VAYLA’s 2011 Raise Your Hand Campaign promoted equal access to quality public education for racially and economically marginalized students through youth participatory research, grassroots leadership development and policy-centered youth organizing.

Young people, particularly students of color, have had little opportunity to share feedback or influence the direction of New Orleans public schools. In this era of great educational change, we have been acted upon rather than treated as invaluable partners. Grounded in our belief that student voices must be at the forefront of New Orleans’ educational transformation, youth at the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA) embarked upon an 18-month bottom-up research initiative to assess conditions in public high schools from the student perspective.

Reed Renaissance Initiative

The Reed Renaissance Initiative (RRI) is a school-based organizing effort that seeks to improve educational quality and increase student voice at Sarah T. Reed, a school slated by the Recovery School District for closure. With support from New Orleans East Charter Academies, Inc. (NOECA) and VAYLA, Reed Renaissance is advocating for participatory governance, community control and the rights of students to access the resources and tools they need to learn.

In 2011, RRI youth leaders surveyed over 250 members of their community and put together a report, called the Student Blueprint. This report reflects the community’s vision for transformation of Sarah T. Reed Senior High School, and includes a list of 29 recommendations to improve school conditions. Covering areas ranging from college prep courses to expanded extracurricular activities and health services, the Student Blueprint was designed to be a resource in developing a quality, sustainable framework for a community high school in Village De L’est.