The continuing success the Springfield Promise Neighborhood could result in the local poverty alleviation project becoming a model for similar projects across the nation.
The Springfield Promise Neighborhood initiative began in 2010, and has since worked tirelessly to improve the living conditions for the over 4,000 residents living in the Lincoln Elementary School attendance zone in Springfield. This is one of the most economically and socially challenged zones in the Springfield City School District.
The Springfield News-Sun reported that Bob Welker, Associate Professor of Education at Wittenberg and Executive Director for Promise Neighborhood told the story of the project’s success in front of 30 representatives from the state’s best after-school programs.
“Right now, I think we are under the radar on the state and national level,” Welker told the Springfield News-Sun, “What this report does is it allows us to tell the story of what can be done,” he said, referring to the project’s recently published three-year report.
The Promise Neighborhood’s approach, focusing primarily on the community and the people comprising it, has brought several benefits to the school district in the last few years. The Elementary School now has a brand new Community Learning Center and, in October, the program’s success was rewarded with a $200,000 grant, which will keep it up and running for the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, the project has offered summer enrichment opportunities for Lincoln Elementary students, which helped 93 percent of Lincoln summer school students to either maintain or improve their reading levels. According to the three-year report, parental involvement at Lincoln Elementary has increased drastically as well, with hundreds of parents now attending events like “Meet the Teacher Night,” and volunteering for community related events.
Of course, the Springfield Promise Neighborhood is a point of pride for Wittenberg as well, as many students have become strongly involved in the project through the university’s community service programs.
Some students, such as alum Kari Lawrence, have remained involved in the program for several years, even after graduation. “I’m not in it for the money,” Lawrence told the Springfield News-Sun. “I think of the kids first of all, and their families.”
With Promise Neighborhood’s steady and consistent success in improving the quality of life and education of Springfield’s socio-economically challenged students, it is expected to some day serve as a model program for poverty alleviation throughout the United States.