In late 2011, a group of leaders in Henderson began the journey of determining the needs and opportunities in what was considered a declining neighborhood called the “East End”. While exact boundaries are debated, it was generally defined by the group as 2nd Street to Madison to Green Street to Atkinson.
The group was started by One Life Church with the idea of focusing on development and improving the quality of life in a specific geographic area, but soon included people from various organizations and backgrounds and was given the name “Engage”. The group is not a legal entity and prefers to say that “Engage” is a verb not a noun. For 3 years the Engage team has met almost every week on Tuesday mornings at Shoneys in Henderson to discuss and move ideas forward in the East End development.
One of the dominating values of Engage has been to listen to the neighborhood residents and to work towards collaborative solutions. In that context, there have been multiple listening sessions connected to the Engage journey….
- USI managed and summarized door-to-door surveys in October and November of 2011.
- Community Wide visioning sessions were facilitated by Sue Ellspermann from USI at South Heights Elementary in December of 2011 and in February of 2012 identifying and working towards 6 priorities in East End.
- Based on results from East End research and needs, the Sustainable Evansville Area Coalition(SEAC) included the East End in their federally funded comprehensive plan called “A Regional Plan for Sustainable Development”.
- Additional Neighborhood discussions happened at Bennett Memorial on Letcher Street in October of 2013 and results were presented to the Henderson Chamber of Commerce in December of 2013 by Bernardin Lochmueller with an overview of an East End revitalization plan.
While ideas from the neighborhood and residents have evolved from the assimilation of the various discussions and include a variety of issues, many of the conclusions are connected to kids.
Some examples include:
-Drug free East End
-Mentoring programs for kids and adults needing career and family support
-Closer relationships between law enforcement and neighbors and children
-Support for South Heights with facilities and resources
-WIFI through out the neighborhood
-Enhancement of the Arts in East End
-Safe and productive environments for kids after school
A significant contributor to the discussion in East End has been the Principal of South Heights Elementary-Rob Carroll. Rob has created a culture at South Heights that seems to overcome many of the socioeconomic issues that his kids face as part of a 90% free lunch demographic, but he also knows that these kids need every resource possible to succeed in Middle School, High School and beyond.
Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, Rob and the Engage team have discussed what the idea looks like in the East End of Henderson. In October of 2013, a team of 15 from Engage Henderson went and visited the HCZ headquarters and kid’s facilities in New York.
To summarize the essence of Harlem Children’s Zone(HCZ.org) here is an excerpt from their business plan called “Whatever it Takes”….
“The Harlem Children’s Zone has created a new paradigm for fighting poverty, intended to overcome the limits of traditional approaches. Our model focuses primarily and intensively on the social, health, and educational development of children. To help support that development, we also provide wrap-around programs that improve the children’s family and neighborhood environments.
The theory of change underlying the HCZ model requires the coordinated application of its five core principles. To create change it is necessary to:
• Serve an entire neighborhood comprehensively and at scale. Engaging an entire neighborhood helps to achieve three goals: it reaches children in numbers significant enough to affect the culture of a community; it transforms the physical and social environments that impact the children’s development; and it creates programs at a scale large enough to meet the local need.
• Create a pipeline of support. Develop excellent, accessible programs and schools and link them to one another so that they provide uninterrupted support for children’s healthy growth, starting with pre-natal programs for parents and finishing when young people graduate from college. Surround the pipeline with additional programs that support families and the larger community.
• Build community among residents, institutions, and stakeholders, who help to create the environment necessary for children’s healthy development.
• Evaluate program outcomes and create a feedback loop that cycles data back to management for use in improving and refining program offerings.
• Cultivate a culture of success rooted in passion, accountability, leadership, and teamwork.
Harlem Children’s Zone began with a focus on 24 blocks representing 3000 kids and now represents 100 blocks and 10,000 kids. Programs include Baby College for new moms, mentoring programs, libraries, health programs, reading programs, fitness, after schools programs, career and college prep and the list goes on. But the most important element is tracking and measurement. Kids are tracked to not get lost in the system and results are measured for effectiveness at every level.
Using similar values and metrics to the Harlem Children’s Zone, it has been the desire of South Heights, City Leaders, Community leaders and the Engage team to create an entity focused on East End kids. There are about 1800 kids under the age of 18 in the East End area. And while there are a lot of differences between East End and Harlem, the common ground is the need to create a pipeline of services to support their success.
The idea would be to create a new organization dedicated to a Kids Zone in Henderson’s East End. The organization would include representation from business and education leaders including some primary funding partners. The ideal would be to immediately purchase or build a facility in the East End on the Letcher street corridor where the Kids Zone idea could have a presence in the neighborhood and the kids could “own it”. It would start with some full time staff with the capacity to work directly with Rob Carroll and South Heights to expand successful programs that are currently limited by the facilities and resources of schools.
The idea of East End Kids Zone is collaborative support for an under resourced neighborhood. Working with the local schools, neighbors and existing non-profits…East End Kids Zone would be an entity committed to the success of kids from birth to college and ultimately committed to stopping the cycle of poverty in an important area of the Henderson Community.
Stay tuned. We are anticipating major developments yet in 2014.