Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hubs of Activity: University of New Orleans Transportation Institute Partners with Son of a Saint to Spotlight Transportation Careers

The University of New Orleans Transportation Institute conducted its inaugural National Summer Transportation Institute on Thursday, July 20 for a group of 14 boys who spent the day visiting transportation hubs around New Orleans.

The young men who participated ranged in age from 13 to 17. They are mentored by volunteers from the Son of a Saint organization, which pairs mentors with boys whose fathers are absent due to incarceration, death or abandonment. According to the Son of a Saint website, one of the organization’s main objectives is to see its mentees get into college. The day’s activities allowed mentees to hear from local transportation leaders about how their work affects economic, environmental and social issues; it also exposed them to the opportunities to gain expertise in these areas through academic programs like those offered by UNO.

“The summer program is funded by the Federal Highway Administration to promote awareness of educational and career opportunities among disadvantaged and at-risk middle and high school students around the country,” said Bethany Stich, director of UNO’s Transportation Institute. According to Stich, participation is free for students who have an interest in learning more about education or career opportunities in the transportation industry.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to engage with young people and introduce them to a critical aspect of our local, national and international economy,” said Carol Short, associate director of UNO’s Transportation Institute. “For New Orleans and the region to maintain and grow our position as a hub for multi-modal transportation, we need to make sure we are raising new generations of transportation leaders in all sectors.”

“It was a privilege to connect with these young men and introduce them to potential career paths,” Short added. “We are excited to be doing this kind of outreach with support from the federal government and cooperation of our friends in the field.”

The day started out with breakfast on the UNO campus and a bus ride to Lakefront Airport, where participants received an introduction to aviation from Chance Watson, the airport’s assistant director. Next, they toured the Port of New Orleans and heard from external affairs director Matt Gresham about maritime commerce. A stop at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal featured remarks from NOUPT representative Donna Bologna, AMTRAK representative Thomas Stennis, and representatives from Greyhound Lines, Megabus and the terminal’s guard service. Later, a visit to the headquarters of New Orleans Public Belt Railroad offered a lesson in freight logistics from business development director Jared Sleeth. Finally, the day wrapped up at the offices of the New Orleans Regional Transportation Management Center where speakers talked specifically about careers in transportation and urban planning. The group heard from Lynn Dupont and Nik Richard of the Regional Planning Commission, Scott Boyle from the Louisiana Department of Transportation, Keith Holt from Bike Easy and Tara Tolford from UNO’s Transportation Institute.

The UNO Transportation Institute incorporates applied and scholarly research with education and outreach initiatives to support advancements in both passenger and freight transportation systems. Additionally, the Institute promotes technology transfer through strategic partnerships with the public and private sectors to advance innovative policies and practices for the users and providers of transportation. Core expertise includes policy for sustainable, resilient and safe transport systems, specifically relating to maritime and port planning, transit planning, walking, bicycling and transit-oriented development.

Son of a Saint exists to enhance the lives of fatherless boys through mentorship, emotional support, development of life skills, exposure to constructive experiences and formation of positive, lasting peer-to-peer relationships. The organization was founded in 2011 by Sonny Lee, son of New Orleans Saints defensive back Bivian Lee Jr., who died at the age of 36 after a heart attack.