Photo from @Villaraigosa twitter page/ L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met community members and organizations last Wednesday to discuss the Promise Neighborhood Initiative at Proyecto Pastoral in Boyle Heights.

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Next week, Proyecto Pastoral, a local non-profit group, will submit a five-year action plan to the U.S. Department of Education as part of a neighborhood initiative to improve education, health and housing in Boyle Heights.

Local Boyle Heights organizations, community members and teachers began drafting the Boyle Heights Promise Neighborhood Initiative after being one of 21 communities awarded a Promise Neighborhood Planning Grant last September. Only four to six of those communities will be selected to receive between $4 to $6 million of federal funds to carryout their plans.

Promise Neighborhoods, a national antipoverty initiative, is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone program, whose approach to reaching children from a high-poverty area at birth and taking them through a series of services and programs towards college graduation has proven successful.

“The community has been working really hard to make this plan meaningful and real,” said Deycy Avitia of Proyecto Pastoral, the lead agency in the improvement plan. “This will mean a lot of new resources to improve our community.”

The plan targets a 30-block area in Boyle Heights surrounding Hollenbeck Middle School, Mendez Learning Center and the Pico Aliso public housing community. Projects proposed include mental health services, low-income housing, environmental justice programs and college preparatory courses,–the “core focus” dedicated towards providing tools that will nurture the educational success of students at these schools.

“The idea is that by focusing, integrating and coordinating services and resources in a small area we can affect change,” said Avitia. She also added that the plan includes a strategy to eventually serve other areas in the community.

The Boyle Heights group will submit the plan Sept. 6 but will have to wait until the end of they year to find out if they were selected for funding. Along with Proyecto Pastoral, other partners include Inner City Struggle, the Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative, Union de Vecinos and East Los Angeles Community Corporation and the California Endowment. Fundraising has begun to match 100 percent of the grant, a requirement of the award.

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