William Stoudt: New Orleans, LA

Life changed forever on August 29, 2005.
Now: A P!N Hurricane Relief Scholar and non-profit trailblazer at Tulane University

William Stoudt, a junior at Tulane University in New Orleans, is one member of P!N’s inaugural Hurricane Relief Scholarship Award class. His award is helping him complete his undergraduate degree. William’s work as a volunteer for the student-led Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO), and his academic pursuits as a Political Science major who follows national and local politics closely- make him an excellent advocate for severe storm preparedness and relief. P!N contacted William recently to get an update on his work in New Orleans.

Q: What are you working on now at YRNO? When we spoke in September, the City of New Orleans had just granted you the deeds to 4 homes YRNO planned to donate to public school teachers.

A: Yes, we have two of the four houses under contract; we haven’t closed on them. We’re also building up the organization by creating a new website, and starting the application process for potential homeowners. We’re also adding to the YRNO youth chapters and recently added two. One of those chapters is part of a new service learning project. So, instead of YRNO being an after-school activity as it is in all other schools, our rebuilding and education work is built into the curriculum.

We’ve begun a youth council whose representatives convene and plan how to execute YRNO projects. One of the decisions to come out of these meetings has been to use green building technology for our rebuilding projects. We’ve partnered with EnergyStart to do this. Finally, we’re building a community garden in the Algiers neighborhood, on the West Bank of New Orleans.

Q: President Obama recently visited New Orleans. How do you feel about the local and federal reforms in the rebuilding effort?

A: The President’s visit was most important as a tool to raise awareness because it drew attention back to New Orleans and the issues of storm relief and preparedness. (Although the visit was slightly overshadowed by the balloon-boy incident, unfortunately).

At the local level, there is a lot of hope in educational reform. I would call this the silver lining of Katrina. Our city educational system is being completely overhauled. Charter schools are sprouting everywhere, and people are experimenting with educational models. There are still years of work ahead of us, but this system is the Phoenix emerging from the ashes of New Orleans. Our President here at Tulane has been very active in the reforms.

We hope education reform will come with crime reform. The fact that we lost 100k in our city’s population led to predictions of lower crime rates, but that hasn’t been the case. Murder per capita is still one of the highest in the country.

Q: You’re in the middle of your junior year. Are your career goals changing as you near graduation?

A: No changes. The closer I get to graduating, the more nerve-wracking the decision becomes. I’m choosing between law school, public policy work, and an MBA. I’ll probably work in the corporate sector after graduation, then run for office in New Orleans. My goal is to one day become the city’s Mayor.