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Drexel's Promise Neighborhoods $30 Million Award to Be Life Changing

December 21, 2016

Dear Colleague:

I was at the Morton McMichael School in Mantua this morning for the exciting announcement of a five-year $30 million U.S. Department of Education Promise Neighborhoods award to Drexel University and the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. My visit there required only a short trip — but it was years in the making. Our collective work began long before the Promise Zone designation in early 2014, and this grant reflects a history of broad and deep collaboration that has built on the vision and ambition of this community. This journey has enriched us all, and I am proud that Drexel University has been a partner.

Over the next five years, we expect that the initiatives made possible by the grant will prove life-changing for as many as 3,000 students at seven schools in our neighborhood, and for many more members of the wider community. The $6 million in funds allocated each year will enable Drexel and our partners — at the School District, the Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity and the Promise Zone, the Office of Education, and the nonprofits and civic leaders in this community — to expand early learning, improve K-12 education in the Promise Neighborhood, address college and career readiness, and provide family and community supports. The partners also will address the emotional challenges facing families living in poverty, by providing needed behavioral health and trauma-informed supports at the seven schools and throughout the community.

In addition to Drexel's role as the lead grant applicant, the Office of University and Community Partnerships will help coordinate all of the University's resources for this initiative. The School of Education will work closely with the seven public schools to improve their practices and enrich their achievement. Faculty and graduate students from the Dornsife School of Public Health will be actively engaged in creating a data system and overseeing the evaluation of the project. Drexel's Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships will offer a site for a range of partnership activities with the community, engaging our faculty and students across the University, from the sciences to engineering and the arts.

Our overarching goal is to ensure that every child born in the Promise Zone has what she or he needs to be successful in the innovation economy that is growing right before their eyes in their own backyard.

For all of us in West Philadelphia, this grant is a capstone for our diligent collaborative efforts thus far. We are a better community already for having built the bridges and relationships that brought us to this point. This is also a new beginning, and I believe the award will move us closer to the day when the promise of the Promise Zone becomes a reality.

I want to thank our colleagues Lucy Kerman and Nancy Songer for their inspired leadership of this successful effort.


John A. Fry