Message from our CEO
Having worked for over 20 years with youth and the families that raise them, I knew how to advocate for children. But none of my educational nor professional experience prepared me for the loss of my eldest son, Vari. Determined to continue his legacy and turn our pain into purpose, my youngest son, Jacory and I founded The NOLA, (no other life affected), Network in 2020. My experiences, both personal and professional, helped me to understand the barriers that many families face that impede on their ability to attain their healthiest, most satisfying lives. Raising awareness, supporting advocacy, and increasing access to services are needed to ensure students and families have equitable access, which in term will eliminate disparities and improve overall outcomes. I'm proud of the programs we've created and the work we've done so far, but we never intended to do it alone. We are a network, of individuals and organizations, aligned with common purpose...to improve the health and educational outcomes for students. If you are here, that means you care about this too. So thank you and welcome to our network!
On March 30, 2017, Javaris Benson, (known as Vari), suffered a sudden cardiac death while playing a game of basketball with a group of students and friends on the campus of Chowan University. Though Vari had presented with symptoms at a local medical center, his complaints were dismissed and met with accusations and discrimination. Ultimately, he was misdiagnosed as having anxiety and never received a referral or screening that could have been lifesaving.
Prior to his death, Vari & his younger brother Jacory had been working on the creation of a program that would assist youth reach their educational goals. This was motivated by the fact that Jacory had previously been diagnosed with a learning disability. Though his family was able to successfully advocate for and provide the support he needed within the educational system and achieve his dreams of becoming an honor student and collegiate athlete, they understood that there were many others who did not have this same support. Thus, NOLA was formed.
Lekesha and Jacory launched the NOLA Network in Vari's honor. They created an organization with the goal of saving and enriching lives by increasing equitable access to services, increasing awareness, supporting advocacy, and forming connection. Their goal was to create a network comprised of individuals and organizations that work to ensure that every child and family has access to information, services, and support, so that no other life is affected by lack of equity within the education or healthcare systems.
Our goal is decrease the health and educational disparities within rural and marginalized communities by increasing equitable access to services within these communities.