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Marshall Hevron, 35
Attorney, Adams and Reese LLP
Photo by Cheryl Gerber
When Marshall Hevron went to his first meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post in New Orleans in 2005, he was surprised to be the youngest person in the room. After meetings where the number of members continued to shrink, Hevron and a few others joined together to revive the post, making it relevant for younger veterans like themselves. Where once a group of eight was a good showing, Hevron's recruitment efforts have brought together more than 100 veterans.
"For those who joined the military at a young age, went to war and saw combat and are now back home, it's hard when no one in their peer group knows where they're coming from," he says. " [The post] provides a space where everyone knows who you are and where you're coming from."
The New Orleans native spent six months in Iraq in 2003; he worked for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu both in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans before attending Tulane Law School and joining the legal team at Adams and Reese. He says the VFW post not only provides a space for veterans to talk freely among themselves, but also offers services for returning vets such as job placement, job preparation and legal advice.
"One thing we realized after we recruited members was that there was a community of veterans in New Orleans and no one had done anything to link them together," Hevron says.
"I hope to develop projects that impact not only the veteran population, but all of New Orleans. If anyone has the spirit to revive the city, it's our veteran population." — Marguerite Lucas
Rox'E Homstad, 38
Instructor, Lighthouse Louisiana
Photo by Cheryl Gerber
Rox'E Homstad says the best way for someone to get her to do something is to tell her she can't. And because she's deaf and blind, she says people are always telling her what she can and cannot do.
"One of my goals is to really educate people about what a person with a disability, or a deaf/blind person can do," Homstad says. "I feel like I've made quite a bit of progress since moving here, but we have a long way to go yet."
Homstad has always been blind, but after returning to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, she suffered health complications from mold growth that left her profoundly deafened. She recalls how difficult it was to navigate the city after the hurricane and flooding. "I remember how afraid I was, how it was a struggle every day to just get out of bed and face the world," she says. Instead she honed her skills in teaching blind and deaf individuals how to use assistive technology and to read Braille.
Raised in Idaho, Homstad was drawn to New Orleans after reading about the city in novels. She first became involved with the Lighthouse for the Blind New Orleans (now called Lighthouse Louisiana) in 2004, when she taught Braille at a summer camp for blind children, Homstad later designed a program to teach Braille to adults. She also helps clients use assistive technology, centered on telecommunication such as an iPhone paired with a Braille display.
"Historically, people who are deaf/blind have been very isolated and cut off from the rest of the world," Homstad says. "I love helping people who are deaf/blind to access the wide array of information out there ... teaching people to use these devices and letting them drink in the world." — Marguerite Lucas
Anna Hrybyk, 38
Disaster planning programs director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Photo by Cheryl Gerber
To Anna Hrybyk, disaster planning isn't limited to covering windows and sandbagging, and being a champion of the environment isn't limited to picking up trash and recycling. Hrybyk believes one disaster begets another, and that was proved true by Murphy Oil's million-gallon oil spill following Hurricane Katrina, Chalmette Refinery's 11 million-gallon release of polluted water after Hurricane Gustav and Stolthaven Chemical Plant's release of 191,000 gallons of chemicals in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.
"People will tell me, 'Oh, I'm used to the smell because I live right next to the refinery,' but I tell them that they're not supposed to smell that," Hrybyk says. "Part of the problem is that so many of us just think you're supposed to smell bad smells all the time that no one thinks to report it."
She is working to change that mindset and have companies be held responsible for polluting. "If it doesn't get reported, no one gets penalized for it and that's why reporting is so important," Hrybyk says. "If you smell something like oil, rotten eggs, cabbage or any other weird smell, you should first report it to us at 504-484-3433 and then call the state police's hazmat hotline at 877-925-6595."
Through Louisiana Bucket Brigade, residents who live next door to industrial plants can use an EPA-approved bucket to take air samples and learn whether the air they breathe has high concentrations of known irritants and carcinogens including benzene, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. Results of such bucket samples, along with reports of pollution, are listed on the Louisiana Bucket Brigade's iWitness Pollution map at www.oilspill.labucketbrigade.org. — Megan Braden-Perry
Sara Hudson, 29
Web and social media coordinator, New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
Photo by Cheryl Gerber
Sara Hudson's one directive was to help prepare every New Orleanian for a hurricane. "We are the hurricane capital of the world, but there was no one place for people to get information before hurricanes happen and during and after," she says.
