Residents of South Madison say lack of adult support is the single thing most likely to hold their kids back from fulfilling their potential in a survey conducted for the South Madison Promise Zone project that will be released Wednesday at a community meeting.
Thirty-eight percent of the 271 respondents to a question about what holds back kids living on the city’s south side said that lack of adult support was the most important thing. Other respondents pointed to: lack of academic skills, 18 percent; poverty, 15 percent; kids’ attitudes, 12 percent; children’s health, 9 percent; and the educational system, 3 percent. Five percent of respondents said that nothing will hold their children back.
Some parents told survey takers that they know they’re not giving their kids what they need, but they’re doing the best they can.
“We are poor, stressed out and do not know much English. We know that our children do suffer a little. But we are loving parents. So at least they get that from us,” said one.
That’s from a sampling of survey results that Promise Zone director Peng Her sent along to give me an idea of the findings that will be discussed at Get It Right Night, 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lincoln Elementary School, 911 Sequoia Trail.
Even a taste of the survey results suggests a fascinating, nuanced picture of a part of the city where a lot of public and private resources long have been invested.
You might remember hearing about the Madison Promise Zone at the time it was launched by the Urban League of Greater Madison. The idea, based on the successful Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, was to develop cradle-to-college support to help people living in what has historically been one of Madison’s most diverse and low-income neighborhoods succeed.
“Often times people in authority tend to think they know what is best for our communities of color and then create programs based on what they know,” Her said in a statement. “We wanted a different approach. We wanted to ask residents what challenges and aspirations they have and then mobilize service providers together with residents to identify solutions.”
Promise Zone surveyed 468 residents of the Bram’s Addition, Burr Oaks, and Capitol View neighborhoods, as well 32 providers of social services in the area, about what stands in the way of progress and what would help residents get where they want to go in their lives. Residents also will be asked to serve on action committees that will recommend solutions to problems identified in the Promise Zone report.
Ethnic groups split on some questions. For example, more African-Americans identified service providers as the best thing about the neighborhood for raising kids, than Latino, Caucasian and Asian respondents, who pointed to schools as a more important part of the picture.
But survey respondents from all ethnic groups reported that safety was their number one concern in their neighborhoods: that was true for 64 percent of Latinos, 57 percent of African-Americans, 47 percent of Caucasians and 33 percent of Asians.
Yet comments included with the survey answers suggest that “safety” meant different things to different people, Her said.
For example, one African-American resident pointed to a lack of jobs that left young people hanging out on the street. A Caucasian resident pointed to buildings that need renovation. And an Asian said that his part of the neighborhood is safer now because most of the African-Americans have moved away.
“We need to work on understanding the different cultural norms of the different ethnicit(ies) that make (South) Madison one of the most diverse areas of the city. There is a lot of misunderstanding,” Her told me.
In the Promise Zone, at least, people are beginning to bring the preconceptions out into the open.