Orlando to Showcase Parramore Kidz Zone Initiative for Congress of Cities Delegates

Article excerpt

Municipal leaders attending NLC's Congress of Cities next month in Orlando will have the opportunity to visit the Parramore Kidz Zone (PKZ), part of an innovative effort by the City of Orlando to revitalize a historic downtown neighborhood that declined over many years. The neighborhood, Parramore, now faces the highest crime and poverty rates of all Orlando neighborhoods.

Launched in 2006, PKZ seeks to improve the lives of Parramore's 2,000 children, 73 percent of whom grow up in poverty. The ultimate goal is to "move the needle" on indicators such as high school graduation rates, juvenile crime, child abuse and teen pregnancy.

The PKZ initiative is modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone, aiming to connect a critical mass of children to a comprehensive set of programs that help children succeed. Local officials collaborate with a broad range of school, community and faith-based partners to enhance the neighborhood's youth infrastructure. PKZ's objectives include:

* Increasing enrollment in quality pre-kindergarten programs, and in afterschool and summer programs that provide tutoring, recreation and enrichment;

* Connecting children with positive adult role models;

* Expanding access to health care and dental care;

* Linking families with child care subsidies and other economic assistance, job opportunities and parent education programs; and

* Connecting older youth to employment programs, credit recovery, positive peer groups, recreational programs such as midnight basketball, teen safe zones and street outreach workers to provide them with alternatives to neighborhood gangs and crime.

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"Parramore Kidz Zone is connecting children to programs that will positively impact their lives, while also developing a model of prevention that can be replicated in other city "neighborhoods," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

How PKZ Works

The PKZ initiative consists of three core strategies. First, municipal officials work with existing neighborhood organizations to expand their services. Second, project leaders identify and introduce effective new programs to the neighborhood. Third, a full-time outreach and community organizing team goes door-to-door to build relationships with families and engage them in the initiative.

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Parramore residents can access the programs and activities started and funded by PKZ free of charge. Mayor Dyer leverages multiple funding sources to support the project, including grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and various local foundations and corporate donors. The mayor's signature CityKidz! Fundraiser generates additional money--over $1 million to date--and city general fund revenues, matched by the state, help pay for child care subsidies. …