New Orleans is known by many people as the Big Easy, for the warm welcome that greets visitors and the laid back attitude of local residents. It is also an extremely diverse city; nearly half the citizens of the city are Hispanic or African American (The Data Center 2013), a testament to the history of New Orleans as a place where African and European cultures mixed and melted together. Perhaps one of the most famous inventions to have come from New Orleans is Jazz, a style of music that combined blues, ragtime, and many other genres to produce a unique American sound.
In New Orleans, the PenPal Schools team received a warm welcome from over 800 recent high school graduates at the Saint Stephens Baptist Church. The students told the PenPal Schools team about the various colleges they will attend this fall, the teachers who had helped them get there. “We have this special relationship with teachers at Sci Academy,” said Chance Holmes, a student. “It’s not seen in every school, but I feel like if that relationship established you have this tremendous trust.”
It was a fantastic school visit for the members of the PenPal Schools team, who learned about the ways educators and students work together to get students ready for college and the next chapter of students’ lives.
Fortune, however, is fickle, as the team learned later, driving down the road. As Joe pressed his foot on the gas pedal, the engine roared but sent no power to the drivetrain; the bus rolled to a halt on the side of the road. The team got out of the bus and, after looking at the engine and deciding that this problem would best be left to an expert (“Well, it’s definitely a school bus engine.”), they called a tow truck.
Having been towed to a nearby mechanic, the PPS team learned that the bus had a faulty transmission. Though it was a big job, the mechanic, after hearing about PenPal Schools, our mission, and the Drive to D.C., made a huge effort and fixed the transmission in only two days.
In the meantime, the PPS team didn’t let a broken bus get them down; instead, they made good use of the time by visiting 4.0 Schools, an incubator for non-profit education start-ups. There, the PPS team connected with other passionate entrepreneurs who are working to better the education system in the United States.
Once the bus was roadworthy again, the PenPal Schools team wasted no time climbing aboard and moving on to their next destination, a bit of R&R by West Point Lake in the state of Georgia. The story of the Drive to D.C. continues in Part IV.