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.
The story of many of the Angel Award honorees and their organizations is often one of humble beginnings and long days of dedication and perseverance, culminating in a success story benefitting thousands of Louisiana’s children.
No one exemplifies this phenomenon more than Nancy Roberts, founder and executive director of the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators. Thirty years ago, she began Friends of the Environment with the idea of supporting environmental education in kindergarten through 12th grade. The organization provided scientific teaching equipment and travel grants for science teachers and helped develop certification standards for environmental science teachers.
“I was operating out of my playroom/garage at that point,” recalls Roberts, who was in the inaugural group of Angel Award honorees in 1995. “We didn’t have any money. First of all, to even be nominated for something like the Angel Award brings recognition. It’s very encouraging, and I think that’s the biggest thing – when you work with teachers and children, particularly in poor rural or urban areas, you become so engrossed in the whole thing, you need people with money and power to say to you, ‘What you’re doing is good. Don’t give up.’”
By 1998 it had become apparent that there was a need to support Louisiana’s teachers across the academic spectrum; the organization expanded and adopted its current name.
“We’re now about a 1.3 million dollar operation,” Roberts says. LRCE maintains a resource library of more than 110,000 items available to students and educators in public, private, parochial, charter and home schools as well as meeting rooms for organizations and schools.
In 2003, LCRE began an alternative teacher certification program which enables college graduates and professionals transitioning from other careers to work toward a teaching certificate while teaching in a school, earning full-time pay.
In 2013, in a two-birds-with-one-stone initiative, LRCE created Reach for Success, a summer enrichment camp designed to combat students’ summer learning loss and to provide prospective teachers in the alternative certification program the chance to experience a real classroom environment.
The organization moved into its present 30,000 square-foot headquarters in Baton Rouge with the expansion of its alternative teacher certification program, which had begun with 50 enrollees. In 2016 it was renamed LCRE Teach! and helps several hundred prospective teachers attain certification every year. It has trained more than 1,800 new teachers and placed them in public and private schools in 55 parishes across the state.
Also in 2016 LRCE began Find Your Future, a workforce development program to teach high school sophomores “soft” skills such as writing a resume, dressing professionally and successfully interviewing for a job. More than 800 students attended FYF workshops that year.
Roberts announced her retirement from the LRCE in July 2017 – the second time she’s tried to pass the torch. She “retired” several years ago, but resumed the directorship when a replacement couldn’t be found. This time it’s for real. “It’ll be good,” she says. “We need fresh young ideas. There’s still a lot of work to do.”