DOINews: NPS: Student Conservation Association's Spring Break 'HEART THIS CITY' Engages Youth in Service to Jean Lafitte NHP and Preserve

Last edited 09/05/2019

American Eagle Outfitters and the Student Conservation Association combine art and conservation to paint a new portrait of urban renewal in New Orleans.

Student volunteers, locally and nationally, provided much needed TLC at the Chalmette National Cemetery, while a renowned street artist created an inspiring and colorful mural in one of the Crescent City's most beloved parks during the Alternative Spring Break project on April 19 conducted by the Student Conservation Association and American Eagle Outfitters.

Under the national program branding and theme of “HEART THIS CITY,” contemporary artists spray and create dynamic outdoor murals while SCA volunteers come to the aid of urban greenscapes – from national parks to vacant lots – in four U.S. cities. Local youth volunteers from New Orleans cleaned some of the 16,000 historic headstones at Chalmette National Cemetery in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. In the week leading up to the cleaning, graffiti artist Totem, known for his signature robotic armored letters and characters, created a mural at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park at Louis Armstrong Park that reflects the heart, soul, and vibrant culture of this urban jewel of a city through iconic images such as the fleur de lis and jazz musicians. It flows like the river that runs through the city.

“Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery is one of the nation's most important historic assets and jazz was given life in New Orleans, so SCA is proud to refurbish sites that mean so much to this great city and our country,” says SCA Gulf Region director Marsha Towns. “We are especially pleased to bring our Alternative Spring Breaks to New Orleans because it is paramount that we conserve all of nature, not only our national parks but the very communities where we live and work.”

The volunteer event saw a glorious sunny New Orleans day under the historic majestic live oaks. The park hosted local youth groups from New Orleans East Science Academy High School, Tulane: Center for Public Service Graduate Students, Crescent City Connections, and from as far as Academy of the Sacred Heart, Lafayette, La. Superintendent Lance Hatten and Assistant Superintent Joe Llewellyn attended the event to welcome the SCA team and the local youth volunteers, and to express the NPS' appreciation and gratitude for their service. When youth give service to and personally touch upon and walk amidst an area of such historical significance and reverence, lifelong memories and relevance is instilled.

Established in May 1864 as a final resting place for Union soldiers who died in Louisiana during the Civil War, Chalmette contains headstones marking gravesites of veterans of the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War. The national cemetery is located on the site of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, next to Chalmette Battlefield.

The New Orleans project is the second SCA-American Eagle Outfitters' Alternative Spring Break collaboration this spring. The first was held in San Francisco on March 22, where more than 150 volunteers cleared debris and prepared a native garden at Golden Gate Park. The remaining SCA projects are planned for Chicago, Ill., and Pittsburg, Pa.

By: Joe Llewellyn, assistant superintendent, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, NPS

April 25, 2014

This story appears in the April 25, 2014, edition of InsideNPS.

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