Be my neighbor

The Gardere Initiative brings together neighborhood kids of all races with enrichment programs

Buried deep within Baton Rouge is the Gardere neighborhood, a low-income, heavily minority community that often goes overlooked by the city at large. Enter the Gardere Initiative, aimed at keeping the kids of Gardere off the streets, away from drugs and crime and engaged with their neighbors.

From arts and crafts to summer camps to after-school programs, this grassroots organization is boosting kids’ self-esteem, improving their grades and giving them a supportive network of friends and neighbors to rely on. Dr. Murelle G. Harrison, Gardere Initiative director and associate dean of Southern University’s Nelson Mandela College of Government and Social Sciences, keeps it all running.

“Our mission is to make Gardere a safe and healthy community for all its residents. And we specifically included all the residents, because increasingly, the population is becoming more Latino.

We have done so many activities—like after-school tutoring, eight-week summer programs, activities during the spring break and the holidays—to expose the children to art, to increase their academic performance, to develop relationships and to have a safe place to come to in the afternoons. And we think we have made a difference in the community because of that.

We have partnered with BREC to have a playground that they didn’t have before, a place where the community residents can come together and for children to play. We have brought so many resources into the community, and we partner with people who believe just like us. We have partnered with congregations from all different faiths, ethnicities and age groups, because we all have the same belief, and that is to make that community a safe and healthy community.” – Dr. Murelle G. Harrison

Read more from our cover story, featuring people standing up to solve racial issues in Baton Rouge.

This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.