On April 3, the Agency of Human Services announced the selection of the first seven Vermont communities that will participate in the new Promise Communities initiative. This initiative supports collaboration across the education, health care, human service, public, and private sectors to create an all-of-the-above, comprehensive approach to transforming communities to better support children with high needs.
The communities selected to participate in the first part of the initiative are: Barre City, Barre Town; Bellows Falls; Green Street to Canal Street in Brattleboro; Franklin County Early Childhood Programs region (includes the schools of Franklin Central and Franklin Northwest Supervisory Unions); Rutland City; St. Johnsbury; and Winooski.
The selection committee considered community need by looking at data around poverty, kindergarten readiness and third grade achievement, as well as access to high quality child care in each community. They also looked for evidence of community will and readiness demonstrated by a broad array of committed community partners and a plan to bring non-traditional partners and families to the table. Finally, the committee considered the difference communities planned to make in the lives of children and families and the number of children from birth to age 6 that will be affected by the initiative.
“I am excited by this group of communities from across Vermont,” said Governor Shumlin, who announced the initiative in February. “It is our shared duty to help children thrive and grow up to contribute to a vibrant economic future for our state, and we need to make sure that that’s happening in every village and town. I hope these first seven serve as models for other communities to participate down the road.”
Communities participating in the initiative commit to a two-year process. In year one, Promise Community coaches will facilitate the development of each community’s Promise Community Roadmap, which includes compiling a community needs assessment and creating an action plan to improve outcomes for children and families. Once the action plan is in place, financial support – consisting of grants up to $200,000 – will be given to the community to support implementation efforts. The coaches will remain in the community during year two, providing technical assistance to move forward with the plan. An evaluator will continue to monitor long-term outcomes for the community.
“Our goal with this initiative,” said Secretary of Human Services Hal Cohen, “is to help communities overcome barriers like limited transportation, inter-generational poverty, inadequate affordable housing, and the lack of local employment opportunities that inhibit success for young children. The Promise Communities initiative will leverage state and local resources and promote community-based innovations to improve school readiness for young children in our highest need, rural communities.”
The Promise Communities initiative is a project of Vermont’s Early Learning Challenge – Race to the Top Grant: a $36.9 million, federally funded, four-year grant to help build a high-quality and accessible early childhood system in the state so that all young children will be ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.