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Last modified: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Grant links School of Education at IUPUI, 11 Indianapolis neighborhood centers

Project Impact to enhance education mission of centers

June 17, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana University School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has received a $65,000 grant for Project Impact, a project in which it will partner with 11 Indianapolis neighborhood centers to help them support academic learning and child development, particularly in the areas of science and mathematics.

The Indianapolis Foundation awarded the grant to Project Impact, which will formally connect faculty, students and resources of the School of Education to the neighborhood centers. Work on the project, which has been in planning stages for a year, will begin on July 1.

Concord Center

Children and staff at the Concord Neighborhood Center on Indianapolis' south side will be among the many people benefiting from Project Impact.

Print-Quality Photo

"The funding from the Indianapolis Foundation allows us to formalize and expand our partnership with area neighborhood centers," said Pat Rogan, professor of Secondary Special Education. Rogan becomes executive associate dean of the School of Education on July 1. "The work is a 'win-win' as we prepare future teachers, enhance civic engagement and invest in area youth and their families."

Under the program, the School of Education and neighborhood centers will work together to provide professional development activities with center staff. IUPUI teacher education students will participate in service learning projects at the neighborhood centers. Instructional technology staff at the School of Education will analyze how to best use technology for communication and collaboration between the centers and the school.

The idea for the program grew following conversations between the neighborhood center staff and IU faculty already working with the centers, said Khaula Murtadha, professor of Educational Leadership and a proponent of the project in her former role as executive associate dean of the School of Education. Murtadha takes over as IUPUI Associate Vice Chancellor for Lifelong Learning and executive director of the Community Learning Network on July 1.

"Key faculty in the sciences and mathematics are involved in this, and they will have their students out there in the neighborhood centers," Murtadha said.

The grant formalizes a growing partnership between the School of Education and the Indianapolis neighborhood centers that has placed teacher education students in the centers for many years.

"These meetings have been happening for some time now," said Tyrone Freeman, director of development for the IU School of Education at IUPUI. "We were very clear about working together to see what are the mutual strengths and opportunities where we can work together to support our goals of improving education in the local community. It's a wonderful partnership."

For the centers, Project Impact will provide important reinforcement for the families they serve.

"It's our perspective that as a neighborhood center, we need to be a backup to both the family and the schools in our neighborhood," said Niki Girls, executive director of the Concord Neighborhood Center on Indianapolis' south side.

Girls said 300 children are in Concord's before- and after-school programs, 45 children are in its childcare program, and another 50 youth are in an intensive youth development program designed to prepare students early for considering college.

"We have a long-term relationship with many of these children," she said. "If our staff can learn from the math and science teachers in terms of activities or can reinforce and develop the children in those academic areas, that's great."

The professional training will be conducted through the School of Education's Teachers Resource Center (TRC), which distributes math and science curriculum materials to teachers and neighborhood center staff. Center Director Wayne Hilson said he currently is working out the details of the overall structure of the professional development activities.

"The Science/Mathematics Advocacy & Readiness Training (S.M.A.R.T.) workshops will combine activities where representatives from each of the centers convene as a group with separate workshops conducted at each individual site," Hilson said. "This model recognizes the advantages of group work and multi-center collaboration while recognizing the unique needs of each individual organization."

Freeman said the Indianapolis Foundation has been a key partner in developing this project.

"We knew that this was a seed year to kick it off," he said. "We don't envision this as just a one-time thing and then when the money runs out, that's it. We really are trying to strengthen our connections with these neighborhood centers and develop an ongoing relationship and Project Impact is one way to do that."

The Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of the Central Indiana Community Foundation created in 1916, states its goal as ensuring the quality of life in Marion County continuously improves, and "to help where the needs are greatest and the benefits are most extensive." More information on the foundation is available