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he Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood is a 250-square-block area in the heart of Saint Paul’s historic Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. A vibrant mix of races, ethnicities, and cultures, this neighborhood also faces some steep challenges: Children and families experience high rates of poverty and racial and academic disparities. Highly mobile living situations and homelessness are also common.
 
What we know is, if a child doesn’t have a stable living situation, they are less likely to be in school on a consistent basis, and if a child isn’t in school, they can’t learn,” explains Muneer Karcher-Ramos, Director of Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. “That’s a huge part of why we see the academic disparities in our schools. It’s not because the students are not intelligent or don’t have the skills; they just aren’t getting the time in the classroom that they need.”
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Supported by more than 80 organizations, Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood (SPPN) is a community-wide initiative to provide the academic and social supports children need to succeed in school and life. A new rental assistance program administered by Wilder Foundation stabilizes housing so children can focus on academic success.

Turning Stress into Smiles

Shedavia, mother of three, heard about Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood’s rental assistance program from her daughter’s teacher at Jackson Elementary. She applied to the program and was accepted in January.

“Before I was accepted into this program, I was trying to finish my degree,” explains Shedavia. “I was stressed out all of the time, worrying about being able to pay my bills and keep the lights on. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that stress was affecting my children.”
 
The housing program provides Shedavia’s family stability and has allowed all of their lives to improve. She has more time to spend with her children and they are doing better in school. Her daughters are participating in tutoring programs and accessing other community resources available through Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. Most importantly, they are spending time together as a family.
 
“Now instead of stress and worry, I see smiles, giggles, and happiness,” says Shedavia. Shedavia is on track to graduate and pursue her dream job as a 911 dispatcher. She no longer worries about being evicted or having her electricity shut off, and she can now afford reliable transportation and insurance.
 

“What sets SPPN apart from other housing programs is the community that the families have developed,” explains Karcher-Ramos. “We’re now seeing stronger community relationships among parents in the neighborhood. They now have people they can rely on and can go to for help.

Our participants have found their place in their communities; this gives them a greater sense of belonging, confidence, and motivation.”

“I have always wanted to lead by example and show my kids how important it is to get an education,” Shedavia says. “I feel rooted now. Being part of this program is like being part of family. I know that no matter what I need, someone will be able to help.”

 

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