Six new Youth Engagement Zones to serve students in areas of high poverty

By Hilary Strahota

Sep 30, 2010

Students in impoverished communities will now have more opportunities to prepare for college by giving back to their communities. The Corporation for National and Community Service’s $5.4 million dollar contribution will launch six new Youth Engagement Zones that will enable middle and high school youth to become more invested in their academic and civic responsibilities. As part of the grant requirements, schools, community organizations and community colleges will collaborate in each zone to engage their youth in service-learning and prepare them for college. 

The multi-year grants for new Youth Engagement Zones will allow students to lead service-learning projects that solve challenges affecting their communities. The types of projects slated to take place include river restoration, energy conservation, environmental revitalization, fighting obesity initiatives and early childhood learning preparation. Six inaugural grantees were selected from a pool of 99 applicants.

“Youth are natural innovators and leaders, and these grants will give them the tools they need to learn inside and outside the classroom,” said Patrick A. Corvington, CEO of the Corporation. “We are excited to support partnerships of community institutions that will not only help youth perform well in school, but that will also strengthen connections to higher education.”

The six inaugural Youth Engagement Zone grants are:

  • buildOn ($850,000; 3 year grant) – Youth in the South Bronx, N.Y., a community that struggles with low graduation and high poverty rates, will lead river restoration, water and energy conservation, recycling, and green space projects connected to high school science curriculum. Zone partners include the Bronx Community College Office of Collaborative Education Programs, Bronx Community College Center for Sustainable Energy, and Banana Kelly High School.  Focus Zone: Bronx, N.Y.
  • Children, Inc. ($757,351; 3 year grant) – Children Inc. will implement an Early Learning Success Initiative in partnership with Covington Independent Public Schools in Kentucky. High school students will tutor young children in reading, dance, music and art, as well as create learning games that decrease obesity and promote oral health. Zone partners include Covington Independent Public Schools, Gateway Community & Technical College, and UGIVE.  Focus Zone: Covington, Ky.
  • Earth Force, Inc. ($1,179,040; 3 year grant) - Middle and high school students in Northeast Denver will build their math and science skills by addressing their community's environmental challenges. With the help of community partners Youth Biz and Redline, the students will help build green learning labs at three local schools, teaching math and science curricula through the creation of urban gardens. Zone partners include the Colorado Academy of Science & the Arts, Whittier K-8 School, Manual High School, and the Community College of Denver.  Focus Zone: Denver, Colo.
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa ($700,000; 3 year grant) – Fond du Lac’s local high school, the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School, will launch a "Connecting Through Service" project to engage high school students at risk of dropping out. The program will embed service-learning into core academic curricula, integrate entrepreneurial skills and tribal culture with service-learning projects, and establish a youth leadership group.  Zone partners include University of Minnesota-Institute of Community Integration, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, and the National Youth Leadership Council.  Focus Zone: Cloquet, Minn.
  • Kent Intermediate School District ($880,905; 3 year grant) – Located in southwest Michigan, the Kent Intermediate School District Youth Engagement Zone will engage three high-need schools in service-learning activities to stop urban decay and expand the support of green infrastructure.  Zone partnership with the Wittenbach Wege Agriscience and Environmental Education Center, Grand Rapids Community College, and Kent ISD will focus on community and environmental revitalization through youth-led service-learning projects. Focus Zone: Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Seattle Public Schools ($1,050,000; 3 year grant) – The Zone partnership with the Nature Consortium, Seattle Parks and Recreation, South Seattle Community College, and Seattle Public Schools will improve student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates and college attendance in the Seattle Youth Engagement Zone. Students from Cleveland High School and Aki Kurose and Mercer Middle Schools will connect learning from science, technology, engineering, and math classes to address local environmental challenges such as water pollution and invasive species around the Lower Duwamish River.  The program will improve community conditions as well as student attendance, behavior, and motivation to learn. Focus Zone: Seattle, Wash.

The Youth Engagement Zone program is a new initiative administered by the Corporation’s Learn and Serve America program which is authorized under the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The three main goals of these zones are to mold youth into positive contributors to society, encourage community-wide collaboration and build an enduring capacity within these communities to address their challenges.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, the Social Innovation Fund and United We Serve.

For more information, visit NationalService.gov.