HAYWARD -- A major national anti-poverty and education initiative could soon come to South Hayward. The federal Department of Education announced Tuesday that the area was one of 21 communities that will receive funding to design a support network for its children -- from the time they are born to the time they enter college or the workforce.
The Promise Neighborhood initiative is modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, which was created to give that New York City neighborhood's children the social and educational boost they need to rise out of poverty and become productive adults.
That program starts with The Baby College, an intensive parenting course, and continues with a series of high-quality schools, starting in pre-K, and a host of health and social services provided in and out of school for children and their families.
More than 330 cities, towns and tribal areas, including Oakland and San Francisco, applied for a grant to create a similar project in their neighborhoods. Hayward was the only Bay Area city to receive it. Los Angeles was the only other California recipient.
"It's like, what are the odds?" said Paul Frumkin, a Hayward school board member and a facilitator for the South Hayward Neighborhood Collaborative, which started in 1994.
A group of people representing the city, school district, community and Cal State East Bay worked on Hayward's application for the nearly $500,000 planning grant. Next year, the group will apply for another, larger, grant to implement its plan.
Nan Maxwell, an economics professor at Cal State East Bay who was the lead grant writer, said South Hayward "is brimming with potential."
"It's got that vibrancy right underneath the surface," Maxwell said.
South Hayward was one of many areas that cropped up after World War II, in the 1950s and 1960s. The developments of single-story suburban tract houses are now home to families who speak scores of languages and have roots in Latin America, the South Pacific and Asia. Hayward also has a large African-American population.
Though its needs are often overshadowed by those of Oakland, its larger, higher-profile neighbor, Hayward struggles with many of the same challenges: low-performing schools, high dropout rates, hunger and crime. The neighborhood collaborative and other groups, such as the South Hayward Parish, have worked for years to help its residents survive and thrive.
Sara Lamnin, of South Hayward Parish, a nonprofit organization started by religious congregations more than 40 years ago, said the idea of creating a support network for local families is not new. But, she said, the Promise Neighborhood grant has brought new energy, new ideas and an infusion of resources -- differences that may bring "a lasting change."
"The idea that there will be holistic efforts to really flood the neighborhood with targeted resources is exciting," Lamnin said.
Some of the other Promise Neighborhood planning grant recipients are New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.
Oakland school district staff were surprised and disappointed that the city wasn't selected, said spokesman Troy Flint. During a recent visit to Oakland, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that he would do whatever he could to support Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith's vision for "full-service community schools." Duncan held a news conference at the Peralta Community College District, which would have been the lead agency for the project.
"It's disheartening for us, but we haven't abandoned faith in this model," Flint said. "We still feel that this is the best solution for these neighborhoods."