Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Grant excites Xavier, Evanston

By Denise Smith Amos
Enquirer staff writer

EVANSTON - School and neighborhood leaders hope that a partnership with Xavier University, funded party with a federal grant, will help revive the struggling neighborhood and transform its elementary school.

The $392,000 grant, announced this week, is one of only 14 awarded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It goes to universities trying to revive and redevelop their surrounding urban neighborhoods.

The grant is good news to residents of Evanston, which has suffered years of population decline, aging housing stock and growing poverty, said Sharon Muyaya, president of the Evanston Community Council.

It also is good news for Hoffman Elementary School, which last year failed to meet 10 of the 12 state standards in academics. Officials want it to become a model school.

Xavier will send its education students into Hoffman's classrooms to assist teachers, tutor and run clubs and extracurricular activities, said Henri Frazier, interim principal. Staff from Xavier's occupational therapy and psychological counseling programs also will work with students.

The partnership will create a communitywide parents association and a college awareness program at the school.

Xavier will benefit, too. Its education students will get real-world experience in an urban school, White said.

"In the past, the school system decided how the school should be run," Muyaya said. "Now we have an opportunity for the neighborhood and partner involvement."

An early childhood center and new curriculum also are planned.

Evanston has been hit hard by mass departures of Cincinnati's middle-class families. From 1990 to 2000, Evanston's population fell 16 percent to about 7,000, according to census figures.

Most of its homes were built from the 1890s to the 1930s, and little new construction has occurred in decades. According to data gathered by Xavier and the community council to support the grant, property values haven't risen in 10 years and its unemployment rate is nearly 13 percent.

The grant also will help fund revitalization along the Montgomery Road business corridor near Interstate 71.

Xavier students will conduct market assessments, provide technical consulting to businesses and job-readiness services to Evanston and Norwood residents. They'll also form an Evanston-Norwood Entrepreneurship Club and a cooperative business to train young entrepreneurs.

To shore up homeownership, the Evanston partnership will fund efforts to keep senior citizens in their homes, to help homeowners improve their homes and help renters buy homes.

All this will take more than just the HUD grant, White said. It will be combined with $156,000 in cash from Xavier, and cash and in-kind contributions totaling $235,000 from a variety of sources, including Cincinnati Public Schools, the nonprofit Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati, PNC Bank and neighborhood redevelopment groups. In addition, Xavier estimates that its staff will contribute $475,000 in staff time.

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