October 1, 2021

Started by a group of high schoolers banding together to help the city of New Orleans after Katrina, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans shines a light on how adolescents and young adults are eager to roll up their sleeves to improve their community.

Following the devastating hurricane of 2005, several students from across the city realized they shared the same passion for restoring the area. Together, they started gutting homes, cleaning out neighborhoods, and acting as therapists for those affected by the storm. Now, this completely youth-led nonprofit organization is committed to reenergizing the soul of New Orleans through education, employment, and spiritual health. 

Breathing Life into New Orleans

At the heart of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO) is its dedication to buying, renovating, and selling homes in lifeless neighborhoods. After purchasing homes that need a little TLC, the organization then hires and trains young people in the area who are hungry to learn a new trade. Instead of contracting out the work to profiting construction companies, YRNO supplies these young adults with work experience in construction and design to carry on to the full-time employment that the organization officials then help them find.

Once the flip of these homes is complete, they prefer to sell them to community members who will bring good energy to the neighborhood, like nurses, teachers, or first responders. The renovation of these properties motivates other developers to come in and rebuild, which revives the areas turning once simple homes into thriving communities.

But the organization doesn't just stop there. Youth Rebuilding New Orleans is dedicated to teaching the community's young adults about financial literacy, sex education, and the importance of connection. They provide school programs, tutoring services, and extracurricular activities.

Lending a Helping Hand

Currently, Dwayne "Prince" Holmes Jr., one of the four leaders of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, is leading community efforts to clean up after the devastation of Hurricane Ida. The organization uses its social media platform and community outreach to inform the masses of low-income families' problems following the storm. Many still without power and the elderly struggling to receive the help they need, YRNO stops at nothing to ensure their neighbor's health and safety.

Daily volunteers supply fresh water, food, gas, and tarps to those in need. Their main priority is fixing damaged properties to ensure people in the community have liveable dwellings. Due to Ida's impact, they have also implemented a financial assistance program for those struggling to make ends meet. Holmes Jr. observes how outstanding leaders come about in times like this. He says, "Unfortunately, natural disasters happen, but it is a great opportunity to connect and step up for your city." 

Hurricane relief efforts are still underway, and volunteers are needed. To find out how you can help Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, visit yrno.com/donate

Encouraging Others to Serve

Put on your sunglasses because the future for this organization looks so bright it's blinding. After realizing that all you need to revamp your city are youths who want to learn, YRNO is taking its "business model" and expanding around the country.

This week, they have community volunteers from Washington, DC interning with them and studying the process of flipping homes by training young adults in the area. Holmes Jr. explains, "People want to help their community; they take pride in bettering their neighborhoods, so we hope to teach other states and other cities in Louisiana how to do that." 

Their presence on social media has made it easier to spread the word about how areas can benefit from educating young adults and training them in specific trades. It is not just about building new structures for this organization, but more importantly, about harmonizing the city through collective projects. They strive to use the vigor and ambition of youth to breathe new optimism into perishing neighborhoods.

Through service, respect, and advocacy, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans hopes to revitalize the emotional and spiritual health of the city. 


Lynzi Whalen is an editorial intern at Family Resource Group.

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