The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood is a collective impact initiative that works to transform the educational and developmental outcomes of children in Cleveland’s Central Neighborhood.

The Promise Neighborhood develops an environment and culture where families feel supported so their children can achieve academic, and ultimately, career success. Our visionary goals include:

  • Every child participates in quality learning to ensure she or he is ready for kindergarten.
  • Every child attends excellent K-12 schools to be prepared for a successful college and/or career experience, achieving identified grade-level benchmarks.
  • Residents lead the change in the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.
  • Parents are supported to engage with their child’s education.
  • Cleveland Central is a safe community where children feel supported to achieve academic success.

What is the inspiration?

Promise is inspired by the renowned Harlem’s Children’s Zone – a model has helped thousands of children and families by disrupting the cycle of generational poverty in neighborhoods through innovative and effective programs from cradle to college and career.

We strongly believe that this comprehensive, place-based approach to educating children and rebuilding a community will help transform the Central neighborhood, which faces issues like poverty, poor health, failing schools and high crime rates.

What do you mean by “collective impact”?

No single organization has the ability to solve any major social problem by itself. Collective impact is a powerful approach to cross-sector collaboration that is achieving measurable effects on major social issues.

Successful collective-impact initiatives typically have five conditions that together produce alignment and lead to powerful results:

  • common agenda
  • shared measurement systems
  • mutually reinforcing activities
  • continuous communication
  • backbone support organization

What does the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood do?

Ultimately, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood aims to alleviate the enormous obstacles that deter from being able to show up, participate, learn and thrive in school so they can go on to graduate from college or establish a career.

The Promise Neighborhood operates with Cleveland Central residents at the forefront, believing they are the ones who have the biggest impact in leading their neighborhood. The Promise Neighborhood engages these volunteers by providing leadership training, resource information, and tools to support them in connecting and sharing with their neighbors those opportunities that provide quality learning for their children.

The Promise Neighborhood also partners with the nonprofits, early child care providers, schools, public housing, libraries and businesses that provide the direct resources to families to ensure their effectiveness through communication and collaboration. It also seeks to identify gaps that can be filled by these partners or others.

Who is involved in the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood?

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is the lead convener of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.

A collaborative effort, many partners including residents, philanthropic organizations, community service providers and schools work together to better the educational experience for children from birth through career.

The funding partners in this effort include The George Gund Foundation, O’Neill Foundation, Bruening Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, RPM International, The Reuter Foundation, Huntington Bank and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Furthermore, the community-based Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board provides strategic direction with substantive input and guidance. The board includes Central neighborhood residents and youth, as well as local foundations, organizations and agencies that have successful programs, such as Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children, which offers home visiting for expectant parents and for families with children younger than 3 years old, as well as offers services and programs, like Head Start, until kindergarten to prepare children for school.

How did the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood come to be?

Since 2008, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has worked to reduce health and education disparities in the Central neighborhood. We know that improving the odds of under-served children is hard work – it takes dedication, determination and a clear sense of where you’re going.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education introduced its Promise Neighborhoods program. The federal initiative offered $10 million in competitive planning grants to help design a pipeline of social, educational and health supports in poor communities across America. The 20 chosen communities would be awarded as much as $500,000 each to design their own initiatives.

Given the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland’s success in its work to reduce education disparities in Central neighborhood, it was asked by the community to serve as the lead partner to convene a number of local organizations to plan a Promise Neighborhood for the Central neighborhood of Cleveland.

In 2009, statistics for the Central neighborhood showed that three quarters of the nearly 5,000 children lived in poverty, 66 percent of the residents lived in subsidized or public housing, and the three pre-K through eighth-grade schools were in academic emergency.

The coalition behind the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood was unsuccessful in attaining a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, but we were successful in attracting technical support and advice support from the Promise Neighborhood Institute.

With much momentum, we have moved forward ever since with robust planning and now implementation of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. With a strategic-minded team, including a dedicated advisory board and director, we’ve built the infrastructure to manage the project, evaluate progress and measure results.

What is the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood doing today?

  • Getting kids ready for school:
    • Lives are impacted the most when intervention and investment come early in a child’s life. By third grade, research tells us that kids are on a trajectory to succeed or fail in school. That is why we are focusing on the earliest learners as a top priority. The Central neighborhood has 2,900 of these young minds to shape and lives to impact (ages 0-8).To give families the broad based support they need, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood has taken targeted steps to ensure kids are kindergarten-ready. Educating families on kindergarten registration, and ensuring a high standard of child care centers and directors are some of the ways we’re laser focused on the first years.
  • Supporting kids in school so they thrive:
    • Once kids have successfully entered into kindergarten prepared, the second hurdle is ensuring they stay engaged in school and blossom into confident, resourceful and resilient leaders. Our goal is to increase the academic achievement of every Central neighborhood student in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the charter school StepStone Academy.Going forward we are honing in on programs at the school level, addressing the problem of absenteeism and educating families on engaging options for their kids before and after the school day and during school holidays.
  • Encouraging college or a post-secondary opportunity for all neighborhood youth:
    • In the Central neighborhood, our vision is for 100% of kids to graduate from a two- or four-year college or pursue other post-secondary options that will lead to a meaningful career. With only 52% of Central kids attending college within five years, and few graduating, we have a long way to go.The work starts with the family and it starts in eighth grade with a mentoring and career-coaching program. Our focus is on partnerships with higher education institutions to make college a realistic option. From coaching on what career to pursue, to receiving aid and advice on how to finance college, sustained outreach to Central’s college-going families is essential for kids to matriculate and graduate from college.
  • Helping foster healthy and stable families:
    • A stable family and community environment is part of what kids need to thrive. The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood includes programs that give residents access to health and wellness, affordable housing, education and training for adults, and other services.We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in many community partnerships; yet, our work is just beginning. Cooking and fitness classes, community gardening, partnerships to convert vacant lots to gardens or playgrounds and other programs will continue to inject stability and weave together a sense of healthy community.
  • Making change from the inside:
    • Residents of the Central Neighborhood are serving as Promise Ambassadors and other leadership roles to drive the key initiatives forward and to engage their fellow residents in the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. Ambassadors are essential for success because they understand the day-to-day challenges in a very real way, and are a trusted resource for their fellow residents.With 50 residents serving as Ambassadors and 20 more in training, the program continues to grow with a focus on parents, as they embrace the change impacting their families.

What is a Promise Ambassador?

Residents of the Central Neighborhood can be Promise Ambassadors, helping lead their community and further the Promise Neighborhood initiatives by engaging with partners and their fellow residents. Ambassadors understand the day-to-day challenges in a very real way, and are a trusted resource for their fellow residents. They undergo a formal training program and are assigned to special interest areas based on their preferences.

To learn more about becoming an ambassador or a resident leader, contact Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator Dawn Glasco.