A dose of hope for an Indy neighborhood desperate for change

By David McGuire

I am rooting for the success of two important projects just announced here in Indianapolis.

Martin University announced plans to launch a school of education geared towards recruiting students interested in teaching PreK to 5th grade. The launch of the school will coincide with the 2018 launch of the Martindale Brightwood Education Zone, which is also sponsored by the university and a variety of community partners including the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office.

Martin University was founded in 1977 by the late Rev.  Boniface Hardin and Sister Jane Schilling as a university to serve low-income, minority, and adult learners. Since 1987 Martin University has called the Martindale Brightwood area home.

The education zone project is focused on changing the socioeconomic status of the residents in the Martindale Brightwood neighborhood. The zone will include healthcare opportunities for families, a school, and daycare services. The educational zone will seek to provide wraparound services to ensure the overall success of residents in the neighborhood.

The school of education hopes to teach and inspire a new generation of urban teachers with the goal of placing minority teachers at the elementary level. This will be Martin University’s first foray into teacher prep, with the goal of creating a program centered around high expectations of achievement and developing the mindset of teachers dedicated to seeing young people flourish.

Former Indianapolis Public School Superintendent Dr. Eugene White, now president of Martin University, said this about the initiative:

Martin University plans to extend its beacon to the entire neighborhood by creating a culture of educational excellence and improving the quality of life for all residents.”

As a teacher committed to growing the ranks of black male teachers, I’m excited about the potential of a new program to usher in a new generation of educators in our city. Our work at the Educate ME Foundation has been focused on raising awareness around this issue.

That said, I do think Martin University will face an uphill battle with attracting students of color to attend Martin University for a new teacher preparation program. What will Martin University offer students to attract them away from traditional university programs such as Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Marian University, which also focus on training urban teachers and can provide a traditional campus atmosphere that Martin cannot? Perhaps they can overcome this by developing strong “grow-your-own” partnerships with neighborhood high schools to create a pipeline for aspiring teachers.

The Martindale Brightwood Education Zone is extremely important to changing the socioeconomic outcomes for many residents in that community. This northeast Indianapolis community is plagued by poverty and crime, and these wraparound programs could fulfill a real need and bring hope for improvement. This project is not a quick fix, nor a temporary solution.

This project, modeled after the renowned Harlem Children’s Zone, is geared towards correcting generations of poverty and despair. The fruits of this project may not be seen for decades, but when those fruits finally flourish, we will see a change in a community that is desperate for a change.

This project is the beginning of a transformation process for this community. It gives our younger generation an opportunity to rise out of the depths of poverty and hardship and step into a life of promise and hope.