Multi-million-dollar investment project focuses on impoverished neighborhood

A multi-million-dollar investment project is focusing on an impoverished neighborhood in Lancaster County.

“This zone has about 6,500 residents, 1,800 are children 68% of the citizens live in poverty,” said Sha’kur Francis, the program director with the Lancaster Promise Neighborhood Project.

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Francis said he knows how difficult it can be for young people to get out of poverty on their own.

“I grew up in a community similar to this in Charleston,” he said. “It was because of an education that I’m able to stand before you today. But I understand there were other tools involved.”

Francis took part in an after-school program as a child that he said changed his life.

As the program director, he hopes to influence children who attend Clinton Elementary, A.R. Rucker Middle and Lancaster High in the same way.

“Lancaster Promise Neighborhood (project) is a five-year, $25-million federal grant aimed to start programs that start from the cradle of a child’s life, up until college or career,” Francis said.

Francis hopes to add more programs to help kids who don’t come from much achieve great things.

“Not only to educate them out of poverty, but to life,” Francis said.

The Lancaster Neighborhood Project is a pipeline of programs aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring that all children in the program enter school ready to learn, meet standards in all subjects, graduate on time, and enroll and complete college or a tech school.

“We really are making a difference,” said Regina Hagwood, the program coordinator. “That’s what makes me so happy.”

Hagwood helps coordinate the project’s after-school program at Clinton Elementary School.

“Our biggest group right now is our second graders who really need this,” Hagwood said. “We break them up into four groups. So we have teachers with a certain amount of students and they work one-on-one with them, so that’s helping us a lot.”

The $25-million grant that funds the project will last five years.

Officials will reapply after that. They’re also working to secure other funding sources.

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