Fighting Poverty

Winnecke calls $30 million Promise Zone grant ‘historic.'

A $30 million U.S. Department of Education grant, plus a local match of more than $32 million, will be available to schools and nonprofit agencies that assist children and families in Evansville’s at-risk neighborhoods.

The University of Evansville was the lead applicant for the federal grant, which will come into the city over five years and create what officials call the Evansville Promise Neighborhood.

The grant is a byproduct of Evansville being named a federal government Promise Zone in 2016. Beneficiaries in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation are Evans Elementary School, Delaware Elementary School, Lincoln School, Benjamin Bosse High School, Lodge Community School, and Glenwood Leadership Academy.

Officials say the local matching funds, which are committed by a variety of sources, will support a list of education, job training, college readiness, and community outreach initiatives at numerous organizations.

A few examples include out-of-school programming and mentoring by Dream Center Evansville, Potter’s Wheel, Memorial Community Development Corporation, and Boys and Girls Club of Evansville; early childhood development resources and referrals by Building Blocks; and prenatal and infant care through Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ohio Valley.

The local match also will support various programs through Evansville Goodwill Industries, YMCA of Southwestern Indiana, Vanderburgh County Health Department, Youth First, UE, Ivy Tech Community College Evansville, and others.

“This is a commitment to addressing the issue of poverty and economic inequality and creating a more prosperous and vibrant community for all of our residents,” UE President Christopher Pietruszkiewicz says.

Only three Promise Neighborhood grants were awarded for 2023, and UE’s application was one.

“It’s a historic day,” Mayor Lloyd Winnecke declared during Thursday’s public announcement about the grant, hosted by UE. “… Success tastes really sweet.”

EVSC Superintendent David Smith says the grant and matching funds will strive to remove barriers to education and opportunity for local families.

“We have to move from thinking that kids have deficits to thinking about the tremendous assets they have,” Smith says.

Pietruszkiewicz says the federal grant and its matching funds will help children inside and outside the classroom. As the lead applicant for the grant, UE will remain involved in distributing funds as they become available over the next five years.

UE on Thursday provided a general outline of how the dollars will be used, but Peitruszkiewicz says “a lot of things have to be filled in over the next couple of months. This grant process will start immediately. It will require that we bring in some additional staff who will be housed in the UE Center for Innovation and Change, and they will help us establish a roadmap for how we go forward as a community.”

Officials praised the cooperation that led to UE receiving the federal grant on the community’s behalf.

“I’ve been in this community 19 years, and I’ve been blessed to be a part of many great announcements and great things, but there’s nothing that compares to this,” says Bob Jones, UE board of trustees chairman. “This is a lynchpin moment for this community.”

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