Fifteen thousand children in Grand Rapids are being served by the Believe 2 Become initiative (“B2B”). The initiative focuses on four neighborhood “Hope Zones.” The Community Research Institute at Grand Valley State University is a research partner for the CSR, and they provide maps and demographic profiles of each neighborhood.
By supporting strong schools, community partnership, parent resources, and student experiences, B2B hopes to help students achieve success in school, work, and life by the year 2025. Believe 2 Become is a partnership of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, dozens of community‐based and faith‐based organizations, and the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation.
These groups are investing in teacher training and system support at GRPS and are sponsoring after-school study programs and a summer learning program.
B2B is also sponsoring a Neighborhood Engagement program. In this program, staff members from LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. conduct community meetings, organize community events, and go door-to-door educating parents: all with the goal of promoting knowledge of and encouraging action toward student success.
This is where the CSR comes in; among other things, we are responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of the Neighborhood Engagement work. One method we will use is a community survey, with specific focus on the four areas in inner city Grand Rapids mentioned above. With our B2B partners, the CSR has designed, tested, and assisted the fielding of the survey instrument. These parallel surveys are being implemented in two ways: face-to-face by LINC neighborhood staff, and by telephone to the entire county. LINC staff will interview up to 1,200 adults in the initiative’s neighborhoods in each year of the program for the face-to-face component. The county-wide telephone survey will provide an early baseline for the community’s attitudes toward education and for comparing the Hope Zones to the rest of the county.
With these surveys, the initiative hopes to discover whether or not B2B Neighborhood Engagement is fostering positive attitudes, knowledge, and behavior regarding the education of children. In particular, we are looking at what people believe about the educational and vocational opportunities for kids in their neighborhoods. For instance, do parents expect their children to graduate from high school? What about college? We also want to see whether or not parents adopt “vital behaviors” of the B2B initiative: expressing affirmation, encouraging school attendance, doing schoolwork, asking for help when needed, and reading at least 20 minutes daily.
In addition to surveys, the CSR has created a shared database to help LINC document the scope and impact of their work with neighborhood residents. This includes recruitment into LINC’s action planning groups, such as the group convened around increasing parental, especially male, involvement in children’s education. We are also tracking group membership sign‐ups and referrals to services such as job skill development, after-school programs, or other service referrals.