NEW ORLEANS - General Russel Honore’ was credited with bringing some semblance of order to New Orleans in the chaotic days after Katrina.
Now retired, he’s back home in his native Louisiana fighting another kind of battle.
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Honore’ is committed to trying to change a troubling statistic among African-American young men.
Statistically, black me are under-represented on college campuses nationwide. It’s something they are trying to change at Southern University, particularly at the Honore’ Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement at Southern University at New Orleans.
“Few problems are more serious than the problems we see with the black males who, in so many cases, by the time they’re done with high school, unless they go to college – their options are limited – underemployment, jail or the grave,” said Warren Bell, the director of the center.
The Honore’ Center is a pilot program that targets African-American males who might not otherwise attend college. General Honore’ agreed to lend his name and support to the program because, as he says in his book “Leadership in the Normal,” education is the way out of poverty and the best way to fight crime.
“Too many politicians I talk to in Louisiana say the way we’ll deal with crime is we’ll build more prisons,” he said incredulously. “Well, how is that working out? Maybe we ought to build more schools. Maybe we ought to recommit ourselves to end poverty, because there is a common denominator here. There are not many rich kids in Angola.”
Honore’ is a success story these many can relate to because he grew up poor in Lakeland, Louisiana as one of 12 children. Yet, he graduated from Southern University and rose to the rank of general in the world’s most powerful army. Now, he’s working with his alma mater to mold future leaders.
“I’m accountable,” he said. “At the end of the day, one of the lessons you learn here in college is that you’re accountable for your actions.”
Jai Phillips, who grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward said that in return for the full scholarship, which includes room and board, the students have to abide by the rules – mandatory curfew, daily study halls and counseling sessions and a commitment to teach for two years after graduation.
“They don’t want us to be teachers just to teach,” said Phillips. “They want us to be role models for the little kids.”
Phillips is already that for his five younger sisters and brothers. They are all being raised by their grandparents.
“He is the first grandchild,” said his grandfather. “He is the first of the grandchildren to go to college. To me, a precedent has been set. A standard has been set.”
There are plans to expand the Honore’ program to other college campuses.
“We’re not just trying to care for New Orleans,” Phillips explained. “We’re trying to take care of the world. We’re trying to change the world if we can.”