Fixing neighborhoods one at a time

Neighborhood youth education programs should be expanded.

by David Steinberg

The U.S. Department of Education has created a new funding program called Promise Neighborhoods which gives funding to local organizations that provide stable and enriching experiences for children in our communities engulfed in hardship. It is modeled after a successful program in Harlem, New York City, called Harlem ChildrenâÄôs Zone.

A small community comprised of the Summit-University and Frogtown neighborhoods in St. Paul has been awarded one of 21 planning grants in the U.S. and is working toward an implementation grant, which would provide funds to enact the plans that the group has created.
This effort is meant to cultivate trusting relationships and stress the importance of education early in oneâÄôs life all the way through post-secondary education. Through strong community leadership and the empowerment of parents and families, the area can close an increasing achievement gap.
The Harlem ChildrenâÄôs Zone was created to address failing schools, fix homes and eradicate crime âÄî and it accomplished exactly that. Starting with a single block in Harlem and growing to almost 100 blocks, this program is helping guide over 10,000 children and 7,000 adults. 
While the Harlem program has become more widespread, this should be just the beginning. More money and innovative thinking should be used to help impoverished children in their earliest years. 
The planning period for the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood ends in September; hopefully, they will be awarded a new implementation grant. But with only 21 neighborhoods in the program, we are not doing enough. Similar programs should be started all over the country to create local solutions that best provide for the next generation.