San Antonio Promise Zone Progress on Display at Town Hall

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited San Antonio last month to participate in a town hall discussion on how the President’s Promise Zone initiative is helping the city’s Eastside community create ladders of opportunity to ensure that all children can achieve social mobility. San Antonio is one of five Promise Zones announced earlier this year, and one of three in which Promise Neighborhoods, a program of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, are playing an integral role.

Since 2010, the Eastside Promise Neighborhood has worked to improve educational opportunities for the community’s children, beginning with preschool education. And the efforts are paying off, according to Secretary Duncan, who noted a reduction in chronic absenteeism for 8th graders from 33 percent to 8 percent and an increase in graduation rates at Sam Houston High School from 46 to 84 percent. ”Where a whole community embraces the importance of education,” he noted, “that sets an example for the rest of the nation.”

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The Hollywood We All Need to Know

Arne Duncan roundtable

“This is remarkable leadership in action,” Secretary Arne Duncan told the press at the Hollywood FamilySource Center, following a roundtable with community stakeholders of the East Hollywood Promise Neighborhoods project. (Official Department of Education photo)

A small youth and family resource center is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall at the intersection of Western Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in warm, sunny Los Angeles. It’s in “the other Hollywood,” where instead of calling for the lights, camera, and action of movie making, community leaders are in search of the solutions to poverty, mental health issues, and learned helplessness. Since 2013, with the help of a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Hollywood FamilySource Center has become the “one-stop-shop” for local families in need of help.

On March 19, Secretary Arne Duncan, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods team, visited the center, which is operated by the Youth Policy Institute (YPI). The goals of the center are to increase family income and students’ academic achievement. During its fourth year of operation in 2013-14, more than 3,140 clients benefited from the Center’s core services: adult education and computer literacy classes, tutoring and enrichment programs to improve children and youths’ academic skills, medical and dental health care, and a number of other services.

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Promise Neighborhood Contributes to San Antonio Transformation

San Antonio is undergoing a transformation, one that involves reinvestment in its schools and neighborhoods, including Eastside, one of the city’s fastest growing and diverse communities. As part of Eastside’s transformation, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro unveiled the EastPoint brand earlier this month. Because of the neighborhood’s innovative initiatives in education, housing, and economic development, it was “in need of some major rebranding,” according to a press release. Mayor Castro joined Eastside community leaders to announce the rebranding effort, which affects the neighborhood’s approximately 18,000 residents.

At the heart of the EastPoint revitalization are a Promise Neighborhoods grant from ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement and a Choice Neighborhood Program grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN), the emphasis is on leveraging and strengthening the neighborhood’s assets and resources so that children and families are “inspired to stay, grow, graduate … and stay.”

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Promise Zones Launched in Five Communities

On Thursday, Jan. 9, President Obama announced the first five “Promise Zones,” where local communities and businesses will work together to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing, and improve public safety. Announced in last year’s State of the Union Address, the Promise Zones Initiative is part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class.

The first five Zones — in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma — have put forward plans for how they will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity. Click here for a fact sheet on the Promise Zones Initiative and the key strategies of each of the five Zones.

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Community Festival Marks Promise Neighborhood Launch in San Francisco

A festive celebration for families and the community marked the official beginning of the Promise Neighborhoods grant in San Francisco recently. Dozens of families in the city’s Mission District attended the more than three–hour festival at John O’Connell High School to officially announce a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was on hand to congratulate the community and leaders of the new Mission Promise Neighborhood, and cited the important contribution the grant will make to local leaders committed to the basic principle of the Promise Neighborhoods initiative: focusing on high academic achievement through wrap-around support for students and families to minimize the impact of a difficult economic environment on the classroom.

The deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Marco Davis, also noted that the Promise Neighborhoods program “is an outstanding example of engaging all aspects of a community.”

Also on hand for the launch was Joe Barlson, communications and outreach director for ED’s regional office in San Francisco. Click here to read his blog about the event.

Digital Media Academy Promises Bright Futures


A Digital Media Academy student illustrates a live canvas for the DC Promise Neighborhoods Initiative.

A Digital Media Academy student illustrates a live canvas for the DC Promise Neighborhoods Initiative.

For 15 young people in the Kenilworth-Parkside community of Washington, D.C., a summer learning experience provided by the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) helped to change their lives. Over 29 days and through more than 130 hours of digital instruction and immersion, participants in DCPNI’s first Digital Media Academy took to their community, to classrooms, and to nationally recognized media enterprises in the D.C. metropolitan area to discover new passions, learn marketable skills, meet adult mentors, and set a course for their future success.

During the first week of class, DMA youth explore hands-on, project-based learning.

During the first week of class, DMA youth explore hands-on, project-based learning.

DCPNI, one of 12 Promise Neighborhoods implementation sites nationwide, tapped into a rich array of digital and media arts resources in the nation’s capital — from Black Entertainment Television and CNN to the Newseum — to help the young people find their own voices and use them to improve their neighborhood. The students gained valuable creative skills in computer programming and graphic design, coupled with editing videos and music and operating cameras. In the process, they also gained valuable leadership skills, implemented social change through art, and effectively used the media to positively influence their peers.

