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UM-led Initiative Gains Federal 'Promise Neighborhoods' Funding

Promise Heights, a collaborative effort to strengthen a West Baltimore neighborhood, has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 17 winners of 2012 Promise Neighborhoods grants. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a total of $60 million in awards on Dec. 21, including a planning grant of $499,795 to partners at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) led by the School of Social Work (SSW).

The schools of medicine, nursing and pharmacy at UMB also participate in the initiative in the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood. Promise Heights Executive Director Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, assistant dean of the SSW, noted the strength of the schools' contribution as a factor in obtaining the planning grant. She is shown, above, at the presentation of the University's 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Recognition Awards to 60 participants in Promise Heights.

"Students and faculty from our professional schools continue to devote time and resources to improve education and developmental outcomes for children and families in Upton/Druid Heights," said UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD. "Promise Heights is a wonderful example of the collaborative spirit that we are nurturing at our university and the partnerships we are fostering in our community."

Other partners include faith-based, nonprofit, and government organizations. The intention of Promise Heights is to offer services from cradle to college or career.

The Department of Education award is one of 10 planning grants and seven implementation grants in a 2012 cycle that drew more than 200 applicants for Promise Neighborhoods funding. The program is a cornerstone of the federal approach to working in poor communities in a way that is designed to be interdisciplinary, coordinated, place-based, and data- and results-driven.

In Upton/Druid Heights, a neighborhood near UMB that includes parts of historic Pennsylvania Avenue and extends as far east as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, about half of the families live in poverty, according to Baltimore City Health Department data.

A planning grant enables creation of a targeted plan for combating poverty in the local community. A full implementation grant requires demonstration that the planning grant has generated the capacity to deliver and evaluate a full array of evidence-based services, from cradle to career, and matching funds from local foundations and local, state, and federal partners.

"We are thrilled that our collaborative efforts have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and we look forward to working to put together a plan that will, ultimately, achieve a full implementation grant that will further promote the success of parents, teachers, and children in West Baltimore," said SSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, who has been working on this initiative since December 2006.

The School recently received a separate federal grant for a two-year project in the Promise Heights neighborhood to provide preventive and early intervention services to children at risk of becoming involved, or involved with, child welfare services. That grant was awarded by the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Department of Education emphasizes its belief in the importance of collaboration to help "leverage and sustain grant work" in Promise Neighborhoods, noting that more than 300 organizations are supporting the 2012 grant winners. In Baltimore, the University-led Promise Heights project is a Community Resource School community partner, 21st Century Community Learning Center grantee, and a partner of the Judith P. Hoyer Program, known as Judy Centers.

The initiative offers a pipeline of programs for children from zero to age 21, starting with B'more for Healthy Babies, a Baltimore City program that reaches pregnant women as well as newborns and their mothers. Parent U, a SSW-led program that helps parents to bond with their infants and toddlers, brings experts from several UMB schools to share parenting and other skills.

Better My Identity (BMI) is a nutrition and fitness program led by the School of Medicine Department of Family and Community Medicine. At a BMI health fair, for example, youngsters tried zumba and yoga to exercise. The School of Pharmacy-led program, A Bridge to Academic Excellence, offers tutoring to students at Booker T. Washington Middle School (BTWMS). Health services, including asthma screening led by the School of Nursing, take place in the McCulloh Homes housing project.

Promise Heights offers services in cooperation with Baltimore City Public Schools at Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy and The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School. The federal planning grant includes plans to expand additional supportive services to BTWMS and to Renaissance Academy, a high school located in the same building.

Among faith-based participants, an early and leading partner is Union Baptist Church and its pastor, the Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway Sr., who commented: "Through the awarding of this grant, the University of Maryland School of Social Work receives needed resources to plan and expand the collaborative initiative, Promise Heights, that will improve outcomes for our children, families, and schools."

Promise Heights seeks faculty, students, and staff to volunteer and assist researchers with community-based research. Please go here to express interest.

Posting Date: 01/04/2013
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu