WYSO

Promise Neighborhoods Thrive In Springfield

Sep 18, 2014

Springfield's 5th annual Promisefest
Credit Wayne Baker

The Springfield Promise Neighborhood held its fifth annual PromiseFest this week. The program designed to help families in poor areas thrive, is getting stronger.

Nearly 20 years ago in Harlem, New York, Geoffrey Canada started the Promise Neighborhood initiative to help children from poor families succeed at the earliest age possible. Canada called it the "cradle through college" system that made sure kids were safe, in school and fed.

Canada helped launch the idea in Clark County. Lincoln Elementary, which had the city's largest poverty rate, Perrin Woods, and Fulton schools are all part of the program.

Credit Wayne Baker

Springfield Promise Neighborhood Organizer, Eric Smith was this year's Promise Fest. He was happy to see families and friends celebrating the success of the initiative in Clark County.

"It's working on multiple levels," Smith said. Parent participation is up, as they're starting to feel empowered that they can choose the future of the neighborhood."

After school programs, involving tutoring, music, sports and a new anti-drug initiative partnership with the Clark County Prosecutor's Office, have helped the schools improve drastically. Smith noted that five years ago local funds helped get Promise started and that showed a real investment in Springfield's impoverished areas.

"It's amazing during in these economic times, our community leaders came together and said, 'even though we don't have the big grant monies and those kinds of things, we still need to make this commitment to our kids,'"  the organizer declared.

The program has added staff, volunteers and AmeriCorps Vista workers in the past year, but funding issues have come up after Race to the Top grant money ended in June.