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2016 Promise Zone Year in Review

Sacramento Promise Zone

Highlight #023, March 2017

March 2017 by Kendra Crater, VISTA Leader

2016 was a productive year for the Sacramento Promise Zone. A key milestone was accomplished in August when the full Promise Zone team was assembled, including the Federal Liaison and all five AmeriCorps VISTAs. Earlier in the year, the Promise Zone Resident Council was established. Beginning in February, representatives from the five City Council Districts and two County Supervisorial Districts in the Promise Zone, along with an appointee of the Mayor of Sacramento were selected. The purpose of the Resident Council is to meet regularly and serve as a connector between the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, Promise Zone partners, and their own community in support of Promise Zone activities. Also this past year, the U.S. Economic Development Agency designated Sacramento an “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership” community.

Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, the lead agency of the Promise Zone, hosted several events including: the United States Department of Agriculture Convening with County Department of Health and Human Services; a local partners convening; a federal partners convening; two separate grant writing workshops; and visits by the Federal Regional Director of Health and Human Services Department and the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Since receiving the coveted designation in April of 2015, more than $50 million in federal and state funds have been awarded to organizations and agencies as a direct result of receiving bonus points or support from the Promise Zone.


The Sacramento Promise Zone encompasses some of the economically hardest-hit neighborhoods in the City and County – from Del Paso Heights in the North Area, Oak Park and The Avenues in the south County. It also includes portions of Downtown and Midtown and encompasses portions of five City Council Districts and two County Supervisorial Districts. The Promise Zone is home to 127,893 residents, of whom 34.93% live in poverty. In the Promise Zone, 63% of children are reading below grade level and the unemployment rate is 19%. The life expectancy of the residents of the Promise Zone is 72 years versus 79 outside the zone. Over the past year, more than $50 million in federal, state and local government investments have been awarded to create jobs, provide job training and placement, increase access to healthy foods, and improve educational opportunities primarily in the Promise Zone.


In a first of its kind event for Sacramento, on October 27, 2016 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with over 30 representatives from 11 federal agencies came together to discuss coordinated interagency support for the Sacramento Promise Zone. They met with local partners to discuss current projects and strategies for improving opportunities in education, health, job training and placement, economic development, transportation, housing, and reducing crime. Federal partners represented at the convening included the Department of Labor, Small Business Administration, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Corporation for National & Community Service, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, National Park Service, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.


Our Promise Zone goals are clear, transformational and achievable.

  • Create jobs and accelerate job training and placement

  • Increase economic activity within the downtown and neighborhood business districts

  • Improve educational opportunities from cradle to career

  • Improve health and wellness by promoting healthy behaviors and increasing health interventions

  • Facilitate sustainable neighborhood revitalization activities that support safe and thriving communities

Resource fair for Jobs Plus participants
Resource fair for Jobs Plus participants

Job Training and Placement

The Jobs Plus grant, awarded in December 2015 to the City Housing Authority, provides resources to assemble a multi-agency team to work with the residents at Marina Vista and nearby Alder Grove public housing communities, to become employed or to participate in activities leading to employment (such as education and/or job training). The Jobs Plus Center had its grand opening on November 9, 2016 at Marina Vista. The event included representatives from workforce development agencies, the City Economic Development Team, Sacramento Employment & Training Agency (SETA), Valley Vision, the Greater Sacramento Urban League and other community stakeholders. Each resource provider gave brief presentations about the programs and opportunities that are available at the Jobs Plus Center, including Starbucks, Asian Resources Inc., Sacramento Works, GRID Alternatives, WEAVE, and others.

The Jobs Plus Center is staffed by a phenomenal team including an SHRA site coordinator and one representative from each of the three main partnering agencies: Department of Human Assistance, SETA, and Asian Resources Inc. Two ambassadors who live in the community are responsible for keeping residents informed of the center’s activities and available assistance.

Economic Development Activity

The City of Sacramento established a $10 million Innovation and Growth Fund targeting a large portion of the Promise Zone. The fund will award grants to local technology entrepreneurs and will offer $1 million annually to local programs that help young tech companies through leadership training, work-share spaces and other support.

