For one day in Cypress Hills, there was nothing but solutions. Residents young and old packed the auditorium at P.S. 89 on Nov. 16 and worked throughout the day to find ways to make the neighborhood a wellspring of support for children to achieve academically-and in life.
“I’ve seen the community go and come back, and then go and come back again,” said participant Vivian Moore, who has lived in Cypress Hills for 46 years. “There is a lot we have to do for this community and a lot we have to do for our kids. We haven’t been paying too much attention to them and that’s why their grades and achievement are so bad. But today we’re paying attention.”
The wide-ranging forum was designed to engage residents in envisioning the various aspects of a Cypress Hills Promise Neighborhood, the ambitious initiative taking shape under CHLDC’s auspices in collaboration with more than 30 community organizations. Promise Neighborhoods have emerged in President Barack Obama’s second term as the centerpiece of federal “cradle-to-college” efforts to end generational cycles of poverty. Work on a full-scale plan comes as some community groups from around the country begin the process of implementing their initiatives. CHLDC was one of 10 groups, among more than 200 applicants, to receive planning grants in 2012.
The forum was structured around community strategy sessions that focused on K-12 education and college access, community life and safety, school readiness, and health. The ideas ran the gamut from broad and general to detailed and specific. In school readiness, for instance, the focus was on making sure children four years old and younger enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Ideas ranged from ensuring expectant moms have access to prenatal care and increasing the number of preschool slots in the community to making more books and technology available to young children and their families. The K-12 education group, meanwhile, focused closing the achievement gap and highlighted the crucial partnership among parents, schools and the community, as well as the importance of providing tutoring and mentoring services for students.
“Our neighborhood has a lot of issues,” said participant Guillermo Chavarria, an architect who moved to Cypress Hills in 1972 when his family emigrated from Nicaragua. “Parents have lots of worries and they’re working three jobs to be able to feed their families. They love their kids but they’re tired. We as a community have to help. I am very hopeful about this Promise Neighborhood. There are a lot of things we have to fight for as a community.”
The forum is just one of the ways the teams developing the plan are gathering input. Residents are also being engaged through surveys and focus groups, and plans are to apply for an implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Education next year.
We are proud to acknowledge all of our partners in the planning process: PS 65, PS 89, PS 108, PS 290, PS 345, Achievement First – Apollo, JHS 302, Liberty Avenue Middle School, Vista Academy, Academy of Innovative Technology, Brooklyn Lab School, Cypress Hills Collegiate Prep School, Multicultural High School, ARTs East New York, Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services, Cypress Hills Advocates for Education, New York City Department of Probation, New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center, George Walker Jr. Community Coalition, East New York Diagnostic and Treatment Center, East New York MediSys Center, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Brooklyn District Public Health Office, North Brooklyn YMCA, North Shore-LIJ Student Health Center at Franklin K. Lane High School Campus, Jamaica Hospital, Cohen Children’s Hospital, Healthier Brooklyn at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Achievement First, City Year New York, Cypress Hills Advocates for Education, Future of Tomorrow, Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, New York City College of Technology, New York City Department of Education – Community District #19 Superintendent, New York City Department of Education – Middle School Quality Initiative, United Way of New York City, New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at CUNY, St. Peter’s Day Care, Urban Strategies, Baybee Lounge, Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation, Pine Street Day Care, St. Malachy’s Child Care Center, Marie Durdin Day Care Center, A Castle for Classy Kids Learning Center, Friends of Crown Heights, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, The After-School Corporation.