And How are the Children?

Summer 2011

As a part of my internship with America’s Promise Alliance I have been very much involved with the Grad Nation campaign. On April 27, 2011 I had the opportunity to attend the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) Town Hall meeting held at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy Parkside School Campus. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what is in the works and what is successful in pursuit of meeting the objectives of the Promise Neighborhood Initiative. Cesar Chavez Charter School is one of 21 recipients of the Promise Neighborhood Grants awarded to schools around the country by the United States Department of Education. As stated on their website, DCPNI's mission is to increase the number of children who complete their education from cradle to college, enter adulthood as productive participants in the 21st Century economy, and participate in civic initiatives in their communities. The Parkside-Kenilworth community of DC’s Ward 7, is actively working to assure that each child  that resides there, receives the five promises that are at the core of America’s Promise Alliance.

Some big names were in attendance, honored speakers such as U.S. Secretary of the Department of Education Arne Duncan, Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and America's Promise Alliance's Chair Alma Powell. DCPNI representatives  such as Ornamenta Newsome, Barbara Kamara, Marcus Clark, Trevon Epps, Ruth Barnes, Mae West, Nathaniel Roloff were also in attendance. The presence of Trevon Epps, Chavez student and citizen of the “footprint” of the DCPNI residing in Paradise of the Parkside-Kenilworth neighborhood, was of extreme importance because he is a living testimony of how effective these programs are and ultimately represents the center of the DCPNI. Of his short remarks, he expressed his gratitude for the support and encouragement to be successful in his life. He even stated that he considers himself blessed to have a way out of a bleak future and admits that he would probably be “locked up” like many of his friends he grew up with. This testimony of what can be done by bringing all the resources of the community together, was the most powerful thing I took away from the meeting.

The honored speakers gave me a greater sense of hope for the Parkside-Kenilworth community as far as government commitment and support. Arne Duncan announced an increase of funding to the Promise Neighborhood grants for this year, and expressed how important it is to invest in our schools and children. With all the controversy on budget cuts, it is comforting to know that our government is standing by their commitment to deliver their promise.

The speech from the chair of America’s Promise Alliance, Alma Powell, was the most empowering and motivating of the day. She stressed how it is everyone’s responsibility and everyone has a role to play in the success of the DCPNI. America’s Promise Alliance was the first  partner behind the DCPNI and she guaranteed that  we are not going to back out on our promise or give a mediocre effort, America’ s Promise Alliance will be there all the way. She also explained that it wasn’t going to be quick or easy when she said: “…this won’t happen in a year, it won’t happen in five years. Know that this is a long haul process and we must never tire because the future of our nation depends on this.” She closed her remarks by challenging us to follow the cultural practice of the  Maasai people of Kenya where they  greet each other by asking “and how are the children?“ Daily, as a reminder of the importance our investment in our children, she challenged us to ask ourselves this and continue to “…help keep America’s Promise to those that are the promise of America, our children.”

I felt refreshed after learning so much, it really made me feel like all the hours behind a computer screen connected to the larger picture. The testimonies, announcements of successes, and the news of what is to come makes me optimistic and proud of the work I do with America’s Promise Alliance. America’s Promise and the Promise Neighborhoods may be from different beginnings but the collaboration between them and many other organizations  to meet the needs of children is nothing short but astounding.