Melissa Dewberry enjoys doing crossword puzzles, walking her cat and pondering ways to patch up the hole in the ozone layer.
A new federal program is taking a unique approach to helping low-income children achieve in the classroom by focusing on their needs outside of school.
Fashioning itself after the Harlem program featured in the documentary film “Waiting for Superman,” the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhood Program dispensed $500,000 planning grants to 21 programs around the country last year.
After gathering preliminary data on whether the “outside-in approach” can help students, it will give up to $30 million more annually to the handful of programs that see their plans through.
One of the programs has been established in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, where almost a quarter of families live below the poverty live.
Experts agree with the out-of-the-box approach, espousing that families who have to spend the bulk of their time trying to make ends meet rarely focus on improving their difficult situations.
“If I’ve got all these other things going on, how am I supposed to focus on my schoolwork?” said Stacie Evans, director of the Sunset Park Promise Neighborhood. “How am I supposed to be able to get to the point where I can be successful?”
They are hoping to fill the voids in the struggling community by providing services such as health checks, extracurricular activities, and classes for both students and their parents.
One child in Sunset Park, 10-year-old Christian Trujillo, sums up the importance of education.
“I am lucky to go to school,” he said. “Without education you can’t really have a life. You need to work hard and not just fool around. Because when you fool around, you get nothing.”
Read more at MSNBC.