The Sacramento Promise Zone Forum, “Spurring Economic Growth,” convened on September 15, 2016, with over 80 attendees representing financial institutions, business owners, community-based organizations, government agencies and other community stakeholders. Through small group discussions, partners identified actionable strategies to support small business retention and expansion, job creation, increased incomes, and lower poverty rates for the low- to moderate-income communities in the Promise Zone. In the forum, key challenges and opportunities were also identified as barriers to address. From these challenges, three key working groups were formed: Workforce Development, Small Business Development, and Neighborhood Infrastructure. The purpose of these working groups is to continue the momentum that was started at the forum.

Another result of the forum was a financial institution Roundtable which discussed collaboratively aligning goals to jointly fund a program(s) and project(s) in the Promise Zone. The Promise Zone is facilitating a process in which five financial institution partners are seeking potential projects/programs for completion and implementation in 2017. The five financial institutions are seeking to collectively provide funds to one or more project(s)/program(s). This process was initiated in November 2016 and it is anticipated to be complete by February 2017.

With the support of the Promise Zone, California Capital Financial Development Corporation received an $80,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration to deliver Bilingual Business Success Forums focused on business corridors within the Promise Zone. The forums are designed to meet the business development, capacity building and education needs of the growing numbers of immigrant, refugee and limited/non-English proficient business owners.

Health and Wellness

The Sacramento Promise Zone and Samuel Merritt University initial collaboration is creating the first Community Nurse Corps (CNC). Through CNC, a cohort of experienced, registered nurses from Kaiser Permanente will serve at various local partner sites to address the Promise Zone’s community health needs. This collaboration aims to address some of the highest health needs of our region: increasing access to healthy food and promoting physical activity, increasing access to health care, and reducing African American child deaths.

Kaiser nurses in the Samuel Merritt University Community Nurse Corps program
Kaiser nurses in the Samuel Merritt University Community Nurse Corps program

Samuel Merritt University and Kaiser Permanente designed the program to provide working registered nurses the unique opportunity to achieve a bachelor degree and gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to function within the health landscape of the 21st Century. As part of the degree program, the nurse scholars intern with a community based organization working with underserved populations studying and learning firsthand about social determinants of health in an applied fashion. The community agencies where they are placed have the benefit of RNs conducting needs assessments, health education, and screenings without having to hire additional staff. The nurse scholars can also perform strategic planning and create program planning documents based on research of evidenced-based practices/policies of other programs serving specialized populations. Implementation of the first cohort of Community Nurses is scheduled for January 2017 with four Promise Zone Partner organizations at six sites throughout the Promise Zone. A total of 12 nurse scholars are in this first cohort serving Promise Zone residents, but it is anticipated that it could increase to 25 in future years.

Another focus of the Health Action Team was increasing the opportunity for healthy eating within the Promise Zone. Alchemist CDC was awarded over $70,000 by the USDA to create a food business incubator that will provide opportunities for job creation, economic growth, and increased access to healthy, local food products that will support the Promise Zone Initiative.

The Reduction of African American Child Deaths (RAACD) program was launched. The initiative is designed to reduce the number of Sacramento County’s African-American child deaths. This historic collaboration consists of key community partners and community-based organizations that provide social services to local residents within each of the focus neighborhoods throughout the Promise Zone.

The Sacramento Promise Zone partnered with the Pacific Dental Services Foundation, along with dentists from Smile Generation to provide free, basic dental services during the Education and Health Fair which occurred on October 22, 2016 at the Marina Vista Public Housing site. Alder Grove and Twin Rivers residents were invited to attend the clinic. The Sacramento Public Library and the Sacramento Food Bank were in attendance to meet with residents while they waited for services. During the fair, 27 residents were seen and dentists provided free services valued at over $27,000.

Neighborhood Revitalization

The Sacramento Promise Zone team is utilizing the arts as another avenue to build vibrant communities and improve quality of life for residents inside the Promise Zone. On August 9, 2016, the Promise Zone team brought together local leaders who support arts-based initiatives for a webinar presented by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the California Arts Council. The webinar provided an overview on creative place-making and funding opportunities to advance arts-based initiatives. Creative place-making is an emerging concept that combines arts, culture, and creativity to drive revitalization and livability outcomes in economically disadvantaged communities. Livability outcomes encompass community identity, public safety, environmental quality, job opportunities, and affordable housing and transit options. Through cross-sector collaboration with public agencies, private businesses, and arts organizations, the goal is to create opportunities within the Promise Zone for creative transformation and increased economic productivity.

