New Orleans' Own Field Of Dreams

George Washington Carver High School - reduced to a collection of prefabricated buildings that sprang up amid the devastation of Hurricane Katrina - is a fertile ground for dreamers.

Just ask Carver graduate and former National Football League star Marshall Faulk.

"A lot of life-lessons were taught at that school and in that football program," he said. "My coach got me off the street and taught me to believe in myself. That's what football can do in a school where kids don't have a lot of other things."

Carver is a centerpiece of an ambitious plan to restore pride in the 9th Ward community and a lifeline for students who are struggling to re-establish their lives after the devastating storm which killed more than 1,600 people forced them to flee the city.

The school's football team and band are back, and a $1.8 million proposal to build a football stadium and Olympic-quality track is gaining steam.

"It would be for more than just Carver, everybody in the city could use it," said Brian Bordainick, Carver's 23-year-old athletic director, who promotes the plan constantly. "We want this to be what revives youth sports in New Orleans."

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that Bordainick set out to get an NFL sports grant - $200,000 to a needy community that could raise an equal amount. The goal was so ambitious, Whitaker reports, that some thought Bordainick was delusional to try and raise the money in the middle of an economic crisis and in a neighborhood that had been hit so hard.

But the effort took a big step forward Monday, when the New Orleans Saints football team announced a $200,000 grant for what Bordainick calls the "9th Ward Field of Dreams."


Watch CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker's report on Brian Bordainick



Before the announcement of the grant through the NFL's Grassroots Program, more than $855,000 had been raised from public and private sources. Donations in small amounts are coming in from individuals, community groups and churches.

CLick here to make a donation to the 9th Ward Field Of Dreams
"We've all lost so much here," said Mary Lodge Evans, a 1962 Carver graduate and president of the alumni association. "As far as a community, we still have a long way to go, but the school is giving us something to rally around."

The 531 students - down from 1,200 pre-Katrina - are drawn from all over New Orleans. They are mostly poor and mostly black. Principal Vanessa Eugene said many students' lives were disrupted by the storm, and some were homeless or living with someone other than a parent. Some were out of school for a year or two.

"It's things like our sports and the band that have brought these kids together," Bordainick said. "They are very proud of what we're doing here, and feel very much a part of it. That's a big thing for kids who have lost so much."

Katrina devastated the Carver neighborhood in August 2005, pouring a dozen feet of water into its modest homes and small businesses. Most remain empty, still bearing high-water marks and the circled X's searchers left as they looked for storm victims.

Unlike the Lower 9th Ward, this area received little attention and less help. Where the wrecked houses in the Lower 9 have been demolished and volunteers, including Brad Pitt, have been building new houses, the area around Carver looks much as it did when the flood waters receded.

Few people here had flood insurance - it was not required before Katrina, as the area was considered too high to flood - so only a scattering of residents have returned and the small businesses that once served the area are gone.

At present there is no timetable for removing the old school, let alone beginning construction on a new one, Bordainick said.

But in temporary classrooms and in athletics on the hard-hit Carver school grounds, life is returning.

"I'd like to get a football scholarship," said Richard Davis, 17, who spent two years after Hurricane Katrina semi-homeless as he shuffled between New Orleans and Texas. "But if I don't get that, I'm pretty good in math, so that's a possibility for a scholarship."

The school has a track team, which does practice runs in the streets around the school - pounding past empty houses. The softball team's practice field is a vacant lot covered with stubble.

The football team, always Carver's claim to fame, had a string of district championships from 1997 through 2004.

The football team, which has sent at least four players to the NFL, was reduced to 28 players last year. They practiced in an abandoned lot behind the school trailers.

If things go as planned, ground will be broken for the stadium in July. A track meet is set for February 2010.

"I'm all for it," said Walter Mason, 56, who returns to the area to go to church, but has not yet restored his home. "Maybe it will let people know we're still alive back here."