Philadelphia Housing Authority receives $500,000 Fed Grant for Youth Community Technology Center
PHILADELPHIA, PA (September 13, 2004)

The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) received a $500,000 Community Technology Centers Program grant award today from The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational & Adult Education. PHA, Pennsylvanias largest landlord, earned the grant for its Skills For Life Program, which serves 170 at-risk students residing in public and assisted housing. Skills equips students from ninth to twelfth grade with academic and social skills to graduate from high school and pursue a range of job opportunities.

Specifically, Skills For Life offers these young people intensive after-school services three hours a day, five days a week that focus on career exploration, academic tutoring, computer training and finding summer employment. In addition, PHA community partners provide after-school tutoring services for children between the ages of six and 13. PHA students are recruited through a variety of outreach efforts across all levels of the housing organization.

Importantly, Skills emphasizes improvement in academic performance on standardized tests and the evaluation of the program model by an independent evaluator. That critical focus and exemplary program track record has led to PHAs selection for the grant, as indicated in the PHA award letter: [T]hrough a highly competitive process, your [PHA] application was ranked among those with the highest-quality designs and demonstrated a strong potential to improve the academic achievement of high school students.

Skills For Life has already received a Best Practices award both from the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The ambitious program has demonstrated very encouraging results in terms of student motivation and retention, school attendance and performance, grade level advancement, and enrollment in post-secondary education and occupational training. For example, of 17 senior high school Skills students in 2003, 15 were enrolled in post-secondary education, one in a Culinary Institute, and one enlisted the U.S. Navy.

The Community Technology Center Grant allows PHA to build on and expand this valuable program in order to assist more young PHA residents in gaining the academic and employment skills they will need to be self-sufficient, said PHA Executive Director Carl R. Greene. We are very grateful for this support and for the recognition that Skills for Life is accomplishing what it was designed to do.

PHAs Strategic Plan, which launched Skills along with other community-enriching programs, addresses the digital divide -- the disproportionate lack of access to information technology that low-income people experience compared with middle and upper-income people. By improving that access, Skills bridges a major gap that limits career potential for youth in public housing.

Skills assesses students learning needs prior to enrollment in the program and develops individual service plans with time-limited learning goals. Students are assigned to one of seven community-based sites in the city with a standard enrollment of 25 in a group, led by one assigned teacher and two assistants. Each student has access to a computer and to Learnscape, Inc, SkillsCompass software--a web-based, occupationally specific reading and math basic-skills-development program.

Skills For Life is a collaboration between PHA, The School District of Philadelphia, the Workforce Investment Board, Philadelphia Youth Network, the Greater Philadelphia Federation of Settlements, and the Cradle of Liberty Boys Scouts of America. The program follows The School District of Philadelphia Curriculum Framework in developing curriculum objectives. Instructional services are supplemented with case management services, including individual counseling, parent involvement, and coordination and advocacy with the school. Students are also involved in service learning projects, summer work experience, and leadership development training.

The year-round program operates at the following locations: Crusaders for Christ, Cunningham Community Center, Dixon House, Germantown Settlement, the Lighthouse and United Communities. Todays announcement and reception were held at one of those locations, the Lighthouse Settlement House at 141 W. Somerset Street.