Los Angeles' Promise Zone Treats Schools as Hubs to Strengthen Communities

With the national Promise Zone grant initiative rolling out in Los Angeles, the Youth Policy Institute aims to deploy funds strategically in targeted areas that struggle with poverty.
May 13, 2014, 9am PDT | Molly M. Strauss | @mmstrauss
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(Updated 5/13/14) When the White House announced the first five Promise Zones in the nation—areas that would receive federal grant funding to implement place-based approaches to fighting poverty—and Los Angeles was declared among them, the city and its partners prepared to maximize the remarkable $500 million opportunity. This transformative sum of money would be utilized with a close eye to metrics, and participating organizations agreed on shared outcomes they would seek. With special attention to the power of schools as centers of communities, these entities crafted programs they hoped would improve academic achievement and increase incomes.

The Youth Policy Institute, led by Dixon Slingerland, serves as the point organization for Promise Zone implementation in LA’s selected neighborhoods. Slingerland laid out the theory of change behind the Obama Administration's initiative in a conversation with The Planning Report, articulating what he hopes the Promise Zone will accomplish in Los Angeles, the obstacles to getting there, and the measures by which Angelenos should judge success.

Slingerland explains, "What we have found is that if you go into a school as part of a community-based strategy and saturate that school and surrounding neighborhood with resources, and turn that school into a community hub, then there are dramatic increases in academic achievement.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the Promise Zones funding as $50 million.

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Published on Monday, May 12, 2014 in The Planning Report
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