Submitted by Southern University Ag Center
The blockbuster movie, The Blind Side, gives an intimate, telling account of what really are human compassion and community. It is the story of how the Touhy family takes in Michael Oher, a boy who is practically homeless, nurtures him and brings him to a point where he is successful academically, athletically, and socially. The story truly captures how the desire to make a difference can supersede barriers of race, illiteracy, and class difference. The directors marketed The Blind Side as an “extraordinary” true story.
And, extraordinary is a great way to describe this story, which epitomizes the everyday, ongoing work of the Southern University Ag Center in 33 parishes across the state. Like the Touhy family, the Southern University Ag Center’s cooperative extension agents go straight to the need of the community and work with them to bring residents multiple opportunities to succeed.
For example, our annual livestock show—now in its 67th year—doesn’t begin and end with this one weekend event. It is the culminating show for the Ag Center’s livestock programs where young herdsmen who have raised an animal for at least one year can exhibit animal husbandry and begin or continue on the path to farming. The result? Diverse, young, active farm population for Louisiana.
Southern University Ag Center’s “Blind Side” spans the gamut with similar programs and everyday tasks of educating parents, training and certifying day care centers, conducting business development and first time homebuyers consultations, teaching farm management and diversification to small, disadvantaged farmers, and researching new strategies and solutions to alleviate poverty, obesity farm loss and illiteracy.
The result again is not a $105 million blockbuster. The results are:
• Community gardens and greening neighborhoods
• Technology centers for business development
• Improved literacy, parental involvement, and school attendance
• Competitive edge for small farmers
• Farmer mediation for Pigford v. Glickman (Black farmer lawsuit)
• Improved training for prisoners re-entering communities
• Expanded education on emergency preparedness
• Parents reconnected with children through mandated parent training
• Volunteer alliances with in-school and after school reading and math programs like Everybody Reads and Everybody Counts
When walking away from The Blind Side, moviegoers have said they feel compelled to find someone to help and “pay it forward”. Well, we are “paying it forward”. We are planting the seeds of success, educating, nurturing, and providing for the social, technological, intellectual, and physical needs of Louisiana citizens.
We are pushing our communities farther away from the poverty line and illiteracy towards opportunities for success. What’s the return on this land-grant university’s investment? Self-sufficient, productive citizens, businesses and farms. This isn’t unique to the Southern University System or its Ag Center and it’s not unique to many other educational systems. What is unique is that Southern has not lost sight nor connection to the underserved people of the state, and through its outreach arm—the Ag Center—Southern continues to serve well the state of Louisiana.