Parramore, Orlando: Leveraging Local Strengths
The aptly named Division Avenue remains a demarcation line between predominantly white and predominantly black neighborhoods—and a stark reminder of the city’s segregated past.
In the beginning of the 21st century, approximately 73 percent of children and youth in Parramore, Orlando’s historically African American neighborhood, lived below the poverty line, with alarmingly high rates for child abuse and neglect. The neighborhood’s high school had received five consecutive Fs on its performance, and only 66 percent of youth graduated from it during the 2007-08 academic year. Teen girls were more likely than girls in the rest of the city to become mothers, and the juvenile arrest rate in Parramore was 250 percent higher than the rate for Orlando overall.
The majority of babies and toddlers were not enrolled in early learning programs or pre-kindergarten. Few resources were available for high quality early childcare or youth programming. With few other opportunities, children resorted to their own games, often playing along the streets. Teens congregated on corners. Two gangs pitted youth from either end of the neighborhood against each other. According to Parramore teens, violence was so rampant that young people ventured outside at their peril.
Today, statistics and stories illuminate real progress. Although poverty remains a problem, a sense of hope permeates the 1.4 square-mile neighborhood. In one part of the neighborhood, a mixed-income housing development replaced dilapidated, crime-ridden public housing. Families enjoy afternoons at the refurbished Z.L. Riley Park. More young children in Parramore attend childcare and pre-k. Academic achievement and graduation rates have improved. Fewer girls are having babies. Rather than gathering on street corners, youth regularly fill the community centers, where they tackle school assignments, work with tutors in “homework roomz,” conduct online research for school in modern computer labs, or practice with a basketball league in a gym or with a football team at the well-maintained field across from the center. Juvenile crime has decreased precipitously. Gangs, while still present, are less territorial and co-exist more peacefully. In fact, members from opposing gangs now play basketball together at the community centers’ gyms. “One Parramore, one PKZ,” said a young male who has lived in the neighborhood since he was a child.
The 5 Promises
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below: