In 2007, Living Classrooms Foundation launched the Target Investment Zone, a comprehensive strategic community initiative inspired by the nationally recognized Harlem Children’s Zone model in New York. The Target Investment Zone (TIZ) initiative concentrates core education, workforce development, and health and wellness programs within an impoverished area of East Baltimore, and is focused on disrupting a cycle of generational poverty. The TIZ is home to 35,000 people, 9,100 students in 18 schools, and over 2,500 public housing units that span 122 acres, including Pleasant View Gardens and Perkins Homes, and neighborhoods surrounding Patterson Park and Johns Hopkins Hospital, Oldtown/Middle East, Fayette Street Corridor, and McElderry Park. These neighborhoods suffer from low educational achievement, high poverty, high-density crime and recidivism rates, chronic health problems, and staggering unemployment.
Within the Zone, Living Classrooms is achieving success by building a cradle-to-college/career pipeline with educational, after-school, job-training, and wellness programs, as well as other comprehensive, multigenerational services for residents in an effort to remove the barriers towards success that have persisted for decades. Living Classrooms will use its performance management system, LCF.Stat to measure, monitor, and evaluate the quality and efficacy of programs and services.
A key strategy of this comprehensive approach has been the establishment of Community Hubs in East Baltimore. Living Classrooms has successfully worked with the community to create, renovate, and manage several inviting, accessible neighborhood facilities that are providing crucially needed education, workforce training, and health and wellness services to residents of all ages.
Multiple Living Classrooms Youth Centers in the Zone strengthen young people’s academic and life skills, and provide health and wellness education. The UA House at Fayette operated by Living Classrooms is the heartbeat of the Target Investment Zone and serves over one hundred students daily with academic enrichment, health, sports and physical fitness education, and career development. It also serves adults with workforce development, career services, entrepreneurial development, and GED and ESL support. We have replicated much of this programming to serve students at the POWER House Community Center, located directly in the Perkins Homes public housing community. Financial literacy, ESL, and career development courses are also offered to community residents at the POWER House. The Patterson Park Youth Sports and Education Center provides an after-school program for middle school students who are served with physical education, nutrition education, family and community wide health events and provision of healthy snacks and meals.
The Foundation is collaborating with the public schools in the TIZ and other key public and private partners, to deliver a range of targeted services. The initiative includes Living Classrooms’ direct leadership of one public school – The Crossroads School. Living Classrooms was the turn-around operator for Commodore John Rodgers for five years. Baltimore City Public Schools selected Living Classrooms as the school turn-around partner for Commodore John Rodgers based on our success with the high-performing Crossroads School. We used our experience and expertise to turn this underperforming school around and to institute services such as early childhood education and parenting education on site.
In addition to Living Classrooms’ leadership of these schools, the Foundation has numerous partnerships with the other public schools in the Zone. These partnerships are resulting in enhanced academic programming, expansion of after-school initiatives, and shared best practices through Living Classrooms’ Professional Development Institute, which allows teachers to share the effective approaches of The Crossroads School and Living Classrooms’ award-winning after school programming.
The TIZ initiative serves some of the community’s hardest-to-reach individuals such as adjudicated, gang-involved, and out-of school youth; and adult ex-offenders, and others in need of job training and experience, adult basic education, and other skills to be competitive in today’s job market.
Living Classrooms’ successful workforce development programs include job training, life skills development, community revitalization efforts such as daily cleaning of streets and neighborhoods, and the Safe Streets initiative working to reduce gun crime and violence. Operated in partnership with the Baltimore City Health Department, Safe Streets East is a public health campaign to reduce shootings and homicides in the Target Investment Zone, where homicide is one of the greatest risk factors for teenagers and young adults, ages 14-25. This project seeks to reduce violence by mobilizing the community though faith-based leadership partnerships, criminal justice collaboration, public education, and outreach. To date, Safe Streets has served 500 at-risk youth, mediated over 230 conflicts, made 1,640 referrals to education and human service programs, and hosted 111 community outreach events with over 12,000 community members in attendance.
We believe that by helping people develop the academic, social, and vocational tools that lead to success in school and work, by promoting safer, cleaner neighborhoods, and by increasing the health and wellness of children, we will also see conclusive positive changes in overall neighborhood health.The Target Investment Zone initiative has gained significant support from both public and private sectors and our community partners, and is poised to expand to serve the community even more comprehensively now and in the years to come.
Contact: Chas Ackley