When students left NOCCA last June, they could be heard yelling down the hall to their peers, “See you next summer!” “Unfortunately, within days, we were cutting the Summer Session, along with the Saturday program, staff, and bus transportation,” says Kyle Wedberg, NOCCA’s President and CEO. “The $1 million state budget cut forced us into decisions that were extremely painful because these programs provide so many students access to NOCCA. It may be the only time a student can attend NOCCA. Or it is an important beginning to his or her career here, learning what will be expected of them in an all day, arts-only setting.”
Over the course of the school year, The NOCCA Institute was able to raise enough funding for a special two-week Summer Conservatory. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre stepped up first. “Le Petit’s stage has been home to innumerable NOCCA faculty, students and alums for decades,” said Gary Solomon Jr., alumnus and managing director of Le Petit. “NOCCA’s summer program is a feeder for the school, for our productions and for theatre groups across the region. It would be a loss to the entire theatre community if this program did not exist.”
Next, the Better Than Ezra Foundation came on board. “We are proud to donate to NOCCA,” says Tom Drummond, band member and Foundation Chairman. “We believe that education is where everything starts to help turn a city around. It is a simple choice for us to have a relationship with a school that has the caliber of education NOCCA embodies.” The Gibson Foundation and GPOA Foundation also committed to support dynamic summer learning opportunities which help young people discover their educational and career goals. “The summer program makes me feel smart,” said one student, “the faculty really connect with us. It is amazing to be in a place with others who love what you love.”
As with the past four years, The Emeril Lagasse Foundation made the Culinary Arts Summer Session a thrilling reality, with both funding support and expertise. This year’s program, held at Grace King High School kitchens, included field trips to Emeril’s, Sucre, Le Petit Grocery, Domenica, La Provence, NATCO and the New Orleans Fish House.
“We can’t do the same summer session as we did with state funding,” says Wedberg. “We want to restore the statewide residential component, the full three-week session, and the Middle School Summer Intensive. But it is essential that the summer session not go away and these supporters made this happen.”