NEW ORLEANS — This school year is different. Mardi Gras will be very different. But despite a pandemic, one thing remains constant in 2021: Rex's Pro Bono Publico Foundation, organized and supported by members of the historic Carnival krewe, is awarding $1 million to local schools and education groups.
The foundation announced its grants to 74 recipients Thursday in a virtual event. This marks the sixth consecutive year the foundation grants have totaled $1 million.
Thursday’s announcement was led by the 2020 King of Carnival, Storey Charbonnet, who is chairman of the Pro Bono Publico Foundation board of directors. He was joined by Merritt Lane, a foundation board member who is also father of last year’s Queen of Carnival, Sarah Eleanor Lane.
Both men pointed out that even without a parade rolling this year, the work of Rex and its nonprofit foundation continues.
“Our organization’s commitment to the city and the charter school movement is really generational,” Lane said. “So we’re not going to let one year reduce that commitment in any respect.”
The foundation takes its name from the Latin motto of the Rex Organization, which translates to “For the Public Good.” It was formed after Hurricane Katrina and its supporters include Rex krewe members as well as other donors and foundations.
Since it was established, the Pro Bono Publico Foundation has awarded more than $9.3 million to local schools and charter school groups. Foundation leaders said they hope to top the $10 million mark next year to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Rex Organization
In addition to grants to schools and school groups, recently the foundation also donated to the New Orleans Technology Access Fund to provide laptops, tablets and internet service to students for remote virtual learning.
This year’s recipients include nine charter management organizations responsible for 48 schools. Twenty-two individual charter schools are also receiving funds, along with nine other schools, including some serving children with special needs. Also benefitting are 25 organizations which provide support services to students and schools, as well as five policy and advocacy groups and four college support groups.
Representatives of several grant recipients joined the virtual event on Thursday and spoke of the foundation's impact.
This year, Charbonnet said he will particularly miss interacting in person with students and teachers who benefit from the donations, to witness their success.
“Our entire organization is about interacting with people, whether it’s the children, the teachers, the support organizations,” he said. “This year will be different but I look forward to getting back and interacting with them soon.”