Encourage All to Shovel

snow shovelingSnow-free sidewalks make it easier and safer for children to get to school. Promise Neighborhood volunteers are invited to help get the word out from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 28.

Volunteers will help Get2SchoolCLE and others deliver bags as friendly reminders to encourage residents to shovel their sidewalks.

We will gather at 9 a.m. at Alfred E. Benesch Elementary.

Quality Early Child Care Expands

PromiseNeighborhood18Of the 13 early-childhood centers in Cleveland Promise Neighborhood, eight are are quality rated. Most recently, two early-care and -education centers earned Step Up to Quality Rating. One early care and education center raised its star-quality rating from three to four stars.

A new child-care center opened in September, Home Away from Home on E 37th Street and Community College serving infants through school age and providing evening care.

What does a quality rating mean? Ohio created the Step Up to Quality preschool-rating system based on how well the center tries to educate children.

More information: Starting Point helps parents and child-care centers navigate the preschool process. Visit www.starting-point.org or call 216.575.0061. Tatian Wells is the Starting Point contact for the Promise Neighborhood.

Aramark & Promise Work Together to Promote Job Success in Central

To help residents in the Central Neighborhood in their efforts to find or improve their employment, Aramark and Cleveland-area organizations are coming together on Thursday at the Friendly Inn, 2386 Unwin Road.

More than 30 local volunteers from Aramark, the $15 billion global provider of award-winning services in food, facilities management and uniforms, will facilitate the event. Pre-registered participants will have access to job-readiness workshops, computer instruction, healthy-for-life cooking and career information, as well as a job fair.

The job fair, which runs 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Thursday – concurrent with the workshops – is open to all.

The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood is a community partner of the event. Other organizations involved include: Caresource, Jobs Plus, Oriana House, Burger King, Ohio Means Jobs, Cuyahoga Community College, Fairfax Renaissance Development, Towards Employment, Minute Men, First Choice Career Center, Ohio Guidestone, PNC Connections, Dress for Success, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and the Friendly Inn.

“Aramark Building Community Day is part of our year-round dedication to our mission of enriching and nourishing the lives of those who live and work in our communities,” said Art Boehm, Aramark District Manager for K-12 accounts in Ohio. “Here in Cleveland, through the Promise Neighborhood, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, Friendly Inn and others, ABC Day is bringing our mission to life, leveraging the skills and service ethic of our diverse workforce. We hope this will help to empower families in Cleveland to lead healthier lives and succeed.”

Today’s event is part of Aramark Building Community Day (ABC Day), the company’s annual global day of service. In communities around the world, thousands of employees are empowering youth and adults to obtain valuable job skills inspiring families to lead healthier lives.

“Securing quality employment is essential for Cleveland Central families and our community overall,” said Lowell Perry Jr., director of Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. “We are pleased Aramark employees are helping us extend support to the residents to help them expand their workforce-related resources, education, and potential jobs.”

The effort is an extension of Aramark Building Community, the company’s year-round global volunteer and philanthropic program dedicated to improving family health and helping people succeed in the workforce. Since 2008, Aramark has invested more than $9 million in volunteer expertise, financial and in-kind resources to strengthen communities. More than 30,000 employees have dedicated their skills through hundreds of volunteer projects impacting over four million people.

About Aramark

Aramark (NYSE: ARMK) is in the customer service business across food, facilities and uniforms, wherever people work, learn, recover, and play. United by a passion to serve, our more than 270,000 employees deliver experiences that enrich and nourish the lives of millions of people in 21 countries around the world every day. Aramark is recognized among the Most Admired Companies by FORTUNE and the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute. Learn more at www.Aramark.com or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood

Inspired by the renowned Harlem’s Children’s Zone, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood works to transform the educational and developmental outcomes of Central Neighborhood’s children, closing gaps in achievement and creating cradle-to-career supports for all youth. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is the lead convener of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, which brings together many partners, including philanthropy, residents, community service providers and schools. The community-based Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board provides strategic direction with substantive input and guidance for the entire project. More information about the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood is at clevelandpromiseneighborhood.org.

