Victor Corral, Mission Promise Neighborhood project manager, at MEDA in San Francisco, Jan. 14, 2013. Photo Melanie Guilbault

The Mission buzzed with excitement Dec. 21, 2012, as the U.S. Department of Education selected San Francisco’s Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) to receive a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods Implementation Grant. The grant, to be distributed over the next 5 years, will be invested in the improvement of education, and family economic development in the Mission District.

This grant will support organizations and programs that work with low-income Latino students and families in the Mission. Services will be integrated at low-scoring schools in the neighborhood: Bryant Elementary, Cesar Chavez Elementary, Everett Middle School and John O’Connell High School. The goal of the grant program is to fund the monitoring of students from “Cradle to College to Career,” and provide additional social and educational resources to secure students with academic and financial success—creating a healthier community for all.

The Promise Neighborhood “Cradle to College to Career” program will be executed through MEDA, a mission-based non-profit organization working towards economic justice, in conjunction with a network of 35 community partners. These key Mission Promise Neighborhood partners stem from the San Francisco Unified School District city agencies, non-profits and universities.

“The money will largely be invested into infrastructure, with a focus on data and evaluation, coordination/ integration of services, capacity building and quality improvement,” said Victor Corral, project manager of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Program at MEDA. “On the federal end, there is an emphasis on building a shared data system, which is a new approach for this type of grant.”

Meanwhile, members of the community celebrate this grant as a milestone achievement for MEDA and the Mission District. Richard Curci, principle of Everett Middle School, a Mission Neighborhood Promise Partner, was especially excited about the receipt of the grant, as it will help to leverage the $45 million Federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) set to expire in June.

“Since the receipt of the SIG Grant, Everett Middle School has changed tremendously—into a more community-based, higher scoring academic environment, and the receipt of the Promise Neighborhood grant will continue to support this,” Curci explained. “We at Everett Middle School feel very fortunate to be in on the pilot program.”

Carlo Solis, SIG Grant Community School coordinator at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, added that “The Implementation Grant is a big deal for the Mission, and there is a lot of positive work to be done amongst the partners.”

Though MEDA confirmed that the Community Schools Coordinator position will continue to be supported under the Implementation Grant, fund allocation details are pending approval from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Mission Promise Neighborhood initiative began in January 2012, when MEDA was awarded a $500,000 planning grant. Of 15 poverty-ridden neighborhoods in the United States to be awarded this grant, six received the additional Implementation Grant. The Mission and Los Angeles promises were awarded the largest sums—each receiving $6 million for the initial year of funding.

Other Promise Neighborhoods awarded include: Boston and Roxbury, Massachusetts; Chula Vista, California; East Lubbock, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Indianola, Mississippi; and Los Angeles, California. Initial award amounts ranged from 1.4 million to $6 million and reflect the first year of a five-year plan to cultivate education in low-income communities.

“The MEDA Mission Promise is unique, in comparison to other Promise Neighborhoods in The United States, because at MEDA, we understand that being in poverty can be a barrier to education,” Corral said. “The Mission Promise Neighborhood program places education, and family economic success at the forefront of this initiative. MEDA will implement their strategy by offering financial development programs, and funding social/ educational services offered by Mission Promise partner organizations.”