In September, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $210 million in grants to nonprofits and educational institutions in 21 communities to help plan services to improve educational achievement and development among children and youth living in concentrated poverty. The funding is part of the new Promise Neighborhoods program, which is closely linked to the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative that seeks to turn neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity.

St. Paul, Minn., was one of the recipients. "The mayor says we're going to look back on this in 20 years as the day education changed in the city of St. Paul," says Erica Schumacher, the city's director of Neighborhood Initiatives. City officials hope the Promise Neighborhood program will align several long-standing educational and social programs to improve student achievement in the city, Schumacher says.

St. Paul's Promise Neighborhood effort, which will be led by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, will focus on a 250-block area in the Summit-University and Frogtown neighborhoods. The city will work with the foundation to help guarantee educational support, Schumacher says. For instance, if a school-age child's family is facing a foreclosure, the city can alert the nonprofit to make sure the child's home situation is stable and provide foreclosure-prevention services.

Promise grant recipient Athens-Clarke County, Ga., worked with nonprofit Family Connection to obtain a $500,000 Promise Neighborhood planning grant. The nonprofit will use the grant to build on the work the mayor and commission have done in the past four years on the One Athens poverty reduction initiative, says Mayor Heidi Davison. "This was a natural outgrowth of efforts that have already been under way for a long time," she says.

City officials have gained skills in reducing poverty and promoting youth development through their work with One Athens, and officials will be able to apply those skills to the Promise Neighborhood initiative, Davison says. Several Athens-Clarke County departments are involved in the Promise initiative, including the police, juvenile court, leisure services, and human and economic development, and will help provide after-school programming. "The Promise Neighborhood grant sets a clear goal for every child to graduate and attend an institution of higher learning by a set date," Davison says. "Aspirations and dreams are realized when strong goals are established then reinforced by positive mentors in a supportive environment."