Cleveland’s Promise Neighborhood Welcomes New Leader

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has hired Lowell Perry Jr. as the new director of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. Inspired by the renowned Harlem’s Children’s Zone, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood works to transform the educational and developmental outcomes of Central Neighborhood’s children, closing gaps in achievement and creating cradle-to-career supports for all youth.

A long-time children’s advocate, Perry recently held the position of chief diversity officer and senior vice president of corporate and community engagement at the national headquarters of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS). There, he developed and cultivated strategic national corporate and community relationships with a special focus on diverse communities.

“Lowell brings national leadership and community engagement experience to the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood,” said Susanna Krey, president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. “On behalf of our many collaborators, including the Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board, community partners and staff, we are thrilled to welcome Lowell and the deep experience he brings to the Promise initiative.”

As part of his role at the national office of BBBS, Perry developed a vision and strategy for BBBS involvement with the My Brother’s Keeper initiative of President Barack Obama, as well as new approaches to engaging affinity groups of color from Fortune 100 companies and their foundation arms.

Prior, Perry was an award-winning CEO of the BBBS of Middle Tennessee. He has led management and marketing for numerous nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and provided front-office communications and community leadership for the Seattle Seahawks. A native of Detroit, Perry is a graduate of Yale University, with further education from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

Perry’s first day as director of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood was June 8.

“Promise’s transformative vision to see all Central Neighborhood children achieve college education and careers was instrumental in my accepting this role,” said Perry. “As I enter as Promise director, I will be working closely with residents and Promise ambassadors to ensure every child in Central is well positioned to pursue the American dream.”

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is the lead convener of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. Initiated in 2009, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood brings together many partners, including philanthropy, residents, community service providers and schools. The community-based Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board provides strategic direction with substantive input and guidance for the entire project.

“Lowell’s career has instilled deep understanding of the value of quality education and childhood mentoring, and the contribution they make to students and families,” said Giesele Robinson Greene M.D., who chairs the Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board and serves as chief medical officer of the Sisters of Charity Health System. “In his career and life, he is committed to leading mission-driven work, to embracing faith and to connecting with young people who may not have opportunities for role models.”

A message from the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

For nearly two decades, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has partnered with residents, nonprofits and community leaders to change the trajectory of poverty in Cuyahoga County. Your partnership in one of our signature initiatives – the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood – is integral in helping kids grow up with the tools they need to thrive and be successful, from birth through college.

The Central Promise Neighborhood’s series of interwoven social and educational programs – initiated together and with community leadership and sustainable funding – make change possible. As this important work continues, we want you to know about an important leadership transition. Sonya Pryor-Jones is leaving her position as the first Promise director. In 2015, she will continue working on mission driven projects with several organizations.

On behalf of the foundation’s board and staff, as well as the many Promise partners, we extended our sincere appreciation and thanks to Sonya for her many contributions. During her tenure, we have achieved much.

As we move forward to select the next Promise director, Leslie Strnisha, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland’s vice president, will continue her oversight of the Promise initiative’s important work.

Together, we will continue to create positive outcomes for the Central Neighborhood residents through a cradle to career pipeline of support that touches all aspects of life, from stable housing and healthy lifestyles to good schools and safe neighborhoods.

Central youth wins MyCom award

Central Neighborhood’s own Jason Foster was recognized as a recipient of the MyCom Youth Voice Award last month, given to individuals in the community who reflect the key principles of being committed to their community.

Jason received nominations from a slew of community representatives who admire his ability to embody the potential of the neighborhood. As Jason walked to the podium Lisa Bottoms, the Cleveland Foundation’s program director for human services and child and youth development, read the following:

“Despite being faced with the turmoil of poverty, Jason has and continues to debunk the myth of what it means to be a youth in an impoverished neighborhood. At times the living in Central can be viewed as more of a task than a privilege.

“Yet he walks through the community with no strife or discomfort. Jason is an active member of the Friendly Inn youth group, a stellar student at New Tech, and member of the East Tech Football Team.

