John Alford / NOLA 180

In New Orleans we have had to reinvent our public school system, a previously dysfunctional and failed program. This has resulted in the largest charter school initiative in the U.S. It has attracted established players such as KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), as well as social entrepreneurs anxious to prove concept. Some of the people, such as John Alford, come from an extraordinary background and have recruited talented people from across the country to come here and teach.

John Alford, a Harvard graduate, moved to New Orleans from Brooklyn over a year ago. Growing up in a housing project community in Brooklyn, John has firsthand knowledge of the systemic problems plaguing large urban public school systems. He first set foot in New Orleans in 2004 when he opened the city’s initial KIPP School.

But after Hurricane Katrina, John saw an even greater need to improve the city’s failing public school system. That’s when he founded NOLA 180, an organization aiming to restructure failed public schools into high-functioning charter schools that prepare all students for college.

NOLA 180 focuses exclusively on turning around the toughest public schools in one of the worst school districts in the country (New Orleans). Alford believes that in order to do this, it’s just a matter of providing schools with adequate resources and eliminating the bureaucracies and politics that get in the way of serving kids.

This photo is part of wdydwyd?, a community art project created by Tony Deifell.