YPI Seeks to Change Neighborhoods With $30 Million Grant

Published by The Sun San Fernando Valley. Written by Alex Garcia.

More computers, teachers' assistants and professional development courses for teachers – simply more resources for educators, students and parents – could be coming to the 16 San Fernando Valley and Hollywood schools served by non-profit agency Youth Policy Institute (YPI).

"We're going to create a partnership with museums and bring back arts and music and enrichment, cultural opportunities for kids," said Dixon Slingerland, YPI executive director, of the changes he expects to bring those campuses thanks to the $30 million Promise Neighborhood Grant the agency received last month.

YPI was one of only five organizations in the country to be awarded the prestigious grant. Promise Neighborhoods is President Obama's signature education and poverty eradication initiative, creating a cradleto- career pipeline for students and families.

"It's very hard to get. This is the type of grant that Los Angeles doesn't get," said Slingerland, adding the money would be distributed through a five-year period.

He said it took 18 months of planning with 60 partnership organizations before an 800- page proposal was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

But it was well worth it, as the money will be a major boost for the communities served by YPI. "We're going to be turning around these communities through our focus in the schools," Slingerland said

Developed from the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Fund in 1983 to provide education, training and technology services that lift families out of poverty, YPI has served families in the City of Los Angeles since 2001 through 125 program sites.

Services include offer placebased education and training opportunities through afterschool programs, charter and pilot schools, job training, summer jobs for youth, physical education, adult education, computer literacy, case management, parenting, tutoring, and college preparation. Each year, YPI programs serve more than 50,000 youth and adults in Los Angeles.

YPI serves 16 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and charter schools in Hollywood and the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Hollywood target schools include: Ramona Elementary School, Grant Elementary School, Santa Monica Charter Elementary School, Le Conte Middle School, Bernstein Complex and APEX Academy Charter.

Valley schools include Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Pacoima Charter Elementary School, Broadous Elementary School, San Fernando Institute for Applied Media, Maclay Middle School, Sylmar Academy, San Fernando High School and Cesar Chavez Learning Academies.

Slingerland said the changes in those schools starting in the next six months will be drastic. "We expect tremendous community and school transformation," he said. "This is something we really believe, in transforming communities with resources."

Other projects to be funded through the Promise Neighborhood Grant will be the addition of full-time academic coaches and service coordinators at every school site. Existing YPI programs like Full-Service Community Schools and afterschool programs will also increase the number of schools and students served.

"As a Pacoima native, I am very happy that our community, and Youth Policy Institute, has been awarded the competitive Promise Neighborhood grant. This incredible award brings together federal, local and community agencies, and will help bring drastically needed services to the children and families of our community," said Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-29th District).

But YPI wants to go further than just the grant. Slingerland said he would now work to raise the money needed to match one-on-one the grant they just received, which would bring the funds to $60 million in the next five years.

"That will be a big effort," he said.

Officials whose schools would benefit by the program are also excited about what they potentially will receive as part of the grant.

"We are very fortunate to have YPI as our partner since they first established in Pacoima about 10 years ago and they provide a lot of programs for students and our families that we're hoping will continue with this funding," said Sylvia Fajardo, principal at Pacoima Charter Elementary School.

Fajardo said YPI provides funds for Americorps workers who offer tutoring at the school, and also pays for a fulltime community relations person who is "the connection between the parents and the school."

In addition, YPI paid for and continues to support a computer lab at the school used by students and community members.

Fajardo is hoping money from the grant will help continue a pilot program they started last year called "Baby University," designed for kids who are not yet of school age and their parents.

"Because of a lack of funds it was hard to continue, but since the motto of the Promise Neighborhood Grant is 'cradleto- career,' we're hoping we'll be able to continue it this year," Fajardo said.

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