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United Way Recognized as a Finalist for Prestigious All-America City Award Event and Competition

Local student wins the John Parr Youth Leadership Award for outstanding youth leadership and civic engagement

NEW ORLEANS – The National Civil League recognized New Orleans as a finalist for the 2024 National Civic League’s All-America City Award. A team of community partners, led by United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) and including Agenda for Children, the City of New Orleans, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, For Providers by Providers, the New Orleans Children and Youth Planning Board and the New Orleans Youth Alliance collaborated on the city’s nomination, recognizing progress in addressing how the use of inclusive civic engagement addresses critical issues and creates stronger connections among residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government leaders.

“Recognition as a finalist for the All-America City Award demonstrates the progress United Way and our community partners have made in early care and education through advocacy, collaboration and innovative solutions, thereby improving outcomes for children and families,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA President and CEO. “While we recognize that there is still work to be done, our collaborative efforts have resulted in one of the nation’s largest local public investments in early childhood education for infants and toddlers. We are proud to rally together to make New Orleans a city that serves our most vulnerable residents—a place we are all proud to call home.”

For 75 years, this prestigious award has showcased the finest examples of American civic innovation, inviting communities across the country to apply for recognition based on the strength of their civic capital – the formal and informal relationships, networks, and capacities that enable communities to solve problems and thrive. Twenty finalists, including New Orleans, were honored in 2024 for their exceptional work to strengthen democracy through local action and innovation.

The All-America City Award finalists were selected after a competitive review process based on several criteria, including shared vision, civic engagement, inclusiveness and equity, collaboration, innovation and impact. Each finalist submitted a robust application highlighting the strengths of their civic capital and providing examples of three community-driven efforts that have transformed their communities.

The New Orleans delegation included parents, children, and representatives from key early childhood education and family-serving organizations who presented a pitch highlighting the significant achievements in early education over the past 17 years, especially the successful passage of the Orleans Parish ECE millage. They shared various initiatives that used innovative methods to equitably engage community members in activities aimed at strengthening democratic processes, such as facilitating voting, promoting involvement in community affairs, and encouraging participation in leadership roles.

Blair Connerly, Jr., the youngest delegate at nine years old, donned his Black Feather Mardi Gras Indian attire, played the trumpet, and led a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds from across the country in a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Elyssa Lassair, a recent high school graduate and member of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council and New Orleans Children and Youth Planning Board’s Youth Advisory Board, proudly received the John Parr Youth Leadership Award for outstanding youth leadership and civic involvement.

“We are proud of the opportunity to share the exceptional and dynamic work happening in the city of New Orleans on behalf of youth and families,” said City of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “I am even more proud of recent graduate, Mayor’s Youth Advisory alumni, and future LSU tiger Elyssa Lassair for winning the youth leadership award at the All-America City convening. Elyssa is truly a perfect example of the greatness our youth embody.”

This year’s finalists represent a diverse group of communities from 11 states, ranging in size from 3,000 to over 700,000 residents. The finalists share a common goal of empowering residents to actively participate in civic life and have a meaningful say in local decisions.

“We take immense pride in our participation in national activities that highlight the significance of early care and education in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana,” said Libbie Sonnier Ph.D., Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. “This powerful team of partners exemplifies the outstanding work and commitment that we demonstrate daily in ensuring that a stronger Louisiana begins with successful children.”

According to the National Civic League, “All-America City finalists and winners find it easier to attract and retain businesses that generate jobs and a stronger tax base. They also attract and retain residents who want a healthy community. Finalists and winners also have seen an increase in tourism and grants.”

“We were honored to be a part of the delegation representing New Orleans at the National Civic League’s 2024 All-America City Awards Event,” said Jen Roberts, Agenda for Children CEO. “This was a powerful opportunity to be able to share all of the transformative work our community is undertaking to improve the lives of our youngest citizens and to highlight how New Orleans is leading the nation with one of the largest, publicly supported municipal investments for early care and education, and the only one focused on infants and toddlers.”

For more information about the National Civic League’s All-America City Award and the 2024 finalists, please visit

About United Way of Southeast Louisiana
For 100 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana(UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperityguides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.
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