On Dec. 21, 1992, the Louisiana Secretary of State recognized the incorporation of the Louisiana Child Caring Foundation — the entity that eventually became the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.
In recognition of our 25th anniversary, we’re catching up with grantees, starting with our 23 classes of Angel Award honorees.
In the years since Shreveport cardiologist Dr. Phillip Rozeman won the Angel Award for his work with the Alliance for Education, the organization’s scope and mission evolved, keeping up with the latest advances in education reform and improvement in Louisiana.
The Alliance “took a big jump” with the Angel Award in 2002, Rozeman recalls, “It was important for the concept that somebody recognized that the work was valid and useful. Somebody with a record of great credibility – they [the Blue Cross Foundation] essentially helped put us on the map. It helped in raising money, raising awareness, giving credibility, all those things that are important when you’re trying to do something in the community.“
At the time the Alliance received the Angel Award, “it was a new organization – probably three years old,” Rozeman recalls, “We were doing mainly service type education, programs and professional efforts in different schools.” The work began at the local level, initially in one parish, then two, then seven, and began to include advocacy, such as leading efforts in bond elections and in-depth looks at school board operations.
“It became obvious once you’re doing program work and advocacy on a local level, that a huge portion of what goes on in education is at the state level,” he says. “So we got involved at the state level. We became the connection between school boards and the state.” At the time, different areas of the state functioned almost as rivals in their dealing with the state, but, Rozeman says, “We brought with us a kind of approach that said, ‘You know, it would be beneficial to look at how we could work together toward common goals.’”
Now it has come full circle. “I was the first board president and now I’m back, 20 years or however many later, he says. “I wanted to see us kind of move into a narrower focus. I didn’t want it to be “a mile wide and an inch deep’ and that’s where we are now.” Another reason for the shift is the coming onto the statewide educational scene of other organizations, “so there’s less need for us to do that,” says Rozeman, adding “We still do some connecting because we’ve got the relationships – we continue to beat the drum.”
Recently in Caddo Parish the Alliance worked with State Superintendent of Education John White to implement some innovative ideas in dealing with failing schools. “Shreveport is the next big city – we have urban, failing schools. Caddo and the state are working together to implement a plan with significant accountability and there’s been a pretty significant improvement in that group of schools,” Rozeman notes.
As part of their current initiative to work smaller and deeper, the Alliance is teaming with two area nonprofits. Step Forward concentrates on early childhood education while their work with JumpStart focuses on the opposite end of the spectrum, getting children college and career ready.
In addition to narrowing its focus, the Alliance also downsized its physical footprint. “We’re working out of the Chamber of Commerce now,” says Rozeman, “Because it was always a business organization. We can use their employees and our board works with the chamber board.”