The Promise Neighborhood Initiative was designed to duplicate the success of New York's Harlem Children Zone, a "cradle-to-career" program started by educator Geoffrey Canada.

In January, Kenny Gamble's Universal Companies was one of only 21 organizations around the country to receive a $500,000 "planning grant" to develop a Promise Neighborhood Initiative for the Grays Ferry and Point Breeze neighborhoods.

However the planning grant, which Universal matched with another $500,000, doesn't guarantee Universal will win the additional money from the feds to implement its program.

The Universal Promise Neighborhood includes some 290 blocks bounded by Broad Street on the east, Snyder Avenue on the south, Washington Avenue on the north and Grays Ferry Avenue/the Schuylkill Expressway on the west.

Universal said its goals are to:

* Transform chronically failing schools. Universal is slated to operate Audenried High School and Vare Middle School as charters next year and also provide leadership to district-run Promise Academies the Alcorn School (K-8) and Smith Elementary.

* Develop a strategy to provide social services for all students.

* Designate school-based early-childhood centers.

* For 12th-graders, provide immediate connection to the labor market and higher education.

* Improve educational and career opportunities for adults.

-Valerie Russ