Mauricio Torre tells NBC 7 reporter Wendy Fry why he hopes a $60 million grant can help the South Bay park.
South Bay Community Services in Chula Vista is receiving a $27.8 million, five-year federal grant to help crack the cycle of inter-generational poverty in the Castle Park neighborhood.
The nonprofit agency is one of seven recipients nationwide to receive the funding from the U.S. Secretary of Education, and the Promise Neighborhoods program.
Castle Park in Chula Vista is nestled between Naples and Palomar streets along Third Avenue and next to Lauderbach Park.
The grant funding is aimed at a comprehensive community approach to fostering academic success and raising college-bound children.
"Children must be safe, healthy and supported by adults across an entire community to reach their fullest potential," said U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a news release today. "Against all odds, Promise Neighborhoods work to provide families and children with support they need to help break the cycle of poverty that threatens too many of our nation's communities."
An additional 28 local governement agencies, non-profits, and businesses, including Manpower, United Way and Parker Foundation have agreed to provide matching dollars, making a total investment of $60 million in the small neighborhood over the next five years, according to Shirley Horton, the community relations and development director at South Bay Community Services.
"The community really came together and worked so hard to get this grant," said SBCS Kathryn Lembo, the organization's president and CEO. "What makes it so special is knowing how much the schools, parents, and kids are going to benefit. This will give our young people an incredible opportunity to be healthier and more successful in school and life."
The population density in Castle Park is 10,122 people per square mile, according to city-data.com. That rate is more than double the citywide average of about 3,551 people per square mile, according to the website.
The median household income was about $41,390 in 2009, compared to a citywide median household income of about $59,045 a year, according to city-data.com.
The target area is the catchment for Castle Park Elementary Schoool. Funds will be used to create dramatic improvements at Castle Park middle and high schools and Hilltop middle and high schools, which are aging facilities in the Sweetwater Union High School District.
Information was not immediately available if the grant funding allows for facility upgrades.
The South Bay Community Services is a nonprofit provider of domestic violence resources, social services, homeless outreach, education and community development programs for families.
Promise Neighborhoods is one of the signature programs of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.
Specifically, local South Bay schools, city and county departments, local hospitals, universities, businesses and nonprofits came together to develop a "cradle to career" plan for Castle Park children.
The plan is comprised of early education for young children from birth; funding to improve schools; college and career readiness support and a safety net of community services.
During a pilot program at Castle Park Middle School started in the beginning of 2012, attendance went from 97 percent to 98.9 percent and API scores increased from 750 to 794, Horton said.
"We started this year and are getting incredible results," Horton said.
With about 3,734 people living in the small area, the funds amount to around $13,000 per resident.