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Paving The Way

00:00 March 18, 2013
By: 2Fik


For twelve weeks throughout the spring, our community gets together every Wednesday to share in a celebration of what makes this city great. We dance, laugh, eat, bask in good music, enjoy the nice weather, and celebrate the bonds we have as a culture. In this way, the free concert series “Wednesday at the Square” (WATS), along with its volunteers, has already given back so much to the community. However, what many people don’t get to see is the broader impact that enjoying such an event has on the entirety of the city. WATS organizer, the Young Leadership Council (YLC), uses the event to generate funds that go into projects throughout the city, creating a community-wide charity where people can donate in the best way—by simply going out and having a good time.

The event was originally created by the Downtown Development District over a decade ago in an effort to stimulate the downtown economy by providing workers with a reason to stay in the area and enjoy the many services it provides. However, it wasn’t until after Katrina that the torch was passed over to the YLC and the event, held in Lafayette Square, started to become a major source of funds for an organization looking to better the city as a whole. Although one of the many benefi ts of the event is still the generation of business within the downtown area, as YLC President Richard C. Pavlick explains, the event now goes on to provide much of the funding for a multitude of community-based projects headed by the YLC that offer recreational and educational opportunities.

“Our mission is to develop leadership in young professionals through the development of community-based projects…we set the table for young professionals to come to us when they have an idea,” says Pavlick. “When people are out there having a good time, drinking a beer, having laughs, they’re really doing a great thing for the community at that point,” he reiterates. “Those dollars are then going into our projects like RECreate, which is a basketball and cultural arts program that’s at Harmony Oaks Community Center, and A.L. Davis Park.” RECreate is just one of many projects that WATS helps keep afl oat.

Other programs include one of their newest recreational projects, YLC Kicks, started when a local young professional approached the YLC in hopes of teaching soccer to city youths while also making a difference in their lives. Pavlick says that many projects are started in this way. Young professionals who are looking to be leaders within the community, but may not have all the tools to complete their goal, come to the YLC to gain the support they need. “We provide him with the tools he needs to fulfi ll his vision, and through that process, we develop those leadership skills in our volunteers, and show them this is how you can make a difference,” Pavlick says. Tools can be anything from fi nancial support to help in gaining volunteers, legal support and more.

Project Chairperson and YLC Board Member Warren Surcouf III talks about the College Admission Project, or C.A.P., another project funded through WATS that Surcouf says he’s been lucky to be a part of. An educational program that focuses on getting high school juniors and seniors ready to apply to college, this program helps young people gather recommendations, standardized test scores, and other application requirements by pairing them with a volunteer mentor who ensures that student is allotted the tools to reach their academic goals.

One of the most amazing things about the YLC is that it is purely volunteer-based. Young professionals who have either grown up in New Orleans or moved here for various reasons feel compelled to make a positive difference within the area based on their love for the Big Easy, the main reason Pavlick says the YLC was fi rst started twenty-six years ago. “It was a group of young professionals who had a vision of what they wanted New Orleans to be. They got together and formed the Young Leadership Council, then brought a whole bunch of young professionals together and said, ‘We want to make a difference in this city. This is our city, we’re investing in it,’ and got involved with the big issues at the time,” he explains. Pavlick, who is an Ohio native, said he fi rst came to New Orleans when he went to law school here. He fell in love with the city and was convinced this was his new home. “There’s a sense of something bigger than you,” he says. “New Orleans is like nowhere else in the world. I would rather spend my time in New Orleans working to make this a better place than anywhere else,” he says of his own story of involvement with the YLC. In talking with all those involved in the organization, one truly gets the same feeling from each one. They volunteer their time off to contribute to their local community simply because they genuinely care.

Surcouf, who oversees most of the details surrounding Wednesday at the Square, reiterates that the efforts from the 75-100 volunteers at each event are key to presenting such an occasion, causing a chain reaction of development through the funding WATS provides. However, he also notes that the entire community is needed to keep such an event free, from the weekly cooperation of vendors and artists to sponsors, staff, and the citizens who come out to encourage the event every week. “All the projects the YLC do are really good for the community,” Surcouf says. “Wednesday at the Square gives us that opportunity through funding, and that’s what keeps it a free concert… And ya gotta love that it’s downtown. Having people be able to walk straight from work on a Wednesday is so appealing to me as well,” he comments. As a native of the city, it is important to Surcouf to see the culture fl ourish, while also enhancing the communal atmosphere New Orleans provides. “It gives the locals that ability to see music during the week that you normally wouldn’t see,” he says simply.

It is this same passion and sense of companionship that makes a great city even greater. “I think now more than ever, everybody is going for the same goal, and that’s to make New Orleans an even better world-class city than it already is,” says YLC President Pavlick on why the organization has been so successful. Anyone is able to get involved. All you have to do is contact someone in the YLC to make it happen. Whether you have a specifi c idea or simply want to volunteer for a program, there is always room for more help. Through volunteer efforts, young professionals gain leadership skills not only in community outreach, but learn valuable tools that can be applied in the workplace and throughout their careers. Other fundraising events are held throughout the year, such as the YLC’s annual gala in August, which honors twenty-fi ve role models in the city of New Orleans, and an annual giving campaign that provides an avenue for those who are unable to attend the events but want to make a contribution.

Through pure ingenuity, the Young Leadership Council has been able to provide an event that not only highlights the culture, passion, and way of life here in New Orleans, but has also found a way to put its earnings directly back into the community. Wednesday at the Square is a fun, joyous event where citizens are able to take part in a free concert with music provided by world-renowned and local artists. All you have to do is purchase a delicious meal or beverage to do your part in keeping the event free, while providing the funds for the many community betterment projects the YLC has going. So go out to Lafayette Square and have a good time every Wednesday this spring from 5pm-8pm. You’ll be supporting the city you live in, and embracing part of what makes it beautiful.

Wednsdays at the Square Music Schedule 2013

March 20: Col. Bruce Hampton + Andrew Duhon

March 27: Marcia Ball + Jenn Howard

April 3: Irvin Mayfield & the Jazz Playhouse Revue with Kermit Ruffins + The New Orleans Jazz Institute’s Saturday Music School

April 10: The Mother Hips + Jon Roniger

April 17: The Revivalists + Disco Demolition Knights

April 24: Eric McFadden with Bernie Worrell, Luther Dickenson, Eric Bolivar, & Robert Mercurio + Dave Jordan Band

May 1: The Meters Experience feat. Leo Nocentelli + Chris Mule & the Perpetrators May 8: Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk + Mahayla

May 15: Billy Iuso & Restless Natives + N’awlins Johnnys

May 22: Special Finale Performance to be Announced May 8 + Westbank Mike

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