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Queens Foundation Receives Federal Grant For Astoria Houses Education Program

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The Elmezzi Foundation recently received a $500,000 grant from the federal government to pursue a new program that tracks the academic growth of young people in the Astoria Houses, and officials hope the initiative will be successful enough to make it to the next stage of a competitive process. NY1’s Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

At 41, Raymond Davis now dreams of going to college, something he never thought about growing up in the Astoria Houses.

“I love education. Education is important. I want to take up a law degree and become a paralegal,” says Davis.

He says there is a lot of poverty and crime but not enough resources to help encourage people to stay in school.

“They don't have any centers, they don’t have no academics, no nothing,” says Davis.

“It discourages the household, and what happens in the household affects the product that comes out of the household. That's our children,” says Claudia Coger of the Resident Association.

Community leaders say the lack of resources makes young people feel like the cards are stacked against them.

Bishop Mitchell Taylor runs the East River Development Alliance. It offers guidance for students looking to go to college.

“From our research, seven out of 10 African American and Latino Boys do not finish High School in Astoria Houses,” says Taylor.

Hoping to drastically change those numbers, the federal government gave the Elmezzi Foundation a half-million dollar grant to develop an educational support and tracking program for the more 1,600 young people who live in the Astoria Houses.

The foundation kicked in another $350,000, and its Zone 126 program is working on a "cradle to career" initiative.

“It allows us to gather data on children in a way that brings us to a point where we can tell the world exactly how many of these children have access to opportunities at each age group,” says Christopher Cutter, executive director of Zone 126.

Astoria Houses is one of 20 communities across the country to receive the grant, but there is no guarantee of future funding.

“It is a competitive process to reach the second stage, which could have as much as $6 million in federal funding,” says Representative Carolyn Maloney.

To get that money, Zone 126 is working with community leaders and groups to show its plan is succeeding so far.

And while the program won't help Raymond Davis, he's hoping it ends up being a success for the children in the Astoria Houses.

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