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New funding initiative will increase funding for after-school programs

14th October 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

Distinguished athletes Edwin Moses and Marcus Allen announced increased support for after-school sports programs throughout the Greater New Orleans Area as part of a partnership between the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and Mercedes-Benz USA.

The announcement was made the afternoon of September 30th at A.L. Davis Park in Central City, a few hours before the Saints’ victory over the Miami Dolphins. Mercedes-Benz and its dealers committed $2 million to Laureus USA, an organization that uses sport to combat challenges facing young people such as obesity, gangs, and juvenile crime. As part of the initiative, 400 coaches will be trained and placed in sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods in 15 American cities, including New Orleans, through the national mentoring program Coaches Across America.

The funding will supplement and add to existing programs Laureus had already established in New Orleans last year when Mercedes-Benz USA committed $1.3 million to the project. In New Orleans, 30 coaches will be trained and placed in 18 after school programs, benefitting a total of 4,048 youth. The investment in New Orleans, a city where 34 percent of high school students are overweight or obese, is estimated to be over $500,000. Supported communities include Jefferson Parish, Gentilly, Marrero, Gretna, Algiers, New Orleans East, and Broadmoor.

Edwin Moses, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Chairman of Laureus USA, said New Orleans was chosen as one of the recipient cities after the foundation carefully researched where their services were most needed. New Orleans, especially post-Katrina, was an obvious choice.

“It’s no accident that we’re here,” Moses said. “There’s been so many problems here that no other city has ever seen.”

While many companies moved in quickly after Hurricane Katrina, Moses said that Laureus wanted to devote time to planning so that the efforts would be as effective and long-lasting as possible.

“We are fully invested in this city,” Moses said. “We want to support on-the-ground leaders within the community, often young leaders, and assist them to deliver programs and education to other young people in this community.”

Stephen Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz, said the company is eager to help the New Orleans community and did not want their ties to the city to end with securing naming rights to the Superdome. He hopes the Laureus program will serve as an example to be emulated by other cities.

“We want New Orleans to be that beacon city,” Cannon said.

Another celebrity ambassador on hand to celebrate the event was Marcus Allen, a member of Laureus and the NFL Hall of Fame. Allen cited the importance of coaches in the lives of children. He mentioned Vic Player and Roy Reed as coaches who helped shape his character as a child and USC coaches John Robinson and John Jackson for guiding him as a young adult.

“Next to the parents, the coach can be the most important adult in a child’s life,” Allen said. “You’re with your coaches more than you’re with a lot of people.”

This article originally published in the October 14, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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