LISC in Parkside/ Kenilworth: A New LISC Sustainable Community

In January, 2010  LISC DC was asked to become a member of the Parkside-Kenilworth Promise Neighborhood team – a team made up of community residents, teachers and principals, developers, funders, the District of Columbia government, the Housing Authority, universities, medical centers, Urban Institute and many others.

This team is being led by the Founder/CEO of the Cesar Chavez Charter School for Public Policy and the overall goal is to upgrade the quality of life in Parkside-Kenilworth using the “Promise Neighborhood/ Harlem Children Zone Model. The Chavez Charter School is the middle and high school located within the boundaries of Parkside-Kenilworth.

By the time we joined the team the neighborhood residents had been working toward this goal for almost two years. In 2009 the team became aware of the Harlem Children Zone (HCZ) and President Obama’s pledge to provide funding to replicate HCZ in other parts of the nation under the banner of Promise Neighborhoods.

In the fall of 2009 the team began to put in place the infrastructure to pursue the designation and funding for a Promise Neighborhood. It is important to note that the team agreed that their work would go forward with or without this designation and Federal funding.

From January- June, 2010:
• we met with community leaders and residents, attended community dinners and events, took tours and gathered information;
• we compared and contrasted the goals and principles set out by the residents of Kenilworth-Parkside against LISC goals and the principles of our sustainable communities work which resulted in the Local Advisory Committee selecting ParksideKenilworth as our second sustainable communities neighborhood;
• we determined the most appropriate role and participation for staff and the appropriate funding commitments;
• we helped prepare the application, including providing a commitment letter for funding, in-kind support and technical assistance, to the Department of Education for Parkside-Kenilworth to be designated a Promise Neighborhood and to receive a $500,000 planning grant.

From July- September, 2010:
• we were asked to join the Parkside Advisory Committee;
• we participated in numerous resource development sessions with the team including making site visits to request funding for the initiative and organizing fundraising sessions(over time we helped raise $350,000 in cash match and over $600,000 in in-kind services to match the $500,000 DOE grant);
• put in place the following resources:
o placed MOSAICA ( an organizational development consultant) under contract to LISC, hence paying for a year of expertise to be used by the team for building the infrastructure and capacity of their newly formed nonprofit; DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative;
o placed Hanbury Productions (videographer) under contract to LISC to document the people, process and outcomes of this initiative;
o provided a small grant to cover the teams operating costs as they awaited the decision by the Department of Education;
o NEF began syndication of LIHTC for the construction of a 98 unit rental building for seniors on a vacant lot in Parkside;
o brought Amy Gilman (CICK) to our team to work on helping to upgrade and expand the early childhood learning centers in the neighborhood;
o agreed to provide technical support and funding to facilitate the on-going community engagement process.

In late September 2010, the combined neighborhoods bordered by Eastern Ave, Benning Road I-295 and the Anacostia River, referred to as Parkside/ Kenilworth was designated a Promise Neighborhood by the Department of Education.

With this designation came a $500,000 grant for a one year planning process that will help transform this community into a place that offers high-quality educational opportunities and social supports for children and youth ages 0 – 23 years old.

While the Chavez Charter School has taken the lead and is the recipient of the Promise Neighborhood grant, going forward the work will be guided by a newly created nonprofit, the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI).

From October–December, 2010 we moved into the planning phase. During this phase we continued and enhanced the work we started earlier in 2010. In particular we:
• participated in the Dept of Education work sessions as the funder representative for the team;
• participated in the work sessions with the national technical assistance provider the Promise Neighborhood Institute (PolicyLink; Harlem Children Zone and Center for Study of Social Policy);
• set the date and planned a Promise Neighborhood Funders Breakfast, hosted by LISC, for January, 2011;
• continued as a member of the Parkside Advisory Committee;
• helped plan and provided a small grant for the 1st quarter 2011 Community Retreats that will result in the Parkside Promise Neighborhood Implementation Plan.

Some early wins include:
• the coming of the Children National Medical Center Mobile Dental Van to the neighborhood;
• the placement of language/development specialist in the homes of the family childcare providers to provide one-on-one assistance to the toddlers;
• obtaining funding for a Dropout Prevention Specialist to be located at Chavez Charter School;
• securing an EDUCARE early childhood learning center to be located adjacent to the elementary school;
• NEF syndication of $4.5 million in LIHTC equity for 98 unit senior housing (closing in February 2011).