In 2005, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer sent a team of city staff to New York City to visit Harlem Children’s Zone, a pioneering program that is “moving the needle” on the academic, social and economic success of Harlem’s children. Convinced by what they saw, Mayor Dyer decided to replicate the Harlem project in Orlando’s Parramore Heritage Neighborhood.
In July 2006, after raising public and private dollars, Mayor Dyer launched Parramore Kidz Zone (PKZ) in Orlando. PKZ became Florida’s first replication of the lauded Harlem project.
In the 10 years that have transpired between 2006 and 2016, because of PKZ, the City of Orlando and many generous public and private donors have invested in research-based youth programs throughout Parramore. These investments have created a continuum of cradle to career solutions that is impacting all aspects of children’s lives. Over the ten year period, 4,769 Parramore children and youth from birth to age 24 have benefited from these programs, including preschool, parenting education, mentoring, tutoring, academically enriched after school programs, arts, science and technology enrichment, college access assistance, youth sports, youth employment, and more.
PKZ’s results have been extraordinary. By 2015, program evaluators had documented a 61% decline in juvenile arrests, a 56% decline in teen pregnancies, and a 38% decline in child abuse cases in the neighborhood since PKZ started, as well as across-the-board increases in the percentage of Parramore elementary, middle and high school students performing at grade level in math and reading. And every year the number of Parramore youth who attend college increases. Today, 70 PKZ youth are in college – all of them the first generation in their families to attend. Going to college is no longer a dream in Parramore – it’s reality.
Parramore Kidz Zone’s success has been featured in many national publications, including Parramore, Orlando: Leveraging Local Strengths (America’s Promise Alliance, Center for Promise and Tufts University June, 2014); Community Solutions for Opportunity Youth (The White House Council for Community Solutions, June 2102); Toolbox for Building Needle-Moving Community Collaboratives (The White House Council for Community Solutions, January 2012); The State of City Leadership for Children and Families (National League of Cities 2009); $10-Million Obama Proposal Hopes to Export Success of Harlem Program, (Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 2009); Promise Neighborhoods: A Planning How-To Guide (Alliance for Children and Families, September 2009).
Smart, targeted investments in researched-based children’s programs in neighborhoods where children struggle make a huge difference. We are grateful for Mayor Dyer’s leadership and commitment to children, PKZ’s many donors and partner organizations and individuals throughout the neighborhood who have committed themselves to “moving the needle” on child well-being, and the youth and families of Parramore, who have been steadfast partners every step of the way.
Over the past ten years, PKZ has helped nearly five thousand kids grow into well educated adults and members of the community. Over the next year we will be featuring their stories as the PKZ 10.
To join “Friends of PKZ” and receive occasional email updates or if you have any questions, please email us at Adamaris.Ramirez@cityoforlando.net