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Oh La La Nola: how a professional career training program led to the creation of a new app

By Céline Gorin, CIEE Professional Career Training USA participant

Hi everyone! I am Céline, from France. I currently live in New Orleans, one of the most beautiful city in the U.S.

Celine Mississippi River
Céline along the Mississippi River

I was captivated by this city after a first road trip in the Deep South in 2013. My dream to live in New Orleans came true when I found a professional opportunity and received my J1 visa through the CIEE Professional Career Training program.

Before starting working, I volunteered for a nonprofit organization, Lowernine, dedicated to rebuilding homes for pre-Katrina residents in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the city’s poorest neighborhood, devastated by the flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. This experience immersed me in the recent history of the city, and in the realities of global warming. It also helped me connect with locals and people from all around the world to explore the city together.

Lowernine volunteering
Céline on her first day of volunteering with Lowernine

I gained confidence speaking English, and felt ready to start working for Alembic Community Development, a real estate development and consulting firm dedicated to strengthening low-income communities and the non-profit organizations that serve them. Alembic has partnered with the Leona Tate Foundation for Change, Inc., in the redevelopment of McDonogh #19 - one of the two public schools selected for desegregation in New Orleans in 1960 - into an innovative educational facility with an overall mission to promote Civil Rights and undo structural racism.

Every day, I work with Leona Tate, a New Orleans Civil Rights Pioneer, who was one of the three African American little girls to attend the white-only McDonogh #19 school, in 1960. My role is to assist her Foundation with fundraising, communication activities and event planning. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a meaningful project. Beyond having a deeper understanding of the modern American history, I gain a greater awareness of contemporary racial and social justice issues in the U.S.

With Leona - desegregation
Céline and Leona Tate on the 57th anniversary of public school desegregation, organized by the Leona Tate Foundation for Change.

Like any change, moving abroad seems daunting at first. New places, new habits, new people, new culture, all of these shook up my certainties, comfort and fears. But most of all, it opened up my horizons by meeting generous local people who helped me get the sense that New Orleans feels like home.

After a year in the city, I knew I was meant to share my experience as a gift to newcomers who will settle down in this city. I decided to create a guide’s app to help people explore the city differently. With an eco-friendly touch, I suggest many places to eat and shop local, to find a home, to make friends, and more. The app has been live since January 2018 and I expect, time to time, adding more places and features.

Overall, this app is a way to keep ties with this city, and with this wonderful experience I would not have known without the CIEE program.
Are you students, interns, professionals, travelers? Check out the app! It is free and available on the Google Play Store.

Celine press picture - French Morning
Céline’s picture taken for her first press article with French Morning

Want to read more about Céline? Check out her recent interviews in La Nouvelle Republique, and French Morning (in French)