Roots of Renewal receives grant to re-juvinate juvenile offenders



Brandi Doyal, Staff Reporter

Between winning $7,500 at the Clinton Global Initiative University competition in Arizona this past weekend and winning $1,000 in Tulane’s ComeFail competition, Roots of Renewal has hit the ground running. Roots of Renewal’s initial project focuses on reintegrating juvenile offenders back into society by teaching them the necessary skills to help them reach career and life goals they may have had prior to being incarcerated. Roots of Renewal aims to eventually become a resource to assist all incarcerated individuals and their families within the Central City of New Orleans.

Roots of Renewal co-founder Brendan Lyman said winning both competitions has been a great experience for Roots of Renewal. He said the funding is an excellent start to help the organization reach its goal, and he is humbled by the number of people backing the program. 

“It has been a little overwhelming in the last week but it has also been really surreal, from Hillary Clinton mentioning us in her speech to the outpouring of support at the Clinton Global Initiative to people just telling us that it was a great idea,” Lyman said.

The organization’s plan for the summer program is to buy a house and allow previous juvenile offenders renovate the house, then rent it out as affordable housing to help fund the program. Roots of Renewal plans to hire professionals to help teach job skills such as plumbing, electricity and flooring. It also plans to have life coaches work with the participants to help them set goals and build a support system. The goal is that by the time the program ends, the participants are ready to rejoin the school system and thrive.

Roots of Renewal Chief Executive Amy Fottrell said the prison cycle within the community was is a major problem that needed addressing.

“If we can stop the cycle early, especially with juvenile offenders, we think that it could be incredibly effective,” Fottrell said. “When people come out of prison one of their biggest problems is that it is impossible to get a job because they have a criminal record.”

In the wake of the ComeFail competition, Tulane Trash to Treasure announced on its Facebook page that it is considering a partnership with Roots of Renewal. Trash to Treasure, which won $500 from ComeFail, narrowly lost the $1,000 prize to Roots of Renewal on Sunday. Lyman said a partnership could include Roots of Renewal storing some of Trash to Treasure’s goods for the summer.

No partnership has been finalized, but Lilith Winkler-Schor, cofounder and director of research for Roots of Renewal, said a partnership could be a positive move for both organizations. Winkler-Schor said she didn’t believe this partnership would even have been imagined without the ComeFail competition.

“We would love to support [Tulane Trash to Treasure] and are more than happy to have them supporting us,” Winkler-Schor said. “I think Tulane has a really great atmosphere for supporting other ventures.”

Lyman said that reaching the goals of the organization will be a collaborative effort by the city and other organizations. He hopes to be a part of something that will help allow New Orleans thrive at its highest potential.

“Really nothing would make me happier than to see the Central City be the neighborhood it once was and the neighborhood it has the potential to be,” Lyman said. “That is why we are doing what we are doing. It is not for us, Roots of Renewal, or to make the world a better place. That is part of it, but we are doing it because we really would like to see Central City thrive.”