Hundreds Vie for Promise Neighborhoods Planning Grants

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More than 300 organizations are vying for 20 planning grants worth $500,000 each through  the Obama Administration’s Promise Neighborhood initiative, data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education show.

The organizations – which total 339 – are listed on the Promise Neighborhoods button on a new Education Department website designed to bring greater transparency to the department’s grant-making process.

As a testament to the swiftness and efficiency of modern technology, the information was posted on the web site just one day after the June 28 deadline for submitting applications.

A review of the applicants shows that applicants run the gamut of youth service providers, schools and nonprofits, from local community centers to local branches of well-established national organizations, and from small academies to major universities.

A sampling of the applicants provides a greater sense of their diversity, both regionally and in terms of their missions. For example, applicants range from the American Negro League Baseball Association Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., to the American Samoa Community College in Pago Pago in American Samoa.

More youth-specific organizations include the Bay Area Ballers Youth Foundation of Cleveland, Ohio, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington in Washington State, and the Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation in Montana.

“The response from neighborhoods around the country to this opportunity is tremendous,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “Promise Neighborhoods brings all of the Department's strategies together – high-quality early learning programs, high-quality schools, and comprehensive supports – to ensure that students in some of our most challenged communities are safe, healthy and successful.”

The Promise Neighborhood initiative was inspired largely by the Harlem Children’s Zone, an initiative in the Harlem section of New York City that features demonstrably effective schools and a comprehensive set of academic programs, family and community supports. Those programs and supports range from parenting classes to after-school programs and health services.

Through the Promise Neighborhoods initiative, nonprofits and institutions of higher education were eligible to compete for one of the 20 one-year $500,000 planning grants from $10 million the Obama Administration has dedicated for grantees to design comprehensive community programs with effective schools at the center.

Independent reviewers are set to review and winnow down the 339 Promise Neighborhood applications over the summer, and the Education Department plans to announce the 20 selected grantees in September.

When the grantees finish completing their plans with the $500,000 planning grants, the Education Department anticipates $210 million in fiscal 2011 to support five-year grants to implement the plans and to support planning grants in other communities.