Oportunidades NOLA- Serving Immigrant Populations since 2006
History On a sunny fall day in 2006 St. Anna’s Church and the Episcopal Diocese had staged a relief center at the corner of Caffine Avenue and St. Claude Ave. in the Lower 9th Ward. A young lady, Jamie McDaniel, approached the medical unit and asked a simple question. “Do you have room for us?” She was teaching immigrant relief workers survival English and needed a place that was not in an abandoned house. Our policy during those days was simple: if your work is consistent with the Gospel of compassion and will make life better for the city we will make room for you at St. Anna’s Church. By December of 2006 Jamie’s class had grown to 25 and dozens were asking for access to learning English for the workplace. With the need so clearly demonstrated St. Anna’s secured a Congregational Initiative Grant offered by the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. The initial concept was to establish an ESL program coupled with a ‘safe haven’ or Latino Community Center to assist immigrants to live successfully in New Orleans during the rebuilding phase of our city’s post Katrina history. The original name for the program was “The Latino Apostolate of the Episcopal Church.” The ‘Apostolate’ is and remains a part of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church which is a registered Louisiana Corporation and a 501c non-profit.
By 2007 the school was maturing and developing into a true community that expressed its culture, advocated for Spanish speakers in the public arena (most notably the public medical arena), and continued to formalize it’s ESL curriculum still based on work-place language skills (survival English). By 2009 the program hosted about 5 volunteer instructors and employed both Ms. McDaniel as program Director and Mr. Jim Chaney as Asst. Director. Jim, fluent in Spanish, was finishing his Doctorate in Human Migrations specializing in the Americas. His focus was on community building and program re-located to house in Mid-City. During this time to population grew and began to change from migrant workers to more permanent residents. Collaborations were established with Tulane University and Loyola University. In addition a collaboration with the Government of Mexico designated OpNOLA as a Plaza de Communitares Center (Spanish GED program)- the only one in Louisiana. The students then asked if the name of the program could be changed to reflect their sense of community. It was then agreed to be changed to Casa de Oportunidades NOLA. The name has been shortened, out of practicality, to OpNOLA. By 2010/11 the program for various reasons was relocated back to St. Anna’s Church campus where it has remained since.
In 2011 Jamie elected to resign in order to pursue secondary degrees in language and Dr. Chaney relocated so as to finish his Doctorate. They departed with an average enrollment of over 125 students per trimester with OpNOLA ranked as the second largest ESL program in the region. In a smooth transition Dr. Christina Abreo, (Dr. of Latin American Studies Tulane University) assumed the position of Director.
OpNOLA Today continues to enjoy a strong enrollment and has increased it’s collaborations with Tulane and Loyola Universities. The central staff in 2013 continues to be led by Dr. Abreo, assisted by a part time associate, and a one year term with a VISTA Volunteer (full time 2013-14). Collaborations with local universities continue to be strengthened and in some cases class credit is given to university students as participants in this program. The overall program approached has shifted from ‘survival English’ to a more academic track that still maintains workplace language as a central theme but also prepares students for further educational work and credentialing if they so desire. The program is set to three levels of English adequacy and in addition offers computer literacy in a recently installed computer lab. Each year a series of talks/lectures are offered in the areas of nutrition, health, medical access, workers rights, and public safety.
Governance of OpNOLA falls under the general governance of the National Episcopal Church, the local Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, and St. Anna’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans. As such the Canons of the Church (Church law) upholds best practices models and mandates full and transparent fiduciary accountability and reporting requirements of the local church to both Diocesan and National Churches. The Board of Directors of St. Anna’s, and thus her missions including OpNOLA, are elected by the congregation for staggered three year terms and is called “The Vestry.” The CEO of the organization is the Rector, The Rev. William Terry, the President of the Board aka Senior Warden is Sean McLoughlin, the Secretary of the Corporation aka Clerk of the Vestry is Ryan Albright, the Treasurer of the Corporation is Ms. Diana Meyers. Each of the principal missions of St. Anna’s Church including OpNOLA maintains a separate bank account in order to segregate funds and to provide for cleaner accountability.
St. Anna’s Episcopal Church is a registered non-profit EIN # 72-0631881 and has been registered under this number since February 1986. The congregation was first established in 1846 as St. Peter’s Seaman’s Bethel Mission and changed it’s name during the 1850′s to St. Anna’s.
For more information go to www.casanola.org
Declaración de Misión y Resumen