Cleveland participates in Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference

Cleveland participates in Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference

The annual Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference held Nov. 14-16 in Arlington, Virginia brought together several hundred Promise Neighborhood professionals from around the country.

This year’s conference theme of “Keeping the Promise – Looking to the Future centered on best practice sharing for how to develop sustainable funding for the mission of Promise Neighborhoods. This included sessions on building a business case for investment based on the actual needs and value of Promise Neighborhoods, creating a broader portfolio of funding sources, and around educating potential funders of how they can make more effective investments in Promise Neighborhoods through multi-year grants.

Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood executive director, Lowell Perry Jr., represented Cleveland at the national event.

“This was an outstanding opportunity to network with colleagues, to learn about programming strategies that work, and to discuss the importance of planning for the sustainability of this important work we are engaged in,” Perry said of the conference.

Lowell’s top five things to know from the conference:

  1. Focus on population level results. To make lasting and real change, Promise Neighborhood and our partner organizations need to continue working together on driving the collective needle of change, not just individual organization statistics. This is where transformation takes place.
  2. Sustainability happens through shared accountability. While Promise Neighborhood is responsible for driving the vision and common agenda for transformation, it is absolutely imperative to have in place a strong accountability plan for all partners through shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, and continuous communication.
  3. Don’t lose sight of the endgame. The issues and challenges of our community didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved overnight. The ultimate success of Promise Neighborhood is a long-term process that consists of many short-term actions.
  4. Everyone is a leader. Leadership is not confined to one or two people. Social change has always come from the leadership of many. Success relies on many people participating in leadership. How are you building leaders?
  5. We are all better together. Simply put, we all need to do our work with, not to or for the community. Above all else, collective impact relies on all of us working with each other, and holding each other accountable for results.

Neighbors in the News: Promise Ambassador program steps into the spotlight

Neighbors in the News: Promise Ambassador program steps into the spotlight

Two local media outlets recently told the story of Promise Neighborhood’s biggest asset – its ambassadors!

News 5 Cleveland interviewed Promise Ambassadors Robin and Nathalie Johnson and shared their story of hope for Central:

Promise Ambassador Nathalie Johnson speaks with a teacher the the Bingham Early Learning Center
Promise Ambassador Nathalie Johnson speaks with a teacher the the Bingham Early Learning Center

Growing up in the area, Nathalie Johnson knows how challenging day to day living can be.

“A lot of kids with everything going on in this world, probably don’t have a lot of hope,” she said.

For years, her mother, Robin Johnson said their family of 8 has even fallen on tough times

“Basic needs are sometimes the biggest hurdles,” Ms. Johnson said.

But that hasn’t stopped them from giving back, they live by the motto that real change, starts at home.

“I first want to represent myself as a good citizen and someone that someone else, another citizen would maybe want to aspire to be,” said Ms. Johnson.

Promise Engagement Coordinator Dawn Glasco spoke about the challenges facing the neighborhood and how residents like the Johnsons are essential to Promise Neighborhood’s work:

“I like to look at it like building the community from the inside out. They do door to door canvassing around early learning education… they serve on parent advisory councils at our local schools they volunteer inside of the classrooms,” said Glasco.

And with less than 50% of residents graduating from high school, leaders tell me having someone so young like 19-year-old Nathalie to be apart, makes a world of difference.

“She’s able to tell her story, she’s able to spread her good energy and she’s able to be evidence of the work that we’re doing here at Promise,” Glasco said.

Watch the full story about Robin and Nathalie by clicking here.

A story from Freshwater Cleveland focused on the extensive training Promise Ambassadors undergo to become part of the program:

Residents of Cleveland’s Central neighborhood are leading the charge in sustaining their youth population’s academic success through creation of a community-wide support network.

The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood works to transform educational outcomes by training adults to be leaders, or “promise ambassadors.” After a ten-week course conducted by the Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI), citizens act as boots on the ground, interacting directly with students as well as their parents. 

Promise Ambassador Jerome Baker reads to students.
Promise Ambassador Jerome Baker reads to students.

Peter Whitt helps lead the Promise Ambassador training at Neighborhood Leadership Institute and was interviewed for the article:

“Creating a culture of education is the primary goal,” says Whitt, an NLI graduate himself. “The undercurrent here is empowerment and providing resources for ambassadors to have a platform in organizations.”

He continued:

“Creating a culture of education is the primary goal,” says Whitt, an NLI graduate himself. “The undercurrent here is empowerment and providing resources for ambassadors to have a platform in organizations.”

Read the full story from Freshwater Cleveland here.

