Monday, March 3, 2014

Community Meeting #2 Summary

On February 13 the community met at the Carver Center to discuss strategies to reduce educational, economic and similar constraints experienced by low-income families and individuals. Thanks to all who participated in the meeting, and especially to Mr. Kerwin Allen of the Anniston Community Education Foundation (ACEF), who helped get the conversation started on education.

Following a review of preliminary recommendations on how to physically improve West Anniston, a brief presentation was made on the multi-generational impacts of poverty on families and their communities. The presentation highlighted education and other social and economic support services that help families prosper despite the barriers often experienced in lower income communities. 

After Mr. Allen discussed various programs the ACEF administered to create a stronger educational environment for Anniston's children, meeting attendees were asked to discuss and identify strategies to improve child development and education in West Anniston. The following is a summary of those discussions:

  • Need more meaningful after-school programs and activities, and better access/transportation to and from them
  • Parental involvement must be increased, perhaps through school, church or nonprofit programs
  • Students need to be work-ready when they graduate; provide an alternate [high school] curriculum that trains students for different career paths, in coordination with local businesses and industries, who may also be able to provide internships to students
  • Children need a diverse education, exposure to other cultures, art and experiences; expand knowledge of career choices
  • There should be a strong focus on helping children read proficiently early on; increase their interest in reading through broader exposure to books; provide special training to teachers
  • Develop mentoring and tutoring programs; engage social and civic groups
  • Seek government/foundation grant monies to develop educational and extracurricular programs
  • Offer educational programs for all ages through school system, public and private partners
  • Coordinate educational programs created under multiple consent decrees
  • Increase awareness of and access to educational programs

Each table was then asked to discuss among themselves and identify other services and programs to provide a higher quality of life and encourage prosperity in West Anniston. Discussions included:

  • Increase awareness among the community of existing programs (i.e., forgivable loan program for business start-ups)
  • Seek federal, foundation and other programs and resources to support community development programs (i.e., Promise Zones, Hope VI housing, grants-in-aid)
  • Continue and expand economic development programs, including incentives for small businesses, federal Impact Zone, etc.
  • Co-op and job training programs in coordination with the business community
  • Increase sense of pride, sense of community and commitment to West Anniston, working from the inside-out
  • Decentralize and integrate public/subsidized housing into the community
  • Expand affordable housing options/types
  • Support a variety of volunteer mentoring programs, i.e. Americorps, Boy Scouts, etc.
  • Improve public school-parent-teacher relations, host PTO meetings in community other than in school facility
  • Develop a community policing program, hot-spot policing