollinator habitats, our program offerings will cater to all gardening enthusiasts.

Stay tuned for our upcoming program announcements, as we can’t wait to offer a wealth of educational resources, workshops, and hands-on experiences to further deepen your gardening knowledge and skills.

We are immensely grateful for your support and enthusiasm as we cultivate a vibrant gardening community in Acadiana. The Seed Library is not just about growing food, but it’s also about building connections, sharing knowledge, and nurturing a sustainable future for all.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas for our Seed Library, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We value your feedback and are committed to continuously improving and expanding our offerings based on your needs and interests. Thank you for being part of this exciting journey. Together, let’s sow the seeds of a greener, healthier, and more connected Acadiana!

Healthy Wishes,
The Seed Library Team

Sensory Safe Spaces Update #3

Sensory Safe Spaces Update #3

Dear Community,
We’re still tired, yet feeling grateful. WOW! Festival International just ended as you know. We saw many of you there which was freaking awesome. Without you, we wouldn’t have a safe space (Zone Detente) at festival. Without 24CP, we could not have elevated what we had from last year. SIGNAGE! This was part of our ask so that felt good to be able to showcase some of that. Shout out to MakeMade for making that happen. Being about to educate people that stopped by the space with proper signage felt very fulfilling and necessary. And of course increased audience knowing what we do and our goal(s) are. We are happy to say that there were 6 autistic people and many more with sensory challenges that were part of our volunteer team.

Current: We are in works for buying a 10 x 20 tent with The Beluga Project logo that is durable enough for multiple seasons, not just one. We are working on setting up a system where individuals can rent our equipment for a price at their event. We will have different tiers from just renting equipment, us going to set it up and us providing the people power for the space. We need to keep funds coming into the project, so this is road where we are just arriving at the intersection. Any thoughtful suggestions would be gladly received from our community

We are in talks with another team from our cohort, Team Inclusive Prom, to put a space at Pride Acadiana 2023. Thanks Wendy and their squad for getting this going! Appreciate y’all. Appreciate everyone who came by the space at Festival. From Butch and his family to you reading this, we were so happy that you stopped by. This is just the beginning. The space is one thing…the education to our community and beyond is the ultimate goal. See you at Pride! Love you all. Now…it’s time for us to rest and return.

– Team Sensory Safe Spaces by The Beluga Project

Inclusive Prom Update #3

Inclusive Prom Update #3

Dear Community,

WE DID IT!!!! On Saturday, March 11, Team Inclusive Prom held its very first Inclusive Prom for high school students across Acadiana. It was a glorious evening of fashion, dancing, smiles, and laughter from the students and the adult chaperones alike.

Walking into Wonderland Performing Arts that night was like a trip down the rabbit hole. Once the students got through the bag check at the door, they were greeted by the first of many photo opportunities including a giant size Cheshire Cat, graciously donated by The Mystic Krewe of Apollo de Lafayette. Registration was flawless thanks to our amazing volunteers. Approximately 85 tickets were reserved, and we had over 50 students in attendance. Walking down the foliage lined hallway to get to the dance floor, you were met with bread and butterflies hanging from the ceiling, tissue paper flowers in abundance, and a tunnel made out of vines. DJ Digital rocked the house all night while Alice in Wonderland clips played on the big screen.

Sweet 3 Bakery provided Alice in Wonderland themed sweet treats. Social Entertainment was there with their amazing photo booth, enjoyed by all. Rachel Rafati was our official photographer of the evening. Set up at our “royal throne” made by Dory Thomassie, she took pictures all night, ensuring everyone felt like Prom Royalty.

One of the biggest hits of the evening (and a last-minute addition), thanks to Alexandra Culotta, was our sensory room. She brought mats, pillows, blankets, and a noise machine for when things got too loud or overwhelming on the dance floor.

When all was said and done, we were about $300 over budget. In the grand scheme of things, we are VERY happy with how the event played out. We got great feedback and have already set a date for next year (March 9 in case you’re wondering). We have also had a “Prom Debrief” and have a number of lessons learned.

Going forward, we’ll be more intentional with our event. With more time to plan we’ll be able to look at options to save money, including venue, theme (decorations), etc. We’ll limit the number of adults we have in attendance, and we’re looking into branded merch per the request of many of the teens. We will keep the budget for 2024 the same ($4k) and will start fundraising immediately.

Special thanks to all of the volunteers who helped make this event such a success. Without your support, time, artistic ability, donations, food, and love for the community, none of this would be possible.

Acadiana Queer Collective is eternally grateful for the opportunity awarded by 24HCP and the community as a whole. These events and experiences continue to support our mission by creating safe spaces in Acadiana for the LGBTQ+ community. We look forward to seeing what the future has in store.

With Pride,

Team Inclusive Prom

Inclusive Prom Update #3

Inclusive Prom Update #2

Dear Community,

Inclusive Prom is only 4 DAYS AWAY. We have been meeting regularly, voting on this and that, & currently trying to tie up any loose ends. We have received tremendous support from local community groups: The Family Tree/Jacob Crouch Suicide Prevention, PFLAG Lafayette, Safe Havynn, & We Demand More. Together with individual community members excited for the cause, we are extremely proud to present this event. Our volunteers are getting ready to transform Wonderland Performing Arts into a beautiful trip through the mirror and into Wonderland. 

This year’s Inclusive Prom will take place on Saturday, March 11, 2023. The theme for this year’s prom is Alice in Wonderland. As of the time of this writing, 80 of 150 tickets (or 53%) have been sold. For the safety of participants and to give the best possible experience, ticket sales will close two days before the event. A team of vetted chaperones will be working the event.

Big News! DJ Digital will be spinning tunes, promising to make this event way cooler than the person writing this thank you letter and update. With top shelf music, refreshments sponsored by River Oaks Hospital (New Orleans), swag bags for each attendee, and a photo booth, this will be an event not to be missed. (And not to brag, but the planning committee may be working on some pretty sweet costumes.)

As of this writing, we have spent approximately $3200 of the $4000 we received from 24HCP. Thank you for seeing us. Given the current trend of adolescent depression, book bans, and LUS denying a request to hang a banner for Pride, we appreciate you standing up for justice and celebrating diversity.

For all of those Acadiana High School students who wouldn’t be able to take their special date to the prom, or who for whatever reason don’t feel comfortable showing up as their authentic self, for those who may be bullied or feel isolated, for those who would not otherwise get a prom, and for those who want an opportunity to meet other high school students from Acadiana, this is for you. But you know, hurry and get your tickets because only 47% remain and this is going to be a super fun event you don’t want to miss.

Thank you!

Team Inclusive Prom