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Leading a Promise Neighborhood

Our vision is to dramatically change the outcome of kids’ lives in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood.


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The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is the lead convener of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.

Initiated in 2009, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood brings together many partners, including philanthropy, residents, community service providers and schools. The community-based Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board provides strategic direction with substantive input and guidance for the entire project.

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Through a strategic and coordinated community effort, we aim to help kids grow up with the tools they need to thrive and be successful, from birth through college. The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood is a series of interwoven social and educational programs that, initiated together and with community leadership and sustainable funding, make this change possible.

Central is a densely populated neighborhood within the city of Cleveland, spanning 1.8 square miles. It has 3 elementary schools, 2 institutions of higher education, one hospital, and many nonprofits serving the community. A historic neighborhood, Central is the former home of national figures like Langston Hughes, Jessie Owens and Carl & Louis Stokes. It’s also home to around 4,500 families. Two-thirds of these families live in public housing with a median household income of $11,483 and a child poverty rate of 80%, compared to a national average of 22% . Inspired by these enormous challenges, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland (SOCF) has partnered with residents, numerous nonprofits, and community leaders to create a bold vision and roadmap that changes the trajectory of poverty for neighborhood families. It’s called the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.

Promie’s goal is to create positive outcomes for the Central Neighborhood residents through a cradle to career pipeline of support. This support touches all aspects of life, from stable housing and healthy lifestyles to good schools and safe neighborhoods. Modeled after the goals of the successful Harlem Children’s Zone, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood’s approach is to provide education services to residents from pre-natal through college, supported by the entire community. The focus is both on creating new programs where gaps exist, and ensuring the effectiveness of existing programs through communication and collaboration.

Ultimately, Promise aims to alleviate the enormous obstacles that interfere with kids being able to show up, participate, learn and thrive in school, so they can go on to graduate from college or establish a career.


Getting kids ready for school:

Lives are impacted the most when intervention and investment come early in a child’s life. By 3rd grade, research tells us that kids are on a trajectory to succeed or fail in school. That is why we are focusing on the earliest learners as a top priority.

The Central Neighborhood has 2,900 of these young minds to shape and lives to impact (ages 0-8). To give families the broad based support they need, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood has taken targeted steps to ensure kids are kindergarten-ready. Educating families on kindergarten registration, and ensuring a high standard of child care centers and directors are some of the ways we’re laser focused on the first years.

Supporting kids in school so they thrive:

Once kids have successfully entered into kindergarten prepared, the second hurdle is ensuring they stay engaged in school and blossom into confident, resourceful and resilient leaders. Our goal is to increase the academic achievement of every Central neighborhood student in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the charter school StepStone Academy. Going forward we will hone in on programs at the school level, address the problem of absenteeism and educate families on engaging options for their kids before and after the school day and during school holidays.

College or a Post-Secondary opportunity for ALL Central Neighborhood’s kids:

In the Central Neighborhood, our goal is for 100% of kids to graduate from a 2 or 4-year college or pursue other post-secondary options that will lead to a meaningful career. With only 52% of Central kids currently attending college within 5 years, and few graduating, we have a long way to go. The work starts with the family and it starts in 8th grade with a mentoring and career-coaching program. Our focus is on partnerships with higher education institutions to make college a realistic option. From coaching on what career to pursue, to receiving aid and advice on how to finance college, sustained outreach to Central’s college-going families is essential for kids to matriculate and graduate from college.

Healthy and stable families are a critical piece of the puzzle:

Creating a stable family and community environment is part of what kids need to thrive. The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiatives include programs that give residents access to health and wellness, affordable housing, education & training for adults, and other services. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in many community partnerships; yet, our work is just beginning. Cooking and fitness classes, community gardening, partnerships to convert vacant lots to gardens or playgrounds and other programs will continue to inject stability and weave together a sense of healthy community.

Making Change from the Inside out:

Residents of the Central Neighborhood are serving as “Promise Ambassadors” in leadership roles to drive the key initiatives forward and to engage their fellow residents in the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative. Ambassadors are key to creating a successful rollout because they understand the day-to-day challenges in a very real way, and are a trusted resource for their fellow residents. With 50 residents serving as Ambassadors and 20 more in training, the program will continue to grow with a focus on parents, as they embrace the change impacting their families.

Learn more at the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood website.