“Jason also acts as an advocate for CMSD Rows encouraging youth to accept the challenge of trying something different. In his home Jason acts as a role model for younger sister.”

Lisa noted that choosing the recipients was particularly difficult this year with so many great nominations.

This proved true for Renee Wren, a Promise Ambassador who was nominated for an award as a caring adult. Renee and Jason, both serve as pillars of positive change by leaving a stamp on the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.

The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood extends our congratulations to all the winners, seven other youth and three adults, as well as OhioGuidestone, which received the MyCom Network Agency Youth Voice Award.

A two-generation approach

The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative brings together Central Neighborhood residents, community stakeholders and partners to create the kind of community where every child can have career and college success.

Too few neighborhood students are enrolling in post-secondary education. Of those that do enroll, very few are receiving a degree. Only about half (52 percent) of Central students who graduated from Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools in 2005 enrolled in post-secondary education and none had received a degree within five years.

Of adults in the neighborhood, more than a quarter (28 percent) lack a high school diploma or equivalent degree, and 25 percent are stuck with some college experience but no degree. Very few (13 percent) have attained an associate’s or higher level degree. The path to post-secondary education is broken not just for students but for their parents as well.

What is a two-generation approach?

Parents have a big role to play in preparing their children for post-secondary and career success. Mothers are particularly important partners. There is a strong, well-documented link between maternal education and children’s academic readiness and achievement. Family stability and social connectedness set the stage for student success.

While intensive, holistic support is needed to overcome the kinds of generational and historical obstacles to opportunity that persist in the Promise Neighborhood, programs designed to address the family unit are not the norm. Typical programs that support early development and school-readiness focus on parenting skills and address parents primarily as facilitators of the child’s development. Similarly, programing designed to boost family income by connecting adults to work only address children as obstacles to work or training. This is despite the fact that parents’ educational attainment is the best predictor of children’s economic mobility.

A multi-generational approach knits together services for kids with training and career opportunities for their parents, so that both children and their parents are striving for post-secondary and career success. Their successes become mutually motivating and reinforce the investments made by community partners.

Eliminating hurdles: state strategies

The state has a policy role to play in helping Ohioans, including Promise residents, access post-secondary education opportunities. The cost of post-secondary education, the potential pitfalls of the student loan system, and the personal time and resource burden of managing work, school, and family often pose barriers to degree completion. The cost of higher education is particularly steep for someone maintaining a household on a poverty-level income. The prospective student not only must cover direct costs of attendance but often the cost and complications of arranging and purchasing childcare, transportation, housing and food for a family. Ohio can tip the balance of these competing demands towards education and help support the development of two-generation strategies by increasing need-based financial aid.

According to one community college’s Net Price Calculator, a single student with one, non-college aged, dependent earning less than $30,000 per year would need an additional $2,136, aid to cover expenses. The estimate includes an extremely modest $930 for “other expenses,” such as transportation, childcare, and emergencies. In 2009, the neediest students at community colleges lost access to an additional source of help, the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG). OCOG is the only state source of need-based grant aid. The grant supplements federal financial aid to make post-secondary education more affordable. OCOG currently provides a range of maximum awards depending on the institution of enrollment. Students enrolling in two-year public institutions are not eligible for the grant.

Reopening Ohio College Opportunity Grant to community college students would be a step in the right direction, for Promise Neighborhood residents and the state. An investment of $84 million would fully restore OCOG to its pre-recession level of funding. Eligibility could be expanded to students at 2-year public intuitions with a $20 million investment.

Creating opportunity: two-generation partnerships in the neighborhood

Bridge programs, accelerated and stackable credentials, integrated training modules, and industry recognized in-demand credentials are only effective if students can get and stay in. To achieve this, many Promise Neighborhood residents have to balance the responsibilities of being a parent, a sole provider, and a student. Many are starting from a point of having little to no support network to draw upon. Reinvigorated investment in need-based aid would help; the initiative could further tip the balance toward education by partnering with post-secondary institutions and workforce development organizations to reduce some information and financial barriers.

The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative is partnering with a variety of organizations to build these links for young students; expanding these connections to their parents would foster a whole-family culture of learning. Using a two-generation approach to connect Promise parents to programs targeting GED completion and supporting retention in higher education will generate educational achievement for both the parents and their children. Addressing these particular challenges to post-secondary success while delivering services to kids can improve short- and long-term outcomes for the entire family unit. Better outcomes are possible for Central residents and better pathways out of poverty can be built for Central students, if supportive programming addresses the interconnectedness of child success and whole-family stability.

Read the full report by Policy Matters Ohio.

Why early education is important

It’s almost 5:00 p.m., later than they usually leave, but Miesha Green and her two children —Nyema and X’zayzhan—are still at the YWCA Early Learning Center, waiting for the downpour to end before heading for the bus stop and home.

Miesha picked up Nyema from kindergarten almost two hours ago, and then came here to get her 19-month-old son. Outside, the rain is pounding the sidewalk. Inside the kids are laughing and playing. The Center is like a second home. Miesha stops by often, sometimes to read to the kids.

Six-year-old Nyema came to the YWCA for pre-kindergarten last year and Miesha’s little boy is in the infant/toddler program. A single mom, Miesha brings X’zayzhan to the center while she studies hospitality management at Tri-C, aiming for a better job than her last one as a bartender. At 24, she’s done everything from cleaning people’s houses to packing boxes.

“I always wanted to go to school and make something of myself,” Miesha said. “But it’s been pretty hard. Nyema was born with glaucoma; she had seven surgeries between two and seven months.”

Now Nyema is flourishing. She’s an honor roll student at the ICan Academy on East 40th Street, a charter school where kindergarten, Miesha says, is more like first grade with rigorous instruction in reading, writing, science, math and the arts. Nyema likes science best. It’s easy to see how proud her mother is.

“The Early Learning Center got her ready for kindergarten,” proud mom Miesha said. “When we moved to the Central neighborhood, they helped my daughter adapt and learn. They worked with her on many things. That’s why she’s so advanced. They prepare kids for school. They really want them to learn, get ahead. They treat the kids like their own.”

Billie Osborne-Fears, executive director of Starting Point, says Cleveland has many quality early childhood programs like the YWCA‘s, and they’re important.

“The early years are critical to a child’s success,” Osborne-Fears said. “Quality early care creates the foundation for children’s schooling and sets the stage for their development, learning and social-emotional growth.”

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine offers evidence on why – “the human brain develops more rapidly between birth and age five than during any other period.”

The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative is a collaboration including residents, funders, businesses, schools and others together toward the common goal that all children are prepared to go to college.

Starting Point is partnering with the Promise initiative and its lead organization, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, to ensure that all Central neighborhood children participate in early learning programs, that all the neighborhood’s centers and family child care homes are quality-rated and that parents of these children receive the supportive services they need to assure consistent care and a successful future for their children and themselves.

Promise Early Learning Navigator Tatiana Wells is working with families, early learning programs and neighborhood organizations to make this a reality. She also sees Miesha and her children every Tuesday. They’re working with other Central families on creating costumes to wear in June’s Parade the Circle event. Even one-year-old X’zayzhan helps a little.

The rain has stopped. Miesha and her family can head for home. As they leave, Miesha offers one more thought; “As a mother I wish every child had the opportunity to learn equally.”

In Cleveland’s Central Promise Neighborhood, they’re making that happen.

To find out more about quality early learning programs in the Central Neighborhood and how to enroll your child, contact Tatiana Wells, at 216-575-0061 or visit starting-point.org.

Race for Results: We’re Still Leaving Children Behind

The United States has much ground to cover to ensure that all kids — especially children of color — are positioned to thrive, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The foundation’s Race for Results Index measures how well children of every race are being prepared for economic success according to 12 indicators (such as enrollment in early education programs, high school graduation, and family poverty rates).

This report and the recently launched diversitydatakids.org interactive online data set of child well-being indicators from Brandeis University provide valuable tools to track how well the nation is doing to prepare the next generation of innovators, leaders, workers and entrepreneurs.

Read the rest of the April 9, 2014 America’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model issue.