Perspective: A Poem from Terri Jones

Perspective: A Poem from Terri Jones

During the 2016 Promise Ambassador Graduation on Nov. 9, Terri Jones  shared a piece of original poetry she wrote in honor of the newest Ambassador class. Enjoy Terri’s poem below.

Terri D. Jones, Promise Ambassador

Everything you want in life has a price connected to it.

There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better.

A price to pay for leaving things as they are.

A price for everything!

Isn’t it time to Speak Out for WHAT MATTERS?

Today, this Class is not saying goodbye.

We are saying HELLO.

Here we come, ready for all future Promise events.

Re-evaluating what it means to be aware of your surroundings

Re-evaluating what it means to be aware of your surroundings

Joe Black

Engagement Manager

Years ago, I was asked by a mentor of mine to describe what I didn’t know. Before I could answer, I found myself attempting to balance feelings of confusion and liberation. I remember uttering rhetorically, “I don’t know” in which my mentor responded by saying “exactly”.

That brief conversation has led me to a different way of thinking about learning. Learning doesn’t have to be a future event that will take place in a classroom. I now try to take present events happening in my daily life and use them as learning opportunities.

Joe Black, Promise Engagement Manager, in New York City
Joe Black, Promise Engagement Manager, in New York City

Over the past couple of weeks I have been able to merge academic life as a National Urban Fellow with my day-to-day work at Promise. The result is a deeper connection to my work which will translate into action.

Recently, one of my assignments focused on the work of Michelle Rhee. As the Chancellor of the District of Columbia’s School District, Rhee took an aggressive approach to reforming a large urban school district. She inherited a broken system that historically failed to meet the needs of the students. Rhee responded to the achievement gap by developing accountability measures that promoted effective teachers.

Shortly after this school assignment, news broke that the Cleveland Metropolitan School District teachers had petitioned to strike. I felt even more connected to the problem and potential solutions because of my newfound knowledge about Michelle Rhee. Taking what I learned from her approach with the Washington D.C. school district, I was able to have thoughtful discussions with principal and school supports about the possible strike and how Promise could support the schools.

Instead of thinking about what was happening with CMSD and my school assignments as separate parts of my life, I realized that by blending them together I would have much more impact in my work and was learning more as well.

By keeping an open mind and being fully present, and aware, in each moment, I find that the process of gaining new knowledge continues to present itself.

Cleveland schools pass levy renewal

Cleveland schools pass levy renewal

Cleveland residents voted to pass the school district levy. Cleveland voters support the direction the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is heading, as shown by their 67.8 percent approval of Issue 108. Renewal of the 15-mill levy gives CMSD another four years to continue progress evident under The Cleveland PlanThe levy was initially passed in 2012. It was the first time in 16 years that voters had provided the schools with additional money for operating expenses.

Since 2012, student attendance and enrollment have increased, scores on the Nation’s Report Card showed improvement and CMSD’s graduation rate increased 17 percent to a record high.

The CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Eric Gordon, says the extension of the levy will allow the district to move on from what he called a period of disruption in the schools.

“I’m really interested in expanding our arts and music programming. I didn’t get to do that in the last four years, extra curriculars, more technology for kids, but all of those things in service to improved results.”

“I am proud of the work we have accomplished over the last four years,” Gordon said, “and I’m grateful that the community has recognized the improvements and given us another four years to accelerate these gains.”

Cleveland schools progress (Source: CMSD)
Cleveland schools progress (Source: CMSD)

The revenue provided by Issue 108 is critical to carrying out reforms charted by Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools, better known as The Cleveland Plan. The 15-mill levy generates up to $69.7 million a year, or 10 percent of the District’s operating budget, without raising taxes. CMSD shares 1 mill, or about $4.6 million, with charter school partners.

CMSD’s enrollment has been rising after decades of decline.  Surveys showed that as many as 75 percent of citizens surveyed believe CMSD is improving and rate their public schools as fair or better. Once on the verge of insolvency, the District is now on a long run of financial stability.

The Cleveland Teachers Union sent out a news release late Tuesday thanking the city for passing the levy.

“When students have stability in their schools and classrooms and educators have the materials necessary to teach with – we will see results in academic outcomes. The gains will continue as long as the stability continues,” union president David Quolke said in the release.

Read about the progress CMSD is seeing under The Cleveland Plan here.

