By Rebecca Parr
Staff Writer, Bay Area News Group/Daily Review
HAYWARD -- A five-year community partnership to help low-income children succeed in school kicks off Saturday with a free festival at Harder Elementary School.
Hayward was one of only five communities in the United States to win a $25 million Promise Neighborhood federal grant last year that expands preschool and after-school programs, health care, parent education and other services.
The partnership, led by Cal State East Bay, targets families in the Jackson Triangle, a neighborhood near Cal State East Bay where more than half of the area's 10,600 residents are low income. Of its 2,100 school-age children, 63 percent are Latino, 14 percent African-American, 10 percent Asian and 6 percent white. While only one school -- Harder Elementary -- is in the neighborhood, five other schools attended by many Jackson Triangle children are also part of the program: Park Elementary, Winton and Cesar Chavez middle schools, and Tennyson and Hayward high schools.
The goal of the initiative is a support system so that students improve academically, graduate from high school and are ready for college and ultimately careers, said Stephen Redmond, school district coordinator of Hayward Promise Neighborhood.
Promise Neighborhood will be working with families beginning with the children's early years. "The first year of the grant is focused on child development centers," Redmond said.
Promise Neighborhood has hired a youth intervention specialist at Harder and Park schools. The specialist will work on how best to help kids who are struggling by putting them and their families in touch with available services, such as counseling, he said. The program has added a psychologist at Harder and Park.
"The specialist could do something as simple as tell parents the students need a quiet place to study," or might also refer students to after-school tutoring in math or other academic areas, Redmond said.
The district also added a second preschool class at Harder, doubling the number of children taking part from 24 to 48, he said. There also are child development classes for parents.
The Promise Neighborhood program brings together the school district, Cal State East Bay, the city, and several local agencies and organizations to help students succeed, said Melany Spielman, head of Cal State East Bay's Department of Leadership in Hospitality and Leisure Services. Spielman is coordinating the festival with university students.
"By combining everybody's efforts so that we're all going in same direction, we can transform education," she said.
The education and anti-poverty collaboration is modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City. That program began an anti-truancy program in the 1970s, working with students and their parents. It later turned a school into a community center and put AmeriCorps volunteers in classrooms to increase safety and brought together support services to address problems that poor families were facing, from inadequate housing to failing schools, crime and health problems.
Saturday's fair will combine fun activities and information about Promise Neighborhood services, Spielman said.
"Students from Cal State East Bay have transformed (Harder school) into a great big fair site," she said. "There will be arts and crafts, decorations and games, so kids have something to do while parents get information."
Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, Harder principal Hector Garcia and Cal State East Bay President Leroy M. Morishita will take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch Hayward Promise Neighborhood.
In the morning, Radio Disney representatives will lead kids jumping rope and using hula hoops, and every student taking part to be given either a hula hoop or a jump rope, Spielman said. "We want to promote 60 minutes of physical exercise a day."