The U.S. Department of Education has awarded nearly $500,000 for activists to offer West Baltimore children holistic services from "cradle to college to career," under the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.
The Promise Neighborhoods grant, one of 17 awarded in 2012, will be used toward further development of a strategy to combat poverty in the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods through a collaboration of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, faith-based organizations, such as Union Baptist Church, public schools and the city's B'More for Healthy Babies, among other partners.
The effort is known locally as the Promise Heights project.
"Children must be safe, healthy and supported by adults across an entire community to reach their fullest potential," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Against all odds, Promise Neighborhoods work to provide families and children with the support they need to help break the cycle of poverty that threatens too many of our nation's communities."
The goal of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is to support "innovative and inclusive" efforts that bring together public and private partners. Since 2010, nearly $100 million has been awarded to more than 50 communities through Promise Neighborhoods.
The West Baltimore project, which was selected from more than 200 applicants, provides parenting classes, nutrition and fitness programs for kids, asthma screening and education and job training opportunities.
Services are provided in cooperation with the Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy and the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School. The grant will allow organizers to also offer services at Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts and the Renaissance Academy.
Bronwyn Mayden, director of Promise Heights and assistant dean of the university's School of Social Work, said she was "overjoyed to say the least" at the news, revealed Dec. 21. The grant money will help organizers develop improved data analysis that can measure the impact of the efforts.
Mayden said the key to success is the collaboration among partners, including several other academic programs at the University of Maryland Baltimore, such as the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing.
"It's all of the systems really working together to support these children and families," she said.
The Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway Sr., senior pastor at Union Baptist Church, said receiving the grant is affirmation of the work being conducted in the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods and a demonstration of the level of commitment to improving the lives of their residents.
"In a day when everyone is looking for resources to support education, here we have a vehicle where we can support schools in our local community," Hathaway said.
Hathaway said the local activists had applied for the grant several times and he hopes the award leads to future grants.
Promise Neighborhoods grants are divided into two categories for planning and implementation. The planning grants are up to $500,000 while the implementation grants provide as much as $6 million in the first year of a five-year grant.
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