Promise Neighborhoods Offer Students, Communities Hope for a Future

Sep 22, 2010
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
Transforming classrooms is only one piece of the puzzle. Promise Neighborhoods plans to rebuild communities. (Photo: cdsessums/Creative Commons)

Every day, kids in some of the poorest neighborhoods in America wake up and face a myriad of obstacles to get an education. They work to solve math problems on empty stomachs. They try to do homework in homes where the heat has been turned off. They skirt violence on their ways to and from school and in class. 

Poverty's circumstances make the everyday challenges of school even harder.

Those circumstances will be addressed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's recently announced winners of 21 community-improvement grants.

The new program, coined Promise Neighborhoods, is designed to address the complete picture of educational success, including time spent outside of schools.

A whopping $10 million dollars, divided among winners in one-year planning grants ranging between $400,000 and $500,000, will go toward planning educational, social and other supportive services to kids in struggling neighborhoods.

Modeled after Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone, a community-based nonprofit that rebuilds communities so that kids can succeed in school and go on to college, Promise Neighborhoods aims to ensure that "all children growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to effective schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and career."

Though the long-term success of Harlem Children's Zone has yet to be seen, Secretary Duncan is confident in its holistic approach to reducing poverty's affect on education. He called the grant money "a down payment for the future educational success of children in some of the most distressed and challenged communities around the country."

More than 300 applicants from 48 states vied for the first round of grants, but not enough money was available to fulfill all requests. Duncan urged people to step forward and donate to the cause. In the meantime, Obama is working to secure $210 million for 2011. Thus far, the Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed spending $20 million, and the House Appropriations Committee has proposed $60 million.

For a full list of winners, visit EdWeek here. To see the submitted applications—including those that weren't selected this round—visit the federal education site here.

Photo: cdsessums/Creative Commons via Flickr

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