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Promise Zone designation could bring support to schools

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is one of five areas nationwide that have been selected for a Promise Zone designation, a federal initiative announced in January by President Obama to accelerate efforts to revitalize neighborhoods suffering from high unemployment, poverty, and crime, and low educational attainment.

The designation covers the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia and parts of surrounding neighborhoods. Within the Promise Zone are more than a dozen schools, which could benefit as a result of the designation.

“It’s a promise of support from the federal government. We will get a leg up on certain applications for federal funds and get technical assistance from a variety of federal agencies,” said Eva Gladstein, head of the mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity.

“In essence, we get extra points when we submit an application for grants to cover the Promise Zone area,” Gladstein said. She added that while the designation does not guarantee funds to the areas, it does include five AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers to help push community projects forward.

Lucy Kerman, vice provost for university and community partnerships at Drexel’s School of Education, said that previous education partnerships in the zone may have helped the area win the designation.

“We’ve been working together for years, and I think the reason that [the Promise Zone application] was successful is that the closeness of this working team was evident in our proposal,” Kerman said.

Drexel has partnered with Morton McMichael and Samuel Powel elementaries, and is also involved in some pre-K and adult education projects in Mantua.

“We’re committed to doing [these projects] anyway,” Kerman said. “Our belief is that being designated a Promise Zone will help us get access both to more funding and also to more partners.”