Merilee Rutolo, the center's chief operating officer, said staff and community partners have worked on the initiative ever since that 2012 planning grant, even though the U.S. Department of Education hasn't released any additional grant money to support the project.
That changed Tuesday, when the department announced it was awarding $33 million to build Promise Neighborhood projects in six cities around the country.
Rutolo said the $6 million grant was promised as just the first part of a five-year, $30 million commitment from the Department of Education. The rest of the funding, however, must still get congressional approval down the road.
"It's about a birth-to-college pipeline for successful outcomes for our kids," she said of the initiative.
It's based on the model used by the Harlem Children's Zone, a project started by education advocate Geoffrey Canada that tries to get better outcomes for young people through a holistic approach.
In addition to improving education, families are supported and given access to early childhood education, health care and other items they need to give their kids the best chance to succeed and get to college.
Children also need to feel safe in their neighborhoods, Rutolo said.
"We work together with parents, public education, public safety, to work across the systems to break the cycle of poverty," she said. "What sets this apart is really the continuum across those systems."
Promise Neighborhood grants go to communities with big poverty problems. Looking at recent census data, it's hard to think of a more deserving city in New Jersey than Camden. According to the 5-year census results published this month,
Camden has the highest poverty rate of any municipality in the state at 39.9 percent. That's up 1.59 percent from the pre-recession census numbers.
Excluding Walpack Township in Sussex County, which has a population of only four, census data shows Camden also has the lowest median household income in the state at $29,695.
Within Camden, the neighborhoods selected for the initiative are Cooper Plaza, Lanning Square, Bergen Square, Liberty Park, and part of Centerville.
The Center for Family Services' Promise Neighborhood team has been building a network of 22 community partners, from colleges and municipal boards to health care organizations and the Campbell Soup Company, according to its website.
The Camden schools are also a partner. Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard said administrators are grateful to the Center for Family Services for leading the initiative and bringing needed resources to Camden.
For Everett’s full story, click here.