Word from Lowell: Locked in, locked up, and locked out

Word from Lowell: Locked in, locked up, and locked out

Lowell Perry Jr., Executive Director

Ever since I embarked on my own personal journey over a dozen years ago to do my part to make a significant difference in the world in which I live, I have been both intrigued and incensed by a phenomenon primarily affecting children and families facing significant adversity in our cities. Too many of our young people in communities like the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood were born into, and are growing up in, a generational cycle of poverty that is much akin to an ever spinning hamster wheel which becomes increasingly more difficult to get off of with each successive generation.

Cleveland has the dubious distinction of erecting the first public housing project in Central, when some city “genius” had the bright idea of trying to jam as many poor families into a roughly 1.3 square mile radius. There are approximately 10,000 residents in this area, 43 percent of whom are children under the age of 18. Of the families in the neighborhood with children, 89% are female-headed households, 82 percent of children in Central live in poverty, and only 32 percent of residents are high school graduates. Decades of intentional and structural racism have served to keep many members of Central locked in to their current circumstances. Eventually, any of us would become weary of the daily battles, and without some form of hope at the end of the tunnel, start to accept those circumstances.

This induced complacency can lead to other difficulties that make the hamster wheel nearly impossible to escape. In these communities, too many young African-American men in particular are inserted into the juvenile justice system and ultimately the criminal justice system. This is not by accident.  In her book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”, Michelle Alexander recounts  how Ronald Reagan’s escalation of the so-called “war on drugs”was a primary catalyst behind why there is such a disproportionate number of men of color locked up in this country, primarily for non-violent drug related offenses.

We have an apparent affinity for incarcerating people in this country. A Washington Post article done in July of 2015 confirmed that we lock up more of our fellow citizens than any other country in the world. This national disgrace is bad enough on its surface, however, the way we permanently disenfranchise these individuals after they have “paid their debt to society” is equally despicable. Having a felony on your record, means you are unlikely to ever be able to get a decent paying job, to buy a house or car, or to even exercise your right to vote. For those who enter juvenile and criminal justice systems which have historically not been equitable for all people, this becomes a life sentence.

The new Scarlet Letter is now “F” for felon, signaling that you have been locked out of society. The pursuit of the American Dream,which is supposed to be a right of citizenship in this country, is dead.  This amounts to a form of cultural genocide for communities of color in particular. When we also overlay unequal access to a quality education, it is probably fair to say that the likelihood of being permanently locked out is significantly increased.

The good news is that there is something we can do to change this sad situation.  It begins with the kids.  Children and families in danger of suffering the fate of being forever locked in a cycle of poverty, and part of a cradle to prison pipeline, must be instead introduced into a collaborative cradle to college and career pipeline like the one being fostered by the Promise Neighborhood initiative. If every child is involved in early learning and has access to quality K-12 education, it increases their chances for success.  If residents lead the change in these communities and parents are supported to engage in the academic journey of their kids, and the neighborhoods are healthy and safe, we all ultimately win.

If we have the moral and political will to actually do something about it, we might then perhaps enact more common sense policies,and eliminate the Prison Industrial Complex which has fostered a form of profit that preys on the misfortunes of those locked up in the criminal justice system. The answer is definitely not to embrace more punitive measures.  This philosophy has shown to be grossly ineffective and costly to us as taxpayers.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some who need to be behind bars.  But those who have been locked up and locked out of society for a non-violent mistake should not be permanently branded with an “F” and therefore denied their “certain inalienable rights” to a fair shot at pursuing life, liberty, and happiness.

The bottom line is that we might virtually eliminate a world in which too many of our fellow citizens are locked in, locked up, and locked out as adults by asking ourselves a very important question when making decisions and policies in this country – will it benefit our children?  We have to set aside greed run amok where shareholder dividends have become more important than whether each of our neighbors, no matter their current circumstances, is able to access the path leading to their reaching their full God given potential.We must be of great courage and not waffle on what needs to be done if we are to live up to the ideals of what this country claims to have been founded upon.

This is not about red or blue, conservative or liberal, or Republican or Democrat.  It is a responsibility of our basic humanity to work together for the good of all of our citizens to ensure that everyone has his or her fair chance to succeed in this world.

Are you up to the task of doing your part?

Take and Share program gets parents talking

Take and Share program gets parents talking

Parenting can be a rewarding, wonderful experience. At times, it can also be difficult and stressful. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Parenting can sometimes feel isolating, especially with very young children, but connecting with other parents can be helpful. Activities such as playgroups are good for both children and adults.

For parents, play groups can provide:

  • a chance to have adult conversation
  • a place to get recommendations on things like doctors, baby gear
  • a support-system of other parents who can relate on managing with a baby who won’t sleep, potty training challenges or how to make time for yourself

The benefits for children include:

  • Learning to socialize with other children
  • Preparation for preschool
  • Reaching developmental milestones through play
Parents at the Take and Share program
Parents at the Take and Share program

The Woodland Wonderland Stay and Play Room recently started a playgroup called the Take and Share program. The program brings together parents and their children like a typical playgroup, but also gives mom or dad resources on various topics and offers the opportunity for open-conversation and sharing of ideas.

