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Citywide program works with student athletes

On February 21, 2013

  • Brandon Dixon does a layup while Ben Aronin, a coach at Elevate New Orleans, blocks him from the side and Sky Hyacinthe, executive director, observes. Students at Elevate New Orleans receive coaching from former professional and semi-professional basketball players. AUSTIN SCOTT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Cedar Howard, a community volunteer at Elevate New Orleans, helps eighth grader Gregory Johnson with a school project. Elevate New Orleans provides students with tutors in all school subjects. LESLIE GAMBONI/THE MAROON

Loyola students are helping in a citywide program offered to inner city student athletes.
Elevate New Orleans is a free program that works with inner city student athletes and is focused on enhancing their academic and athletic performance.
The program provides tutoring services as well as basketball coaching to a select number of middle school and high school students.
The program works toward getting each student into college on scholarship and has been successful for students involved, according to Sky Hyacinthe, executive director of Elevate New Orleans.
"12 students in total have graduated from the program and each one has gone on to college on scholarship either athletic or academic," Hyacinthe said.
Students attend the program Monday through Friday from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. The students spend half of the time receiving tutoring in the Monroe Library and the other half of the time on a basketball court located on Napoleon Avenue.
According to Cedar Howard, a community volunteer with the program, students receive tutoring in any subject they need during their time in Monroe Library.
"Whatever homework they have, you work on it with them. They receive whatever they need specifically that day," Howard said.
According to Naomi Yavneh, director of the university honors program, the honors department works with Elevate New Orleans to provide tutors throughout the week and also helps with ACT preparations for the juniors and seniors of Elevate New Orleans.
In addition to community volunteers, many of the tutors are Loyola students.
Maya White, political science freshman, joined the team of volunteers when she wanted to get involved with service this semester.
"It helps us get involved with people in our community. As students, people have helped us along the way and I think it is important to help others as well," White said.
According to Hyacinthe, in order to participate in Elevate New Orleans, students undergo a three-step application process in which they prove their dedication to being a student athlete.
On the court, students receive training from coaches that have played on a professional and semi- professional level.
"I think sometimes people think when they hear about Elevate they think this is a program to train kids to be NBA stars and that's not what its about at all. Its about helping kids to achieve their potential and to be productive members of the New Orleans community," Yavneh said.
Yavneh said she appreciates the goals of the program and sees them as shared ideas with Jesuit values.
"The program has the same Ignatian values that we have, care of the whole person, looking to strengthen the gifts that an individual has, encouraging sensitive towards others and a respect for the world and a respect for diversity," Yavneh said.
Howard said he thinks the program is beneficial in different ways for the students in the program.
"It's a selfless program that I think works. These kids are advanced mentally in both academics and in the way they play basketball," Howard said.

Leslie Gamboni can be reached at

Hasani Grayson contributed to this report 

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