A New Vision for Kenilworth-Parkside, Washington, DC

In 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama stood east of the Anacostia River and gave a speech on “Changing the Odds in Urban America.” He noted that more than half of our kids in urban settings live below the poverty line, that too many are not graduating from high school, and are affected by violence, and too many parents cannot find work.  But, the President said that the place in which children are born should not determine their destiny, and outlined a vision for a Promise Neighborhood:

“The philosophy behind the project is simple – if poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence; failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community. And we have to focus on what actually works.”

In 2008, Irasema Salcido, CEO and founder of Cesar Chávez Public Charter Schools, recognized that students were entering Chávez Middle and High Schools-Parkside with academic skills far below grade level. Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone, Mrs. Salcido convened a steering committee to figure out how to address students’ challenges comprehensively. The new organization, the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI), reached across traditional barriers to involve residents, charter schools, traditional public schools, city agencies, the federal government, and local funders, nonprofits and service providers. (insert her video box here)

By early 2009, DCPNI’s effort had drawn the support of national organizations such as America’s Promise Alliance and the Urban Institute.  In October 2010, DCPNI received one of 21 Promise Neighborhood planning grants awarded by the US Department of Education. Since then, DCPNI has developed a Five Promises for Two Generations strategy, grown its staff, recruited organizational partners, and broken ground on two key facilities in the footprint in order to deliver this strategy effectively.

White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative

The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, a White House-led interagency collaborative, is developing
and executing the Obama Administration’s place-based strategy to support local communities in developing and obtaining the tools they need to revitalize neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into
neighborhoods of opportunity.

As President Obama declared in his Inaugural Address, the time has come to reaffirm the promise that in
the United States of America, “all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full
measure of happiness.” In too many neighborhoods of concentrated poverty across the country, and for
too many residents – particularly children – that promise is unfulfilled.

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