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August 23, 2013

Growing Together, National Partners Support Tulsa Neighborhoods

Bringing resources together and creating a climate of change in two of Tulsa’s “toughest neighborhoods” were the goals of a gathering at the Guthrie Green on Tuesday evening.

Supporters of the Eugene Field and Kendall-Whittier neighborhoods joined representatives from several area organizations and foundations for a picnic at the downtown park.

The event was a chance to showcase Growing Together’s efforts to improve the two neighborhoods and celebrate its new partnerships with four national nonprofit organizations.

Growing Together is a community partnership supported by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County that is designed to bring organizations and residents together to help residents become self-sustainable by depending on one another for solutions that provide safe and supportive neighborhoods and schools.

“What we’re trying to do is bring together a set of organizations that share a common purpose in really trying to change the trajectory for kids who are growing up in two of the toughest neighborhoods in Tulsa,” said Steven Dow, the Community Action Project’s executive director.

“We are in the beginning of what we know is going to be a several-year commitment to working hard in the neighborhoods to really try to bring transformational change.”

The Kendall-Whittier neighborhood is bounded by 11th Street on the south, Dawson Road on the north, Utica Avenue on the west and Harvard Avenue on the east. The Eugene Field neighborhood is between the Arkansas River and Interstate 244 north of West 23rd Street.

Growing Together works mainly in three areas: creating a sense of community for residents, making the environment safe, and ensuring that every child is successful from prekindergarten to college, said Courtney Chadney, a spokeswoman for Growing Together.

“Essentially, Growing Together is organizations and residents working collectively in order to improve the schools and neighborhoods in that area,” she said.

“We have been working very hard based on feedback from residents about what is needed to improve these neighborhoods in order to make sure every child can be successful.”

Dow commented that “one of the things we identified was that we had a number of national organizations that had already begun to demonstrate that they have the capacity, skills and knowledge to do elements of what we thought were going to be the pieces that would be required to really make big differences.”

The new national partners are City Year, Talent Development Secondary, Reading Partners and College Summit, whose programs will be implemented in some of the schools in both neighborhoods beginning this school year.

City Year, an AmeriCorps program, is an education-focused nonprofit organization that partners with high-need public schools to provide full-time targeted student interventions.

Talent Development Secondary brings engaging instruction, solid organization, and student, teacher and administrative support to schools that have more challenges than resources.

Reading Partners is a nonprofit literacy organization that recruits and trains community volunteers to provide one-on-one reading tutoring to students in schools with less-than-adequate resources across the country.

College Summit is a nonprofit group that helps high schools raise their college enrollment rates by building a college-going culture.

“We can’t do it by ourselves. We know that,” said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard. “We know that instead, we need a massive collaborative effort, and that’s exactly what we have going on here.

“We have the partnerships to make this work, and it’s going to take all of us, but it’s such an exciting moment.”

Local partners in Growing Together include the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Schusterman Foundation, the Tulsa Area United Way, Tulsa Public Schools and the University of Tulsa.

“This is terrific,” said Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this because I know it’s going to do great things for the kids in Tulsa.”

Mike Averill / World Staff  / Source

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