In spring of 2012, the National Forum was invited to partner with Focus: HOPE to create a research project about education attainment and culture in the community. Focus: HOPE is a civil rights organization founded in 1968 that serves the community in the HOPE Village neighborhood of Detroit. For over forty years, Focus: HOPE has served as an advocacy, service and educational organization with a national and regional imprint. The research project seeks to address one of Focus: HOPE’s central aspirations: to strengthen the culture of educational attainment for neighborhood youth and families. Our project is one of six in the HOPE Village Initiative (HVI), a multilevel collaborative effort between the HOPE Village community through Focus: HOPE and the University of Michigan.
We are convinced that for community building to be sustainable it must be rooted in active, authentic and broadly endorsed community participation and leadership. Therefore, our primary deliverables are structured around prioritizing local narratives. We agreed to work with community residents in reflecting on their own goals and aspirations and in organizing to achieve them through the following four deliverables:
(1) Conducting a series of structured community dialogues around education and educational culture,
(2) Developing a “pre-service” orientation for all college students planning to engage with the community (through volunteer work, academic projects, etc.),
(3) Preparing for a local college access network (LCAN) in the community, and
(4) Creating a community asset map that describes the community in educational terms and documents efforts in the immediate community and in local schools that are oriented to strengthening the college going culture.