THE STARTING BLOCK
A Fielkow-Chase Youth Education Initiative
CONGRATS TO OUR INAUGURAL CLASS
The Starting Block is delighted to announce our first cohort of students, who graduated from the program on May 24, 2023.
Jonathan Ashford | Joseph Bain | Bryce Bridges | Ty'Lia Brooks
Jacob Chapital | Paul Collins | Ke'wan Cooks | Valiant Cuiellette III
Mats Dolese | Gabriel Ebilane | Michaela Gray | Akai Green
Kaleb Gross | Bradlee Gross | Jacob Guichet | Samuel Haber | Diego Hallner
Jared Hollins | Canin Jefferson | Demi Johnson | Logan Katz | Gavin Kennedy
Rodney LaVigne | Madison Levy | Andre' Lewis | Christian Maniger
Payton McDonald | Derek Mercadal, II | Jayla Montgomery | Travis Norton
Brice O'Quin | Jaden Prevost | Alaney Reed | Collin Reid
Jadon Russell | Dustin Sorapuru | Jacoby Soruparu | Malcolm Venable
Tye Williams | Taylor Williams | Savannah Williams
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 the lens of practical learning and career building for high school students interested in pursuing professions within the sports industry.
This innovative program was jointly created by the Arnie D. Fielkow Family and the Edgar "Dooky" Jr. & Leah Chase Family Foundation. Those in New Orleans know these names well - this initiative combines the primary passions of Arnie Fielkow's nearly 30-year professional career: sports, Judaism, and fostering relationship building among the diverse subsets of diverse communities. The iconic Leah Chase devoted her entire life to social justice and change, and education, and utilized her unprecedented culinary talents to bring diverse New Orleanians together.
THE STARTING BLOCK
A starting block is used by athletes to brace their feet at the start of a race, enabling them to launch with more power and speed.
In May 2023, the Starting Block graduated its first cohort of more than 40 high school students reflecting the New Orleans African-American, Latino, and Jewish communities. Each cohort completes an 18-month education cycle learning 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 also highlights African-American and Latino history and challenges, as well as Jewish history and tradition. Students further gain hands-on shadowing experience at sports-related organizations throughout the Greater New Orleans area.
In-person classes will be held every two months, from October through May, and rotate between Tulane University, St. Augustine High School, Touro Synagogue, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, and other local venues. Occasional virtual enrichment opportunities may be offered.
"When integration came, people said, Leah, you should move, black people can go anywhere now, they won’t come to you. I said, you can’t run away from yourself, you are who you are, so you stay where you are and make it work for you. And that’s exactly what I did. I stayed right here. All I wanted was a community where people would come, and I have that. I’m still trying to make it a first-class restaurant in this community. That’s all I ever wanted. I was on that road, and here comes Katrina, bam, and I had to start over again. I’m never going to give up. I’m going to stay on this battlefield till I die."
- Chef Leah Chase
The Center for Sport at Tulane University, under the direction of Dr. Gabe Feldman, serves as The Starting Block's primary educational partner, and is responsible for 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 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 and Each One Save One.
"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. 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!"