"Ms. Judd! Ms. Judd!" the children cried out as Letisha Judd approached the small brick house off South Driver Street. I watched as the second- and third-graders ran up to hug the principal of Y.E. Smith elementary school. Judd bent down to embrace them as the children wrapped their arms around her waist.
Director David Reese, chairman Barker French and others involved in The East Durham Children's Initiative took a group of us on a tour of "the zone," Saturday. The bold program modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone, aims to weave a safety net of school, social and medical services around every child in 120 city blocks, the attendance zone of Smith, one of the school district's poorest (90 percent on subsidized meals) schools.
The EDCI has four years of planning and one year on the ground. But folks say they are already seeing successes. A new playground has been built behind United Methodist Church, (read what the pastor has to say about that); test scores and parent involvement are up at Smith.
But the walk showed the challenges that remain, including an estimated one in 10 absentee-owned houses that remain vacant and/or abandoned. The EDCI wants healthy outcomes for all its children, Reese told us. But to do that you need a healthy community. I hope you'll read our story in tomorrow's Durham News and tell us what you think. You can reach us at editor@newsobserver or just call me at 919-932-2003.