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Federal grants to create 'cradle to career' services in LAUSD zones

Federal grants to create 'cradle to career' services in LAUSD zones
Dixon Slingerland, executive director of the Youth Policy Institute, visits with Abigail Martinez during an after-school program. His organization will oversee local implementation of new federal grants. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Local officials on Wednesday announced a milestone -- $36 million in federal grants -- for an ambitious program to provide a full range of social and education services to students and their families in several neighborhoods.

The effort is called Promise Zone and targets Hollywood, Pico-Union and Koreatown. A related initiative is underway in the San Fernando Valley, centered in the Pacoima area.

"The strategy of the whole is: cradle to career," said Dixon Slingerland, executive director of the locally based Youth Policy Institute, which is overseeing most of the federal funding. "These grants come in and fit into certain chunks of that."

The idea, he said, is that "the school is now a community center and families can access whatever they need there."

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Families could receive services such as access to food, nutrition counseling, prenatal care, mental health services and job training, as well as extended education before and after school and during the summer.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti had lobbied for the city to be included in the federal Promise Zone program.

"We're being aggressive about pursuing increasingly scarce federal dollars and our work is delivering results in ways that can transform these young people's lives and our neighborhoods," Garcetti said in a statement.
Slingerland’s group has consistently won state and federal grants for local programs. He’s also been an effective fundraiser for President Obama.

The largest grant on this round (about $16 million) is for the Youth Policy Institute to take the lead on what's called a GEAR UP grant. It will be used to follow and assist about 3,000 students, starting in sixth and seventh grades and continuing to their first year of college.

The Los Angeles Unified School District will take the lead on a similar grant (worth $13.4 million) for a different set of schools. The Youth Policy Institute also will be part of this effort.

Another grant will provide mental health services for students and  promote "positive behavior" at schools serving 1,800 students combined.

There's also money to develop a partnership though which local farmers will provide low-income families with access to fresh, healthy foods.

The Youth Policy Institute has a role in all the grants that were announced except for $94,681 provided to the Thai Community Development Center to promote the East Hollywood Farmers Market.

Follow the reporter on Twitter: @howardblume 

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