Organization Reaching for the Empowerment of Youth (OREY) started as a student-organized, alternative spring break volunteer trip with students from Pace University in March 2006 just seven months after New Orleans and its surrounding communities were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This annual trip inspired Pace alum Rachel Chopra to create OREY, which was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2010.
OREY was created out of the strong desire among today’s youth to volunteer in a devastated or impoverished communities. Many young people believe that the problems are too large to be changed by the actions of one individual or cannot figure out how they can help. OREY’s goal is to motivate and empower young volunteers to realize that one person can make a difference. OREY’s mission is to assist college students with the opportunity to focus their volunteer efforts on aiding the victims of Hurricane Katrina by providing appropriately chosen placements with education-based organizations within New Orleans’ communities.
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Dear OREY Supporters,
In August of 2005, I was struck with the pain that Hurricane Katrina caused as I watched the lives of people who had little to begin with being torn apart. These people reminded me of my family and the hardships we had faced. I knew that in difficult times, when everything material has been taken away, you always have the love and support from your family that you can depend on. A reliable support system of family and friends is what can get you through the most unfortunate of circumstances, and that is what the victims of Hurricane Katrina would have to depend on in the days, weeks, months and years to come. Watching the the media coverage of the devastating storm, I knew I wanted to help, but how could one sophomore college student make any difference in such a catastrophic event?
After speaking with friends, other college students. and professors, I discovered there were many people who felt the same way. Together, we organized Alternative Spring Break Trip to New Orleans to aid in the clean-up of homes that were still taking place throughout New Orleans. We not only gutted homes, but also had the opportunity to re-build the homes and lives of those who lost everything. That trip changed my outlook that one person could really make an impact and it inspired me to want continue the trip the following year. After organizing Alternative Spring Break trips to New Orleans for my remaining college career, I decided that I wanted to provide an opportunity for college students to realize that they can make a difference as well, which led to the birth of OREY.
Each year, these volunteer trips continue to grow and become more impactful thanks to the incredible volunteers that give up their time to make a difference. I am so proud and thankful to all of them, many of them who have returned year-after-year, and the hard work they have done to show New Orleans that we have not forgotten.
These trips also make a difference in the lives of the volunteers, whose hearts will always be changed by the people and experiences they encounter. I hope you can join us in making a difference!
Rachel Chopra, OREY Founder
Rachel Chopra, Founder
OREY partners with education-based organizations in the New Orleans community in order to assist in the rebuilding of the New Orleans education system. Through OREY volunteers, New Orleans schools are provided additional assistance during the school day, with volunteers acting as teacher’s helpers, one-on-one and group tutors and helping toward the overall betterment of the school, such as clean-up and beautification. Volunteers are often utilized to help New Orleans students prepare for the New Orleans LEAP (Louisiana Educational Assessment Program), which students are required to take in order to determine if they are able to go on to the next grade.
-the opportunity to give back to the New Orleans community and its people
-the self-confidence and self-esteem earned when an individual is put in a leadership position
-the chance to make friends with a group of individuals who believe in giving back
-the experience of working with children in a one-on-one and group setting
-the realization that one individual can make a difference
-the chance to continue its partnership with New Orleans’ community-based organizations
-the opportunity to help make a difference in the rebuilding of New Orleans’ education system
-the chance to help carry out OREY’s mission of helping the people of New Orleans who were affected by Hurricane Katrina
-the opportunity to help build future leaders by developing a dedicated corps of volunteers
New Orleans’ community based organizations gain:
-extra assistance in the education of New Orleans students and preparing them for the LEAP tests
-an increase in the percentage of students who pass the LEAP test; after one year of OREY volunteers tutoring students in the week prior to the tests, the passage rate of one school increased by 33%
-extra assistance in the beautification of the school
-the realization that people throughout the United States still care about the city and people of New Orleans and are willing to help
1. Building a scholarship program that would cover the cost of meals, housing and basic local transportation for 25 volunteers who are students at Pace University (1-3 years).
2. Building a scholarship program that would cover the costs of meals, housing and basic local transportation for 50 volunteers who are students at Pace and several selected partnering institutions (3-5 years).
3. Providing tutoring and college prep to students of all ages in New Orleans schools to help guide them in their future.
4. Achieving recognition as a pioneer in education and mentoring in New York and New Orleans.
5. Building brand awareness by achieving nationwide recognition as the program that student volunteers think of when it comes to helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina in a mentorship program.
6. Mentoring students at other educational institutions who aspire to start nonprofit community support organizations.