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A 'promise' of support for a West Philadelphia neighborhood

By the Notebook on Jan 31, 2014 02:52 PM
Photo: Alan Turkus/Flickr

A mural of Tim Spencer, a community activist and Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network leader, is located in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia.

by Sameer Rao

Philadelphia is one of five areas nationwide that have been selected to be designated as Promise Zones, 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.

Philadelphia’s designation covers the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia and parts of surrounding communities. According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office of Communications, the Promise Zone’s borders are the Schuylkill River on the east, Girard Avenue on the north, 48th Street to the west, and Sansom Street to the south.

Within the Promise Zone are more than a dozen schools, which could benefit as a result of the designation. These include High School of the Future, Paul Robeson High School for Human Services, Middle Years Alternative Middle School, and Morton McMichael, Blankenburg, Washington, Locke, and Powel elementary schools. A few charters and private and religious schools are also included.

“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.

Philadelphia LIFT, Drexel University, and Mount Vernon Manor collaborated with the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity and the Mayor’s Office of Grants to put an application together in November.

A neighborhood’s eligibility for Promise Zone designation hinges on it having already received at least one of a few federally administered grants. Some Mantua-based organizations had been granted the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Grant and Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant for ongoing neighborhood revitalization. 

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 also 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 Powel Elementary, 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.”

The other areas receiving Promise Zone designation are San Antonio, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The Obama administration will designate 20 more communities over the next three years.


Schools within and around Philadelphia’s Promise Zone


Public: Morton McMichael Elementary
  High School of the Future
  Blankenburg Elementary
  Middle Years Alternative Middle School
  Washington Elementary
  Locke Elementary
  Powel Elementary
  Paul Robeson High School for Human Services
Charter: Belmont Charter School
  Global Leadership Academy Charter School
Private/Religious: Montessori Genesis II School
  Quba Institute
  Our Mother of Sorrows/ St. Ignatius School of Loyola
  West Catholic Preparatory High School
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Comments (18)

Submitted by Lisa Haver on January 31, 2014 5:06 pm
This sounds like the Green Stamps plan for community development. We don't give you money, we give you bonus points when you send in an application for some.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 3, 2014 2:02 pm
Enjoyed your article today in the paper and while I agree with all you said, the far bigger issue is the charter lie movement which is designed to starve the real schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 31, 2014 7:13 pm
Does Pennsylvania have a Constitution anymore? Article III Section 15 Public School Money Not Available to Sectarian Schools No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school. Does the U.S. have a Constitution anymore? First Amendment Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 1, 2014 4:24 pm
Speaking of the Constitution: This is one of the Greatest pictures of the First Amendment in action which I have seen: Great job Student Union! Great job students. Thank you Lois Weiner for pointing it out.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on February 2, 2014 9:08 pm
Ummm. There are two separate issues here. First, this is FEDERAL money and not money from the STATE. Ergo, the PA constitution does not apply here. Second, whether you like it or not (and I know you probably don't), vouchers have been upheld as constitutional on several occasions by the SCOTUS. BTW, I mentioned on this blog that I'm AGAINST vouchers. I don't want the government sticking there nose in my parochial school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 2, 2014 11:08 pm
Court rules Louisiana school voucher funding violates state constitution Walton foundation pumps cash into vouchers Plain Talk: Wisconsin's school vouchers are a scam
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 31, 2014 8:14 pm
Oh gee five whole Americore members? Whose maximum age is 24? The problems of Mantua are as good as solved then!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 31, 2014 10:15 pm
Obama’s Promise Zone in Philadelphia; A Plan to Privatize Public Education?
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on February 2, 2014 7:41 am
I hope we do understand that Geoffrey Canada's "Waiting for Superman" is a largely fictional account of Harlem Children's Zone. I would hope everyone will go see "Standardized: Lies, Money and Civil Rights." I have read that it has received outstanding reviews in Orlando. The advertisement for its premier in Philadelphia at the Ritz East this Thursday evening at 6:00 is in the right hand column of the this Notebook site. The truth about the misuse of standardized testing and their questionable validity is an issue which should be of the highest concern to all of us. Here is one review -- With some comments here -
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 1, 2014 12:40 am
How great that West Philadelphia now meets Obama's criteria needed to bring in the Peace Corps. Third world development begins at home!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 1, 2014 8:49 am
A view from abroad: Obama's Promise Zones will do little to address inequality The Promise Zones comes with no actual funding, only vows to help cities apply for grants. They are PR stunts, not solutions
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on February 1, 2014 9:35 am
Here's a telling quote from the article " If Congress approves the tax cuts, corporations can swan into a hand-picked selection of the poorest communities in the US and enjoy low taxes and privileged access to a pool of desperate labor. With no new investment in education, training or infrastructure, these areas will at best create low-wage, insecure, unskilled jobs. Putting the poor to work might please the righteous middle-classes but it won't reverse entrenched poverty any more than sweatshops promote social mobility. These aren't Promise Zones. They're exploitation zones." The "Promise Zone" is a boost for corporations and mega "non-profits" - not for the citizens. More corporate welfare.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 1, 2014 9:10 am
If you don't want corporations "exploiting" the labor in the area you should just lobby congress to rescind the tax breaks. Then the corporations will not set up shop there and will not hire anyone. That should make you happy!
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on February 1, 2014 1:56 pm
Obama has sold out the poor, people of color, with a snicker and a backhand to the chops. He's nothing more than the same old, same old politicians from the past. He just knows what buttons to push to get votes from the disenfranchised. Elmer Gantry rides again.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on February 1, 2014 12:36 pm
Sameer, Just want to point out a couple of things. Washington Elementary school is actually Martha Washington Elementary. Also, you missed a charter school, Belmont Academy Charter School, which is the sister school of Belmont Charter School. Educator of Great Students
Submitted by Best way to learn english (not verified) on February 3, 2014 8:25 pm
Great photo of the first amendment.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on February 4, 2014 10:12 am
This is not innocence...just as the Bush's are in bed with the Bin Laden's, Obama is in bed with Roberts, Cohen and Rendell...this is a naked land grab by the University of Pennsylvania..they will use our meager tax dollars to line the pockets of the professors who will write position papers supporting their privatization and other selfish motives...the ...gig... is...up...Franklin turns in his grave the hastening of the decline and fall of the American Empire is on full steam ahead...damn those icebergs, we are #1:-)
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 4, 2014 10:58 pm
Hey go tell the slob who has been unemployed forever that he should not take the low paying job coming to mantua, see what he's going to say out loud: HALF A LOAF IS BETTER THAN NONE! So who's talking that barrel of crap about exploitation in the promise zone is just a hateful rabble rouser not meaning the people any good. He is just using another angle to create dissatisfaction to unsuspecting people,so they could raise protest and end up getting nothing. Now that's a HATER.

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