Parramore Education and Innovation District Initiative Receives $2 Million

Author: University of Central Florida

Posted on: August 23, 2019

The UCF-led initiative is a partnership aimed at strengthening the Pre-K to Ph.D. educational ecosystem in the Parramore community.

The Parramore Education and Innovation District initiative, designed to reduce barriers and improve access to education in the Parramore neighborhood, has received $2 million in grant funding to support a Pre-K through Ph.D. educational ecosystem in Parramore, including opportunities for continuing and adult education. Funding collectively comes from the Helios Education Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and The Kresge Foundation.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Helios Education Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and the Kresge Foundation for investing in educational opportunities in Parramore,” says UCF Interim President Thad Seymour Jr. “Community initiatives of this scale take all of us working together to help every individual unleash their full potential with a lasting impact on families and neighborhoods.”

Thanks to a generous planning grant from Helios Education Foundation in 2017, UCF and its partners — Valencia College, Orange County Public Schools, the Harris Rosen Foundation, Parramore residents and the City of Orlando — began meeting to design an educational network that works collaboratively to improve educational access and success for residents in Parramore. The team’s work considers the comprehensive impacts of informal learning opportunities and early interventions that affect learning outcomes.

Over the next 18 months, UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education and Center for Higher Education Innovation led teams to identify what resources would best support residents from cradle through career. Researchers and grant-supported personnel coordinated efforts in early childhood centers, schools, nonprofit organizations, health facilities, faith-based organizations, businesses, city-owned facilities and other agencies.

After mapping the intersections of infrastructure, resources, educational needs, family community services and data, the UCF team developed a strategic plan that outlined community-level support to improve educational access and success.

Some of the recommendations from the strategic plan include:

  • Undertaking a holistic approach to education that considers both informal and formal learning settings
  • Connecting neighborhood assets and organizations that are focused on education but currently disconnected from one another
  • Utilizing data to identify primary obstacles to college success, develop instructional improvements and share that data among educational providers

“Helios is proud to join JPMorgan Chase and the Kresge Foundation to form this unique funding partnership,” says Paul J. Luna, president and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation. “We are committed to creating an academic pathway that will empower Parramore residents to transform their potential into opportunity.”

The Parramore community already benefits from a network of educational partners. Within the past decade, organizations like Parramore Kidz Zone have successfully developed programming to positively impact students’ educational performance and support college-bound youth. In late August, UCF Downtown and Valencia College Downtown will open, expanding both the ecosystem and opportunities for traditional educational institutions to coordinate efforts with other organizations to strengthen the pipeline to college.

“To lift up our communities, residents need access to good paying, quality jobs,” says Mel Martinez, Southeast chairman of JPMorgan Chase. “Many local companies are looking for workers with specific skills and we need to arm local residents with the right tools to fill those positions.”

JPMorgan Chase’s investment will support the launch of JumpStart, a new hub to connect adult learners to personalized postsecondary options across the community’s education ecosystem, including UCF Downtown and Valencia College Downtown, Orange Technical College, and career and technical education programs that lead to job placement in high-demand industries.

“Urban colleges and universities can help create inclusive, equitable communities by thoughtfully engaging and providing opportunities to local residents,” says Bethany Miller, program officer with The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program. “This partnership represents a thoughtful, placed-based approach that will ensure both new and old Parramore community members benefit from the new urban campus.”

The PEID initiative will also be informed by the Central Florida Educational Ecosystem Database (CFEED), which will track student success. The Helios-funded CFEED will account for and monitor students’ progress and identify key transition points in which interventions make important differences for students in the Parramore community.

Already, work is underway in Parramore with PEID staffers and the community working together. In July, PEID sponsored developmental screenings at the Callahan Neighborhood Center for children from birth through 8 years old, to assess speech, hearing, social/emotional development, dental health, and motor coordination. The influx of funding will allow for additional work to continue.

“It is very encouraging to know that philanthropists find value in investing in the Parramore educational and developmental ecosystem,” says Jerome T. Williams, Parramore resident, member of the Callahan Neighborhood Association and PEID Program Implementation Team member. “Additional educational resources are needed in Parramore because currently the majority of residents do not have post-secondary education, and are employed in the service industry. Having UCF and Valencia in downtown will empower adults in Parramore by providing first-class educational opportunities within walking distance to their homes.”

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