Now is the Time
The fact that inner-city children are not learning well despite the number of programs in place is more widely recognized. People from many different arenas (politics, education, and business) are now concentrating more on children’s learning. Examples are Hartford’s former Superintendent of Schools redesigning a number of schools, the former Mayor’s Blueprint for Young Children focused on children ages 0 to 8, the Governor’s advisor for young children, increased budgets for educating young children, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Brighter Futures Initiative, and expansion of the Connecticut Children’s Trust Nurturing Families Network to more Hartford locations.
Collaboration is a fundamental element of the Learning Zone. Given the lack of results, too many programs for children already exist in Hartford today. Some estimates put the number of programs at 178 for a cost of between $300 and $400 million annually. The need is for increased effectiveness through coordination, collaboration, even consolidation, and certainly more accountability.
Major organizations with resources are located in Asylum Hill and many are taking an active part in programs to help improve children’s learning. These organizations include Aetna, Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Boys and Girls Club, Catholic Charities, CPTV, The Hartford, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, and the Salvation Army.
What We Do
AHLZ has partnered with West Middle School which is now being renovated for two years, and now partners with Trinity Episcopal Day School (TEDS). Our mission is to improve learning for children, which requires working not only with children but also their families – usually single mothers. Encouraging parents to get more involved with their children’s learning is essential. We are also improving parenting for newborns and young children via our Baby Academy.
In 2006 the Zone worked to improve learning directly by tutoring third and fourth graders in reading five days a week. This effort then morphed into an After School Academy focused on reading, math and homework. Disruptive classroom behavior made learning difficult, especially in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. AHLZ provided assistance to teachers and administrators in reducing classroom interruptions and working with particularly challenging students to increase academic performance. Several after-school activities were begun and the Zone contributed additional resources aimed at improving learning for students.
How Is It Being Accomplished?
To really change the lives of inner-city kids, everything must change – their schools, their families, their neighborhoods – all at once. Making these changes requires many more resources than the Zone can provide. It needs an entire community effort, and requires that many interested organizations work together. We start at an early age to improve learning – hence The Baby Academy that is training parents to make a difference even before the child is born.
The true benefit of active collaboration is an overall sense of ownership that the community takes for children and their families who live within Asylum Hill. The idea of ownership also extends to the parents – helping to empower them to take more ownership of their own and their children’s lives that includes increasing education and finding a satisfying career.