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The South Bay community of Castle Park was chosen to be one of the Obama administration’s “Promise Neighborhoods,” one of only 12 in the nation. The program afforded the community of just 6,700 residents $60 million to put toward education. One year later, has the money made a difference? NBC 7 Investigates Wendy Fry has an exclusive look at how those dollars are being spent.
What can $60 million do for just 6,700 residents in a small community where education has not traditionally been a high priority?
That experiment is playing out in the South Bay where an Obama administration program called "Promise Neighborhoods" is one of only 12 in the nation.
Data on the first year places Chula Vista's Promise Neighborhood of Castle Park among the top five performing sites.
Among some of the information released Monday and exclusively to NBC 7, the partnership has collected 667 volunteers and reached out to 6,708 community members - more than live in the actual catchment area.
So far, 16 kids have received early acceptance letters from colleges such as UC Berkeley and UCLA. Attendance, a problem at many of the schools, has increased. API scores have tipped over an average 800 score and 24 parents have successfully graduated from Universidad de Padres-- a parenting workshop.
The money, which amounts to $9,000 per person living in the half of a square-mile Castle Park neighborhood, is being spent on hiring and training 80 new staff members and two new portable buildings, as well.
For high school senior Robert Corrales, it means free tutoring after-school at Hilltop High School.
"My mom-- she is in college herself-- so it's kind of left for me to make sure I take care of my responsibilities and make sure my brother takes care of himself, too," Corrales said. He said before the program, kids would just hang out after class.
The main focus of the Promise Neighborhood effort is to get families to make education a priority and college the end result.
In the quiet, neatly-kept neighborhood, 67 percent of adults have not even graduated high school. The effort is aimed at embracing families as a whole and instilling an education focus at an early age.
Through a wellness program with a local hospital, three families found out their child needed eye glasses, before it began affecting their academic performance.
"Judge us not based on what we say, but judge us based on our outcomes. And our outcomes are now being released in year one and again everything is data-driven, everything is tracked," said Mauricio Torre, who is overseeing the grant administration. "We're more than happy to share that with the whole community."