About Our Program

The ESSENCE Program is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation that specializes in curriculum and professional development for K12 Louisiana public school systems that have majority African American student populations. Promoting cultural competency is the principal goal of ESSENCE. In fulfillment of this goal, ESSENCE uses native-centered content–information about the life, history, and culture of African American Louisiana–to instruct teachers and students on the role culture plays in shaping experiences and ethics, resources that both teachers and students bring to the classroom. This baseline information gives teachers a means for developing innovative strategies that engage students in the instructional process, especially as it relates to building critical thinking, social, and communication skills. The baseline also provides students a means to see themselves in what and how they learn; to want to learn; and to excel. The program operates in the following four components:

ESSENCE Summer Institutes & Seminars are four week programs that provide teacher participants comprehensive introduction to topics, texts, and issues in African American Louisiana that form the core of ESSENCE’s native-centered curriculum.  Institute sessions are day-long (or a total of 160 credit hours); seminar sessions are half-a-day (or a total of 80 credit hours).  Each session includes time for delivery of new content; large and small group discussion; and lesson-plan development.

ESSENCE Professional Development Workshops take place during the academic year and are either day-long or half-a-day in length. The workshops are structured like institute and seminar sessions, with new native-centered content delivered and discussed and new lesson plans developed.  Workshops may also serve as follow-ups to institutes and seminars, during which teachers refine existing lesson plans and troubleshoot implementation.

ESSENCE Summer School Enrichment and After School Enrichment Programs offer students of different backgrounds and skill levels the opportunity to explore native-centered content through guided instruction, applied learning activities, and field trips.  The goals of these programs are to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills, enrich their knowledge of local culture, and encourage them to see learning as a fun, self-affirming experience.  

ESSENCE Assessments are the tools used to measure the knowledgebase, competency, and skills that both teachers and students can be expected to demonstrate as a result of their participation in The ESSENCE Program.  These tools include diagnostic exams, questionnaires, personal essays, and entrance & exit interviews.