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Project Links Campus Centers, Nearby Public Housing

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WASHINGTON--A nonprofit organization dedicated to improving educational opportunities for minorities last week unveiled a plan to set up centers on college campuses to provide comprehensive services to residents of nearby low-income housing.

The plan would also promote the involvement of university faculty members and students in community service.

Leaders of the Quality Education for Minorities Network, which was formed in 1990 to implement and coordinate strategies for improving minority education, announced at a news conference here last week that they had received a $185,000 planning grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to launch the project.

The Q.E.M. has picked six institutions, based on their proximity to public housing and the interest and commitment of their presidents, to participate in a pilot program. The group hopes to expand the effort to a total of 25 campus-based centers over five years.

The pilot sites are Chicago State University, Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Morgan State University in Baltimore, Norfolk State University, and a consortium of City University of New York schools, including Hostos Community College, New York City Technical College, and York College.

A report by the Q.E.M. outlining the project points out that many minority groups are concentrated in public and other low-income housing in communities lacking access to jobs, adequate health care, and social services. The children living there, Q.E.M. officials noted, are often jeopardized by drugs, crime, and violence.

Services and Training

Nearby colleges and universities, the group reasoned, have the resources to "significantly and easily enhance education and the social environment'' for children and families in these communities while engaging faculty members and students in a valuable community service.

A key goal of the plan, Shirley McBay, the president of the Q.E.M. network said, is to "encourage children in public housing to strive to reach their potential.''

The project involves launching:

  • Community resource centers to arrange services from Head Start to health care and from parenting training to job training;
  • Community service centers to serve as formal mechanisms for involving students, faculty, and staff;
  • Leadership training programs for children and families in public housing and for teachers serving those communities, particularly in mathematics and science;
  • Evaluations of student achievement and program activities;
  • Mechanisms to insure the active involvement of residents in planning.

The plan urges the support and coordination of several federal agencies--with the Department of Housing and Urban Development as the initial contact--and of community organizations. It also enlists universities to offer ongoing support.

Implementing the plan in 25 sites over five years, the group estimated, would cost $765 million.

Copies of the report, "Opening Unlocked Doors: A National Agenda for Ensuring Quality Education for Children and Youth in Low-Income Public Housing and Other Low-Income Residential Communities,'' are available for $5.75 each from the Quality Education for Minorities Network, 1818 N St., N.W., Suite 350, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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