The Rex organization, which is best known for tossing beads, go-cups and doubloons as it parades on Mardi Gras, gave out much more valuable prizes on Saturday (Jan. 13) — grants totaling $1 million to 63 local education-related organizations.
The awards, which ranged from $1,500 to $60,000, came from the Pro Bono Publico Foundation, which the Rex organization formed after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild the education system in the New Orleans area. The name comes from the krewe’s motto, which, in English, means “For the Public Good.” The money comes from Rex members as well as nonmembers, said Dr. Stephen Hales, a founding member of the foundation’s board.
“I’m proud to be a recipient,” said Julia Walker, chairwoman of the development committee of New Orleans College Prep, a charter-school operator that was given $30,000 for three schools.
“I don’t think there’s another organization in town that does so much for the charter schools,” Walker said.
Since the first distribution in 2008, the foundation has given out more than $6.5 million, said Hales, who spoke to about 100 people who had gathered in the chilly Rex den for the announcement. This year, he said, marks the third consecutive year in which the grant total reached $1 million.
The biggest 2018 grant — $60,000 — went to Teach for America, which, according to its website, has 185 teachers in New Orleans and Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes. The organization, which recruits teachers to work in low-income areas, has teachers in 70 percent of New Orleans schools and has been a regular recipient of foundation grants.
“Support from the Pro Bono Publico Foundation has had a meaningful impact in our community,” said Joy Okoro, the interim executive director of Teach for America in the greater New Orleans area.
Since Teach for America’s arrival in 1990, “progress in New Orleans is undeniable,” she said, “but we have so much more to do.”
She spoke at a rostrum decorated with a huge purple papier-mâché flower that stood next to the Boeuf Gras float, which depicts a white ox — a symbol of the last meat to be eaten before Lent — and is a perennial part of the Rex parade.
Before Hales and Okoro spoke, guests ate pasta and king cake, prepared by the students in the Culinary Arts department at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts; listened to a jazz trio; and wandered among the floats from last year’s Rex parade, which had a “Carnival Fêtes and Feasts” theme.
They will soon be replaced for floats for this year’s procession, which will roll on Feb. 13 with the tricentennial-inspired theme of “La Vieille Nouvelle Orléans,” said Hales, adding that the floats will be devoted people and events in the city’s first century.
Other grant recipients were as follows:
- 4Point0 Schools
- Audubon Charter School
- Bayou District Foundation
- Belle Chasse Academy
- Breakthrough New Orleans
- Bricolage Academy
- Choice Foundation
- Citizens Committee for Education
- City Year
- College Beyond