Morningside Children's Partnership: Charitable foundations fund innovative educational partnership between UNT and FWISD

The University of North Texas and the Fort Worth Independent School District have teamed up with community workers on an innovative initiative to improve education and health-care access in southeast Fort Worth's economically depressed Morningside neighborhood. 

The project, known as the Morningside Children's Partnership, brings UNT researchers, school district officials and grassroots organizers together to develop a plan to improve the quality of life for children in Morningside, a 2.2-square-mile neighborhood between Interstate 35 West and Riverside Drive, south of Rosedale Avenue and north of Berry Street.

Plagued by poor housing conditions, low employment and challenged access to health care, the Morningside neighborhood has an average household income below the federal poverty line. Of the 1,800 students attending the five FWISD schools in Morningside, 75 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and nearly 60 percent are at risk for dropping out of school.

The Morningside Children's Partnership wants to find solutions that will transform the area from one where children are struggling to one where they are thriving.

The Morningside project is modeled after the successful Harlem Children's Zone in New York City, which has grown from a one-block community renewal project started in the 1990s to an independent nonprofit organization that provides thousands of families the support they need to combat extreme poverty, violent crime and health issues, according to HCZ's website.

Work on the Morningside Children's Partnership began in August, thanks to generous support from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation. The foundations contributed nearly $474,000 to fund the first part of the project over a nine month period.

UNT's College of Education Lecturer John Brooks is collecting data for the project, such as test scores and graduation rates as well as infant mortality rates and information on housing, businesses and crime.

"The Richardson and Rainwater foundations deserve praise for putting their faith in the people of Fort Worth," Brooks said. "The strategies and success of this partnership will touch young lives and show the children of this neighborhood that the American dream is attainable though high-quality education."

Data collection and planning are due to be completed in May. At that time, project leaders and community members will use the findings to create a five-year intervention plan for the neighborhood.

"The Morningside Children's Partnership is a truly collaborative effort," Brooks said. "The residents of the Morningside community are actively involved in the development of a plan that will identify the best solutions for raising the performance of children in school."

Brooks said he hopes the five-year plan that results from the Morningside Children's Partnership changes lives and awakens a renewal in this area of Fort Worth.

For more information about the Morningside Children's Partnership, visit the website.

-Jaime Blanton, Publication specialist for integrated fundraising communications

And don't miss the "Morning in Morningside" story from Fort Worth Weekly.