The Martha O'Bryan Center has submitted its application for a five-year, $6 million-a-year grant that would help shape the lives of all children in East Nashville and have a huge economic impact on the city.
It is a Promise Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Education that requires a one-to-one match in dollars or services each year. Martha O'Bryan Center CEO Marsha Edwards describes it as "a solving strategy, not a helping strategy."
"The idea of an investment of $30 million into a comprehensive plan involving absolutely everyone in our neighborhood is exciting beyond words," said Robin Veenstra-VanderWeele, Director of Nashville Promise Neighborhood.
The Martha O'Bryan Center received a $500,000 Promise Neighborhood planning grant this year, but that is no guarantee of getting the multi-year grant, according to Veenstra-VanderWeele.
"The Promise Neighborhood implementation grant program began just this year, and there were only five awarded nationwide," she said. "Competition for new grants undoubtedly will be stiff, but we will make a strong case for Nashville," she said.
The Promise Neighborhood concept is for an entire neighborhood – in this case the Stratford High School cluster – to unite to virtually guarantee the success of every child in that neighborhood.
This comprehensive plan starts with pre-natal education that ensures healthy babies and continues through every child's success in college or a career path.
The NPN involves residents, schools, government, social service agencies, healthcare, children and families.
"Success of a Promise Neighborhood requires total buy-in from everyone. It is the epitome of community spirit and understanding that the neighborhood absolutely expects every child to succeed," Veenstra-VanderWeele said.
The Martha O'Bryan Center will continue as the lead organization in this collaborative network made up of 27 strategic partnerships, including Metro Nashville, MNPS, Vanderbilt University, YMCA of Middle Tennessee, Oasis Center, United Way of Middle Tennessee, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.
East Nashville residents have been noticing a neighborhood communication effort in recent weeks called "Break the Line" that is designed to introduce the Promise Neighborhood mindset.
"Break the Line" refers to breaking down barriers that keep children and the neighborhood from achieving total success. It is presented in billboards, posters, sidewalk graffiti and social media.
"This communication effort sets the stage for the Nashville Promise Neighborhood. Everyone must believe that every child can succeed, that every child can break the line," Veenstra-VanderWeele said.
While the grant deadline is July 27, there is no indication how quickly the U.S. Department of Education will choose recipients.
Leaders of the Martha O'Bryan Center said the groundwork they have laid writing the grant proposal will put them at the starting line, not in the planning mode, if Nashville gets the grant.