It’s off into the real world to shoot their first PSA for this DMA production crew.

It’s off into the real world to shoot their first PSA for this DMA production crew.

The students, according to DCPNI Executive Director Ayris Scales, were constantly amazed by new ideas and opportunities, and they shared them in daily journals and local media interviews. Among their favorites experiences were being exposed to Google and exploring the Newseum, as they realized the importance of the media and the fundamentals of working hard while having fun. More importantly, while they created public service announcements on teen pregnancy that encouraged young people to live for their future dreams, the DMA students made important strides toward achieving their own future dreams.

Many of the DMA students now realize how gifted they are and just how bright their futures can be. They graduated from the program, but remain in the hearts of the DCPNI mentors, staff, and professionals who supported them, many of whom said, “It was the best job and best summer I ever had.”

Digital Media Academy Promises and Delivers for D.C. Students

Lights. Camera. Action! The sights and sounds of summer learning in the Hollywood, right? No, right here in Washington, D.C. if you were one of 15 Kenilworth Parkside youth who participated in the Digital Media Academy (DMA) sponsored by the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) this past summer.

Students in the program share their "Daily Downloads," in which they upload media assets they produced to their digital portfolios and journalize about their learning experiences. (Photo courtesy of DCPNI)

Students in the program share their “Daily Downloads,” in which they upload media assets they produced to their digital portfolios and journalize about their learning experiences. (Photo courtesy of DCPNI)

With the help of an OII Promise Neighborhoods Implementation Grant awarded to DCPNI in 2012, DMA gave students in this Northeast D.C. community an extraordinary opportunity to learn from top media artists, journalists, web designers, and other professionals representing more than 23 media-related organizations, a number of which offered internships behind the camera or microphone. The students shadowed Media Mentors who showed them the ropes at such nationally known media enterprises as Google, Black Entertainment Television, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and XM Satellite Radio.

Weekly workshops and coursework provided insights into college and career possibilities in a wide range of fields from media marketing and advertising to PR and journalism to information literacy and digital citizenship. And on Fridays, the students experienced firsthand what classes are like at the Corcoran College of Art & Design or how the Newseum preserves America’s past through its news makers and journalists, as well as other city venues in which the media arts play a significant role in serving the community and its culture.

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Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Joins Back-to-School Bus Tour

OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary (ADS) Nadya Dabby will participate in the Department of Education’s annual Back-to-School Bus Tour. The Secretary’s bus tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, will run from September 9 – 13, beginning in Santa Fe, N.M., and concluding in San Diego, Calif., with stops along the way in Texas and Arizona.

Strong-StartActing ADS Dabby will begin her travels on Wednesday, Sept. 11th, attending the Secretary’s school visit to Sunnyside High School in Tucson, Ariz., for presentations on the use of technology in the classroom. That afternoon, Ms. Dabby will tour Bisbee High School, in Bisbee, Ariz., an Investing in Innovation (i3) Implementation grantee site, where she will meet with teachers receiving a new professional development program that is part of the i3 grant project.

On Thursday, Acting ADS Dabby will spend the day in Phoenix, touring two charter schools and meeting with leaders from both public charter and traditional public schools to discuss charter schools in the state and areas of collaboration between charters and traditional public schools. She will also visit Trevor Browne High School to tour civics and history classrooms and meet with teachers who are participants in an OII Teaching American History project. They will discuss the unique and content-specific professional development the teachers have experienced through the grant.

In Chula Vista, Calif., near San Diego, Ms. Dabby will join Secretary Duncan for the final event of the bus tour at one of the schools in the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood. The Secretary and Ms. Dabby will attend a pep rally for students and families and take a tour of the campus. The tour is followed by panel discussion and town hall with Secretary Duncan, members of the Chula Vista community, and other local education stakeholders.

You can follow Acting ADS Dabby’s trip at and also look for the hashtag #edtour13 for updates on Strong Start, Bright Future events throughout the week. Also visit ED’s bus tour page at

Promise Neighborhoods Convene to Share and Learn

I was truly inspired by the peer–to-peer learning that quickly developed into the pervasive spirit of this year’s Promise Neighborhoods Directors Meeting. Our annual convening on June 13-14 brought together more than 250 administrators, evaluators, and practitioners to strengthen relationships, forge new ties, and expand our knowledge of how to truly construct a cradle-to-career promise in our communities. Peers shared tips on how to effectively administer the program, apply solutions to nagging community challenges, and effectively use their data to drive results.

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Secretary Duncan Announces Seventeen 2012 Promise Neighborhoods Winners in School Safety Address

(December 21, 2012) U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods $60 million grant fund during a school safety speech at Neval Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

“Children must be safe, healthy, and supported by adults across an entire community to reach their fullest potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Against all odds, Promise Neighborhoods work to provide families and children with the support they need to help break the cycle of poverty that threatens too many of our nation’s communities.”

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