The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday awarded $6 million to Drexel University to improve opportunities and outcomes at seven schools in West Philadelphia.

The grant came as part of the department's Promise Neighborhoods competition, under which $33 million will go to support children and families nationwide.

The city schools - a mix of traditional public and charters - are West Philadelphia High; Science Leadership Academy Middle School; Locke, McMichael, Powel and Martha Washington Elementaries; and Belmont Charter School.

Three thousand Philadelphia students will benefit from the grant, officials said.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday.

"A child's zip code should never determine their destiny," King said. "We have to nurture the potential of students in every community."

A two-mile stretch of West Philadelphia encompassing Mantua and parts of Powelton, West Powelton, and Belmont was first designated a "Promise Zone" by the Obama administration in 2014. That designation brought not an influx of federal money, but instead attention and benefits, including AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, designed to help tackle the problems of persistent poverty.

Tuesday's grant advances that purpose, officials said.

In neighborhoods adjacent to the Promise Zone, the knowledge economy has fueled growth, but inside the zone, unemployment is high and opportunities are few.

The money has a clear purpose, said Lucy Kerman, Drexel's vice provost for university and community partnerships.

"Our overarching goal is to open the new economy up to our neighbors," Kerman said.

At the school level, the money will fund programs that focus on areas from prekindergarten to college and career readiness, even job placement.

It will aid academics - depending on the school's needs, it might pay for literacy help, extra coaching, after-school programs or extended learning opportunities. It will also focus on community and behavioral health needs, bringing "trauma-informed practice" to each of the schools to educate providers in the effect trauma has on students' ability to learn.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the grant would have a "transformational impact" on the schools served.

"These added investments promote a reengineered cradle-to-career pipeline and focus on increasing attendance, student performance, and using a trauma-informed approach to provide added support to children and families," Hite said in a statement.

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