At the first Take and Share program, the group discussed health and safety. Everyone shared ideas and personal experiences with making budgets, handling arguments, healthy meals, safety items to have at home and more.

The next Take and Share at the Play Room will be Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday Nov. 16 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Take and Share is provided by Family Connections, Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, Starting Point, Promise Neighborhood and Cleveland Public Library.

The Woodland Wonderland Stay and Play Room brings together children and their parents for fun and learning. It is free and open Tuesdays (4 to 6 p.m.) and Wednesdays (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and now 3:30 to 5 p.m.) at the Cleveland Public Library Woodland branch on Woodland near East 55th Street.

The Woodland Wonderland Sat and Play Room is a partnership among Cleveland Public Library, Family Connections, and the Promise Neighborhood. It was created with the understanding that parents are their children’s first teacher. As such, the Play Room promotes parent-child engagement, stimulates language and motor skills, and exposes parent and child to a preschool-like setting.

Neighbors in the News: Media coverage continues to bloom from Promise ambassador’s environmental work

Neighbors in the News: Media coverage continues to bloom from Promise ambassador’s environmental work

Quiana Singleton continues to plant the seeds of change in Central with her work in community gardens. She also educates children on gardening techniques and why trees and plants are good for communities. Singleton is a Promise ambassador and climate ambassador for Burton Bell Carr Development agency.

Freshwater Cleveland recently highlighted the climate ambassador program and how it’s bringing positive changes to the environment in Central:

An initiative orchestrated by regional organizations and led on the street level by Cleveland residents seeks to counteract climate change effects that disproportionately impact lower income citizens. Through community-driven programming and projects, the “Climate Ambassadors” effort aims to build an army of nature-loving warriors willing to fight for environmental and social change.

Quiana Singleton works with children to plan "tennis shoe gardens" in Central
Quiana Singleton works with children to plan “tennis shoe gardens” in Central

Work began last year to combat the adverse impacts of climate variability in the Glenville, Slavic Village, Central-Kinsman, and Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods. These communities were chosen due to shared social and land use patterns thought to amplify existing climate-related issues, namely aging housing stock, a depleted tree canopy and outdated infrastructure.

Singleton was interviewed by Freshwater about her work as a climate ambassador:

Central-Kinsman ambassador Quiana Singleton is a community leader on the tree-planting activities. She’s also involved with a gardening project focused on healthy eating. She believes teaching folks how to grow fruits and vegetables expands their minds while also getting them to respect the delicate nature of their surroundings.

“We’re getting people out of their neighborhoods and showing them what’s out there,” says Singleton. “They can appreciate what’s in the community and beautify what they already have. It’s wonderful.”

According to Freshwater Cleveland, Central-Kinsman is deemed one of Cleveland’s most distressed districts due to its abandoned buildings, empty brownfields and a sparse tree canopy. Though the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority has made upgrades to public housing, residents are sprucing up the streets with new leafy green growth.

The Central-Kinsman project engages 16 students in grades three through eight in planting trees at Anton Grdina Elementary School on East 71st Street. Five trees have taken root through the community-wide endeavor thus far, with plans for another ten in the offing.

Read the full story from Freshwater here.

Singleton’s passion and dedication to reforestation was also recently featured on 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

Woodland Wonderland Stay and Play Room expands hours and programming

Woodland Wonderland Stay and Play Room expands hours and programming

The Woodland Wonderland Stay and Play Room has expanded its hours to offer families more time to stay and play later in the day. The Play Room is now open on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

The Play Room brings together children and their parents for fun and learning. It is free and open Tuesdays (4 to 6 p.m.) and Wednesdays (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and now 3:30 to 5 p.m.) at the Cleveland Public Library Woodland branch on Woodland near East 55th Street. PromiseNeighborhood8

In addition to regular stay and play hours, the Play Room is now offering educational programming for families. Programs include babysitting basics, fundamentals of first aid, health and safety and more. Get details on upcoming Play Room events on our event calendar here:

The Woodland Wonderland Sat and Play Room is a partnership among Cleveland Public Library, Family Connections, and the Promise Neighborhood. It was created with the understanding that parents are their children’s first teacher. As such, the Play Room promotes parent-child engagement, stimulates language and motor skills, and exposes parent and child to a preschool-like setting.