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The Starting Block Accelerates Into New Orleans: Innovative Youth Education Program Launches

November 09, 2021 5:15 PM
The Starting Block in New Orleans



November 8, 2021 –The Starting Block: A Fielkow-Chase Youth Education Initiative is designed to build impactful relationships between multicultural and multifaith communities in Greater New Orleans. Through practical learning and career skills building, this program will mentor high school students interested in pursuing professions within the sports industry, while at the same time allowing the participating teens to learn about one another’s history, traditions, and culture. After a competitive application cycle, the first cohort of The Starting Block will launch this week, on November 11, 2021.

This innovative program was jointly created by the Arnie D. Fielkow Family, the Edgar "Dooky" Jr. & Leah Chase Family Foundation, and the Melinda and Morris Mintz Family. These names are well-known among New Orleanians, and their collaboration combines the primary passions of each family as seen through their years of philanthropic service. This program is a definitive nod to Arnie Fielkow's nearly 30-year professional career of sports, Judaism, and fostering relationship building among diverse communities. The iconic Leah and Dooky Chase also devoted their entire lives to social justice, education, and leveraging a good plate of food to bring diverse New Orleanians together. 

"I have been blessed to have enjoyed an almost 30-year career in the sports industry which allowed me to fulfill a life's dream,” says Arnie Fielkow. “Through The Starting Block, it is my hope to give other New Orleans area youth the same opportunity and the foundation to live out their own professional dreams. Even more importantly, given the current state of society, it is vital that communities-especially the African-American, Latino and Jewish communities-unite to better understand each other's history and traditions, and to stand together to combat bigotry, hate and discrimination. Hopefully The Starting Block will bring New Orleans area youth together to accomplish just that!”

“This foundation was created in remembrance and celebration of Leah and Dooky Chase and their lifetime commitment to social equity and positive change,” says Edgar “Dooky” Chase III of the Edgar "Dooky" Jr. & Leah Chase Family Foundation. “By offering students in a majority minority city a program of this caliber, we are leveling the playing field by lowering barriers to positions of influence within the sports industry. We want to expand the range of qualifiers for a young person to have a career in sports far past just their physical ability. This is definitely something they would have loved to see.”

"Creating opportunities for shared experiences and dialogue with real world applications among students from different faiths, economic and cultural backgrounds is important to us as New Orleanians," said Morris and Melinda Mintz. "The Starting Block reflects an opportunity to uplift area students while building pathways for shared cultural understanding. We're excited to see what our first cohort of students will accomplish, both individually and together, and what long-lasting relationships will grow among them."

The inaugural cohort will complete an 18-month education cycle featuring the ins and outs of the sports industry, with the goal of preparing them for a professional career in the field after college. The program curriculum will also highlight African American and Latino history and challenges, as well as Jewish history and tradition. During the summer of 2022, students will gain hands-on experience through job shadowing at sports-related organizations throughout the Greater New Orleans area. This will be a hybrid program that features in-person classes and virtual enrichment opportunities. In-person classes will be held every two months, rotating between Tulane University, St. Augustine High School, Touro Synagogue, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, and other local venues.

The Center for Sport at Tulane University, with co-director Gabe Feldman, serves as The Starting Block's primary educational partner, and will be responsible for creating the 18-month curriculum and scheduling of classes. In addition, St. Augustine High School, Touro Synagogue, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, ADL, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana will assist Tulane with the creation of historical and religious education modules. This initiative is made possible through the generosity of the Chase Family, the Fielkow Family, and the Melinda and Morris Mintz Family. Additional partners include the Major League Baseball New Orleans Youth Academy, Son of a Saint, Ursuline Academy, YMCA of Greater New Orleans and Each One Save One.

Reflecting a wide array of public and private schools, and leaning into the strength of New Orleans’ diversity, The Starting Block is thrilled to welcome this eclectic and talented group of 41 students:

Jonathan Ashford, St. Augustine High School

Joseph Bain, Lusher Charter School

Bryce Bridges, De La Salle High School

Ty'Lia Brooks, Rosenwald Collegiate Academy

Jacob Chapital, Benjamin Franklin High School

Paul Collins, Isidore Newman School

Ke'wan Cooks, Booker T. Washington High School

Valiant Cuiellette, III, Benjamin Franklin High School

Mats Dolese, Lakeshore High School

Gabriel Ebilane, Helen Cox High School

Michaela Gray, Ursuline Academy

Akai Green, Bonnabel High School

Kaleb Gross, Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy

Bradlee Gross, Thomas Jefferson High School for Advanced Studies

Jacob Guichet, Lusher Charter School

Samuel Haber, Isidore Newman School

Diego Hallner, Archbishop Rummel High School

Jared Hollins, McDonogh 35 Senior High School

Canin Jefferson, Isidore Newman School

Demi Johnson, Warren Easton Charter High School

Logan Katz, Metairie Park Country Day School

Gavin Kennedy, Archbishop Rummel High School

Rodney LaVigne, Isidore Newman School

Madison Levy, Ursuline Academy

Andre' Lewis, St. Augustine High School

Christian Maniger, St. Augustine High School

Payton McDonald, Archbishop Rummel High School

Derek Mercadel, II, St. Augustine High School

Jayla Montgomery, St. Mary's Dominican High School

Travis Norton, Isidore Newman School

Brice O'Quin, Benjamin Franklin High School

Jaden Prevost, Brother Martin High School

Alaney Reed, De La Salle High School

Collin Reid, St. Augustine High School

Jadon Russell, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy

Dustin Sorapuru, Young Audiences Charter School

Jacoby Sorapuru, Lusher Charter School

Malcolm Venable, St. Augustine High School

Tye Williams, St. Augustine High School

Taylor Williams, Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies

Savannah Williams, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy


For more information, contact: Caitrin Gladow | info@thestartingblocknola.com / cait@jewishnola.com | 850-449-3667