The Oak Park Promise Neighborhood collaboration was established in Sacramento’s oldest suburban neighborhood, Oak Park. This is a 15-year initiative to transform Oak Park into a community where every resident can live, learn, work and be healthy. Over 40 partners have come together to collaborate and share information, resources and knowledge to create a community web of high-quality programs and services focusing on education, health, jobs and housing that are easy to access.

The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency began the process of identifying affordable housing developers and builders to build affordable housing on its surplus vacant lots throughout the Promise Zone. It also selected a local homebuilder to build an additional 72 single-family homes in the Del Paso Heights community. The 2017 goal is to expand homeownership opportunities to eligible families with earnings at 80% of the area median income.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) made a significant commitment to support residents in the Oak Park neighborhood. The mission of SMUD is to enhance the quality of life for their customers and community by providing creative energy solutions and promoting their core values of leadership, ingenuity, community and integrity. They have a goal to promote energy efficiency education to low-income customers in the Sacramento area through coordinated efforts with community service providers.

SMUD committed to provide no-cost energy upgrades to improve housing stability for qualified low income residents, valued at $4,614,249 over the next five years. The upgrades are energy efficiency packages that may include deep energy retrofits, weatherization, and potentially rooftop solar for households with the highest electric bill burden. These housing and appliance upgrades will encourage more efficient use power and conservation of energy. SMUD also committed to provide competitive needs-based college scholarships for students pursuing STEM degrees. These scholarships will improve regional economic development and help fill the workforce pipeline for hard-to-fill STEM careers.

Educational Opportunities

Throughout the Sacramento Promise Zone all levels of education are benefiting from preference points and more funding opportunities. The Sacramento Unified School District is expanding its early learning and literacy programs. It received a $1.4 million Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) Program grant from the Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. These funds will be used to support and expand literacy programs in targeted elementary schools in the Promise Zone. Sacramento State University received over $5 million in grants from the National Science Foundation Noyce Scholars Program to increase the number of teachers with strong STEM content knowledge, to prepare k-12 teachers for special needs students and to provide undergraduates and master's level students with experiences in conducting education research while preparing participants for doctoral study.

Leataata Floyd Elementary School (LFE) partnered with Valley Vision and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) to implement the School2Home program in grades 4-6. School2Home connects kids and schools with technology resources, including digital devices to use both in school and at home. In addition to integrating technology into teaching and learning, the program engages parents as key drivers of student success. LFE has expanded School2Home during the 2016-17 school year to reach 132 students and families, with plans to further expand over the coming years.

Members of the California Division of FHWA, presenting at Promise Zone STEM Forum
Members of the California Division of FHWA, presenting at Promise Zone STEM Forum

The Sacramento Promise Zone STEM Forum was held November 15, 2016 at Washington Elementary School. This event focused on STEM related academic preparation for students that would be a continuous pathway starting in elementary school and would extend through college and career. The forum brought over 30 members of the Sacramento community together; representing non-profit organizations, academic institutions, businesses, corporations, civic leaders and residents to continue the conversation around education. Dr. Karl Reid, Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers gave an informative presentation on how partners and stakeholders can collaborate to bring new resources to the region and create local opportunities for students.

Sacramento State University established a satellite campus in the Promise Zone strengthening its role as California’s capital university. The University purchase of a three-story building at 304 S Street will house Sacramento State’s planned School of Public Affairs and other campus units. The purchase is about more than just brick and mortar. Expanding the University into the Promise Zone downtown will allow more students to get the classes they need to graduate on time and to succeed in their careers. Sac State has also received over $7 million for teacher training in targeted Promise Zone schools.

Evaluation and Measuring Outcomes

The Promise Zone partnered with University of California at Davis- Center for Regional Change to create the PZ Evaluation Guide, which is a culmination of this year's work to conceptualize an evaluation approach, produce templates that can be used for consistency among Action Teams and Implementation Partners, and provide guidance on implementing Promise Zone evaluation activities. The guide, which is a work in progress, includes placeholders for the tools, tables, and templates that Promise Zone partners can use to track progress and outcomes.


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