Ammar Sharif (left) and Miguel Arias (right) of Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley discuss what exactly a "Promise Neighborhood" is and how they come to be. A new Promise Neighborhood in Easton will be revealed next year after research has been completed and data have been tabulated.
Ammar: "In Promise Neighborhoods, we have our nine promises, which stretch from cradle to career, and we really try to help students and families succeed all the way through their educational careers and through their lives, so hopefully, they can graduate high school either on the path to college or on the path to a successful career."
"What does that entail?"
Ammar: "We work all the way from the beginning making sure they have access to good health care, so mothers or expectant mothers are regularly visiting hospitals. Then, before the students even start with the school district we try and make sure they are working with quality early education, then starting kindergarten prepared, and then that they're proficient in their core subjects. That they're transitioning from middle school to high school. That they're getting support from their family and community and they also have the skills necessary to eventually, if they need to take the SAT to get into college, they have the proper resources. Or, if college isn't their thing, then they have the opportunities to, say, seek out a welder, seek out a cosmetologist, to know what they need to get where they want to be. We don't provide the services directly. What we do is we collect the data. So, we'll canvass the neighborhood, wherever we select the nine-square-block area. In Allentown we did our survey with a goal of 80% return rate. We managed to get to 77%. So of our 779 households, we got 603 surveys back. Now we're presenting those to potential partners, saying, 'Here's the need. How can you help us create the proper intervention to help these students be successful in their lives?'"
"I know you can't say which one right now, but how do you go about choosing which nine-block-area will become the Promise Neighborhood?"
Ammar: "We are a really data-driven organization, as I said, we collect from a survey. We have right now data from the Census, data from the City, data from the school board and now we're collecting from the residents' feedback on where they feel it should be. We're going to take all this, blend it together, use what we learned in Allentown, really pick the best area where we can help people, *but* we don't limit our work to the nine square blocks. We use it as a targeted area to gauge our progress. But if someone comes who lives outside of our nine block area, we're not going to say, 'No, no--we're not going to help you. Sorry, go somewhere else.' We help them. And we don't just say, 'Here's a number you need to call'; we say, 'Here's a number you need to call--tell us if they don't respond. We'll call them. We have relationships with them. We know who we need to talk to to get you what you need.'"
These are the stories of the people of Easton, PA