Grad Nation Community Spotlight: Zone 126 Promise Neighborhood

For children and families living in the Astoria Houses Neighborhood in Long Island City and Astoria, Queens, the Zone 126 Promise Neighborhood is working to dramatically increase the number of low income children in Long Island City and Astoria who complete high school, graduate from college, and enter adulthood with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in the 21st century world. The Zone 126 Promise Neighborhood’s vision is that every child in Long Island City and Astoria, Queens — from cradle to college and career — has sufficient access to caring adults, effective education, preventive and medical health services, a safe neighborhood, and opportunities to help others.

Zone 126 has developed four core principles to inform their efforts:

  • Children and schools must be at the center of the work
  • Accountability, excellence, and data-driven decision-making are fundamental to success
  • Close, continual collaboration among partners is complex, but essential
  • Resident engagement and input should be involved in all decision-making

To better meet their goals, Zone 126 spent a number of months working with schools, service providers, residents and other stakeholders to begin answering the question, “what would it take to ensure every child in Astoria Houses (approximately 2,200 children) is adequately supported, from cradle to college and career?”

The Zone 126’s approach, with lead support from The Thomas & Jeanne Elmezzi Foundation, is to create a unique partnership among neighborhood schools, service providers, community residents, private corporations, experts and funders to build a continuum of services and supports for all children in Long Island City and Astoria, Queens. Key planning members for their work include: New York City School District #30, New York City Council District 22, City Year New York, Jacob Riis Settlement House, East River Development Alliance, Variety Boys and Girls Club, Queens Library, Digital Divide Partnership, New York City Department of Adult Education, Astoria Houses Tenants Association and many others. 

"Zone 126 is, at the end of the day, about creating a process and forum for everyone that cares about Astoria Houses kids to come together, develop a plan, and take joint action to tackle what no single group could ever take on alone; reversing the decades of tragic lack of support for Astoria Houses kids, and replacing it with an effective continuum of quality supports for every child," said Christopher Cutter, executive director of Zone 126. "The urgency for change in this community is palpable; our job is to ensure that the change is both real and sustainable for years to come. Every child, from cradle to career."

Zone 126 intends to address the most significant challenges in the neighborhood with a direct focus on the school feeder patterns for two high schools, William Cullen Bryant High School and Long Island City High School. One of these challenges is the lack of access to quality, continual academic and other supports necessary for a child to have a good chance at success.  Additionally, in many cases young people are under-stimulated, under-supported, and encircled by dozens of high-risk factors that make failing school and dropping out appear to be the most attractive option. This combination of risk factors and lack of supports for community youth is the most significant challenge facing the Zone 126 community. By focusing on these challenges, Zone 126 is working to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college, career and life in the Astoria Houses community.

The Zone 126 Promise Neighborhood and other Grad Nation Communities are committed to ending the high school dropout crisis that affects one in four of our public school children. These communities are at the front line of efforts to help young people succeed in school, work and life.