Could Michigan get its own Harlem Children's Zone?

Nov 29, 2012

Volunteers building a playground at the Focus: HOPE Village Initiative.
Volunteers building a playground at the Focus: HOPE Village Initiative.
Credit Photo courtesy of Focus Hope

If you've been following State of Opportunity over the past couple months, you've probably heard us talk about the Harlem Children's Zone. It's this 100-block zone in central Harlem that's designed to create a safety net so strong and so wide that no child could fall through and fail. The program covers all kids from birth through college. 

President Obama liked the Harlem Children's Zone so much that he started the Promise Neighborhood Initiative as a way to incentivize other communities around the country to create similar safety net models.

We've got a few Promise Neighborhoods in the works here in Michigan.

One is in the River Rouge community in Detroit. They were the first Michigan community to receive a $500,000 planning grant from the federal government a couple years ago to start work on a Promise Neighborhood Initiative in that area. And while they didn't receive further funding from the federal government to implement a lot of what they had planned during that initial phase, the folks involved in the River Rouge Promise Neighborhood Initiative say they're continuing on with their mission to provide what they call "cradle-to-career services" for children in the area. 

I sat in on an advisory board meeting yesterday with the folks who are planning a new Promise Neighborhood Initiative in the Clark Park and Osborn neighborhoods in Detroit. They also received an initial planning grant from the federal government, and they'll find out THIS MONTH whether or not they'll be awarded up to $6 million more to implement their plans. We'll keep you posted.

We're also keeping an eye on the Focus: HOPE Village Initiative that's underway in Detroit. Like the Harlem Children's Zone, Hope Village is a 100-block area in northwest Detroit designed to provide services from cradle to career for the folks living in that area. Here's how the Detroit Free Press describes what's in store for the Hope Village over the next couple decades: 

The long-term goal -- and officials concede that it is a long way off -- is "to help all residents in the neighborhood become educationally well-prepared, economically self-sufficient and living in a safe and supportive neighborhood by 2031," [spokeswoman Kathy] Moran said.

Keisha Johnson and her three children whom we featured earlier on State of Opportunity are one of the families in HOPE Village. We expect to follow her and her children's progress over the next three years.