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Launch of S. Philly Promise Neighborhood

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Mayor Nutter, Superintendent Ackerman, and Universal Companies founder Kenny Gamble formally launched the Promise Neighborhoods initiative on Monday with an event at Audenried High School. Last fall Universal Companies was awarded a federal grant to create a plan for a Promise Neighborhood in Grays Ferry and Point Breeze.

Ackerman spoke of the initiative and how schools in the neighborhood will benefit  - as well as other education issues - on Fox 29's Good Day Monday morning.

The planning grant brought in $500,000 of federal dollars and $500,000 in matching funds to create a strategic plan to provide "cradle-to-career" services to families in the South Philadelphia neighborhood. The Notebook wrote about the program in September when the grants, which were awarded to 21 communities across the country, were first announced.

The federal government put $10 million towards the planning grants, but implementation dollars have not been funded yet by Congress. James H. Shelton III, head of the Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement, said this month that the program will probably only receive another $10 million this year, not the $200 million needed to begin full implementation. Even those funds are months away.

Patrick Lester of the United Neighborhoods Centers of America said that Promise Neighborhoods funding shouldn't be viewed as "new dollars or new resources coming into a community, rather it needs to be viewed as a new way to use existing resources. ...It's about taking those existing dollars and using them better." Lester's take is different than how the program is being described in some media accounts.

The Harlem Children's Zone has inspired a lot of excitement, and Lester argues that if communities are able to take that energy and achieve real success, "we're talking about revolutionary things. We're talking about having a real, fighting chance to win that war on poverty."

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