MS. REBECCA SHEIR
This next story is about the rebirth and renewal of not just one site in the city, but an entire chunk of it. In Northeast D.C.'s Parkside-Kenilworth area, activists and educators are trying to transform a community that's been struggling against poverty for generations. They call it a Promise Neighborhood and say it's all about giving children a better chance in life. Jessica Gould visited the home of the new D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative to learn about the ambitions and challenges of a community seeking to start anew.
MS. JESSICA GOULD
When Sharita Slayton describes her community, she talks about the strong leaders and historic homes. But she also mentions what's missing.
MS. SHARITA SLAYTON
You will see there are no amenities here. So we have no stores, no restaurants.
The Urban Institute calls this Parkside-Kenilworth area in Ward 7, an island of concentrated poverty cut off from the rest of the city by the Anacostia River, I-295 and an old Pepco plant. Teen pregnancy and crime rates are high. Birth weights and test scores are low. As a result, Slayton says, the neighborhoods child often grow up sequestered from life's opportunities.
Because a lot of times they were just limited to here.
Irasema Salcido hoped to change all that. She founded the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy in Parkside because she wanted to increase opportunities for the neighborhoods children.
MS. IRASEMA SALCIDO
About four years into it, our results were not demonstrating that we were preparing our students to be successful in college.
And she says, principals at the areas two elementary schools were facing similar challenges.
And a lot of the three-year-olds were coming to them unprepared.
Salcido began thinking about the Harlem Children's Zone in New York where Jeffrey Canada created a Cradle to College continuum of services to help children succeed. She wanted to do something similar in Parkside-Kenilworth by addressing all aspects of children's lives, from health and housing to schools and safety.
We are talking about turning around, you know, an entire community and outcomes for children in that community and trying to solve all the social ills that come with poverty.
A team of advocates starting putting plans in motion, then in September 2010 the U.S. Department of Education offered grants to help communities create their own Promise Neighborhoods based on Canada's approach. Parkside-Kenilworth was one of 21 communities across the country to win a $500,000 planning grant.
And every child that grows in the community will have a caring adult in their lives, they will have a healthy start, they will have a safe place to grow, a high quality education and equally important, that they will have opportunities to give back to this community.
A dozen partners including city agencies, area universities and local non-profits signed on to support the initiative. Mobile health units pulled up to street corners, college students with Jumpstart D.C. began working with preschoolers are language, literacy and math.
Jumpstart executive director, Katey Comerford says, her program came to Parkside, precisely because of the Promise Neighborhood Initiative.
MS. KATEY COMERFORD
We haven't gotten any funding to come here. Knowing that there are resources that will continue to support this community work and continue to support the growth of the children that we start working with is what makes it so appealing to be here. It means that nothing will be lost.
But something was lost. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education offered Implementation Grants to help neighborhoods achieve their goals. The D.C. group tried to apply, but an error prevented the application from going through. Here is Salcido.
Unfortunately, because of a technical difficulty, we were not able to submit. But all along we were not counting on federal money. Obviously, it's needed and we want to be able to access to those resources when available, but this initiative was started three years ago.
Comerford says it was disheartening to learn that a mistake had derailed chances for an even larger investment in the community's children.
I think people who are involved felt slightly deflated at first.
But she says most participants are sticking with their plans, even without federal funding.
People are still bringing resources in kind. And so we'll continue to do that.
Meanwhile, Salcido says, the initiative has raised almost $850,000 from private funders. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced a $300,000 grant to improve public housing in the area. And Organizers are hoping to apply for the next round of Promise Neighborhood grants this summer.
Challenges that we face in building this initiative, I think, makes us more committed and you know allows us to really create a sustainable initiative.
Salcido says, it's a promise and she knows that the children...
...are counting on it. I'm Jessica Gould.
For more on the D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
After the break...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
We get phone calls from people who've had to walk up a 123 steps because there's no escalator operating.
Injecting new life into Metro, including, yes, those escalators. Plus, could we see a comeback for the DuPont Underground? And if so, what form might it take?
MR. JULIAN HUNT
We've had three winery's approach us. You know, vintage galleries for storage of bottles, barrel storage, restaurant, research library, book store, café.
Stay tuned for that and more on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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