When she began working for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in 2011, she proposed, designed and advocated for the Ready.nola.gov website and @NOLAready Twitter handle to keep citizens informed about the storm, damage and government response.
Hudson proved her dedication during Hurricane Isaac, staying in City Hall and keeping residents updated through the website and Twitter, even when her contract with the city expired during the storm.
"There was no way I was going anywhere," Hudson says. "When there's a job to do, you do it."
She partnered with local volunteers, Evacuteer and the Red Cross to mobilize hundreds of volunteers attending a Lutheran conference in June to hand out more than 50,000 hurricane preparedness brochures in one day.
When her friend Rafael Delgadillo was injured in a shooting last year, Hudson helped create Respond Against Fear And Violence and organized RAFApalazooza, an event that raised more than $17,000 to help with Delgadillo's medical bills. Hudson also is a member of the Young Leadership Council and 504ward, and is a graduate of Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans.
"Everything I've accomplished, I've accomplished working with extraordinary people," she says.
The NOLA Ready team has been invited to speak at a conference in California next year. When Hudson's boss told the organizer that NOLA Ready, which sent about 2,000 tweets during Hurricane Isaac, was a one-woman operation, they were surprised.
"When you meet Sara Hudson you will see, she is a small army," her boss replied. — Marta Jewson
Johanna Kalb, 34
Associate professor, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Photo by Cheryl Gerber
Before she even passed the bar, Johanna Kalb was a student member of the litigation team that successfully challenged the use of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
"Now I'm lucky to live in a city that's full of incredible social justice lawyers who are at the forefront of the movement to bring human rights home to the U.S.," Kalb says. "Loyola has also been a great fit for me as a university that's deeply engaged with the community, where commitment to social change is part of the educational mission."
The 2011 Loyola Professor of the Year and author of a forthcoming casebook on human rights advocacy, Kalb decided to concentrate on human rights law because she felt discouraged by the human condition: "Law school can be frustrating for students who care about the problems of poverty and inequality in the U.S.," she says. "I became interested in human rights law while I was in school because it offered a way through the impasse, since federal and state law often doesn't offer very satisfying solutions to these issues."
Kalb is helping pilot a human rights clinic at the Loyola College of Law to assist law students who feel the same frustration she did — and as a vehicle to campaign for human rights.
"This kind of partnership epitomizes Loyola's commitment to learning through service," Kalb says. "Students can apply what they're learning in the classroom to increase the impact of the work of social justice advocates in practice, creating an amazing synergy." — Megan Braden-Perry
Mark LeBlanc, 27
Photo by Amory Ross
As an elite competitive sailor, Mark LeBlanc finds it interesting that he still trains with the same drills he learned growing up. "They're just a little more complicated, but it always comes down to the basics," says LeBlanc, who competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
LeBlanc, who was born without a left forearm, grew up on the water, learning sailing from his dad and grandfather. As a kid he loved team racing, and in his teen years he taught sailing to disadvantaged children.
Though it was late in the game, LeBlanc decided in 2007 to compete for a spot in the 2008 Paralympics in the 2.4-meter category. He considered it a precursor for the 2012 trials, but LeBlanc ended up coming so close to winning — losing on a tiebreaker — that he was crushed.
He shifted his focus to the 2012 games: raising funds, training hard and getting organized. His persistence paid off when he placed first in the trials for the games in London.
Though at a disadvantage as an American in a European-dominated sport ("In the U.S., sailing is seen more as a hobby, but over there, some of the sailors have salaries," he says.) — LeBlanc competed well. He raced in 10 events, recording five top-5 finishes and placing sixth overall. "It was a three-week adrenaline rush," he says.
LeBlanc has put sailing on the back burner for now as he searches for a job in civil engineering. "The guys in the boats ahead of me (in the London games) were in their 40s," he says, "so I have plenty of time to go back." — Eileen Loh