For the past year, there has been talk of the “Evansville Promise Neighborhood” on campus.  As the University of Evansville promotes this initiative, natural questions may be raised about what a Promise Neighborhood is and why UE and the Evansville community are involved.

Promise Neighborhoods were established during the Obama Administration and were inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone. They replicate a system of support that brings equitable opportunities to everyone in the neighborhood. This initiative is supported by a $30 million grant that is distributed over 5 years from the United States Department of Education.  

A group of individuals in the Evansville community came together to apply for this competitive grant. Despite three unsuccessful attempts in the past, the team continued to pursue this opportunity. Each time, they gathered valuable insights from each application.  

In the final two attempts, UE’s Center for Innovation & Change (CIC) was coordinating the efforts of the Evansville Promise Neighborhood Core Team. In March 2023, CIC Executive Director Erin Lewis found out that UE’s application had been chosen as one of the three recipients nationwide for a Promise Neighborhood Grant for 2023. The one year anniversary of the grant being awarded is approaching in just a few weeks.

The overarching goal of the Evansville Promise Neighborhood (EPN) is to provide children and youth with high-quality programs and services and a strong community support system. This is to ensure this community is set up for a successful future. EPN’s programming will impact all residents within the census tracts, ensuring care and support for the whole household, not just individuals.

23 community partners make up the EPN network, and they are providing more than 65 programs and services that will provide targeted, evidence-based solutions to advance the pipeline goals: 

  1. Early childhood home visiting
  2. High-quality early childhood education
  3. Free early literacy resources for families
  4. Free adult learning programs for parents and caregivers
  5. Prenatal and early childhood medical care
  6. Chronic absenteeism and dropout prevention programs
  7. High-quality, in-school academic support programs
  8. High-quality, outside-of-school-time programs
  9. School social work services
  10. High School Equivalency and Job Skill Support
  11. Post-secondary preparation, coaching, and exploration programs
  12. Workforce readiness preparation, coaching, and exploration programs
  13. Neighborhood-based employment and job skills assistance
  14. Access to and distribution of health resources, nutrition education, and healthy food
  15. Family stability programs
  16. Neighborhood revitalization
  17. Community safety and violence prevention


EPN builds upon UE’s commitment to understanding and serving the needs of the local community. Through the EPN initiative, the entire UE community can realize a cross-disciplinary civic mission.  

Students and other UE community members have the unique opportunity to get involved with EPN through ChangeLab courses. These projects – led by teams at the schools – will address the unique needs of the EPN through a co-design process with EPN children, families, and educators.

Guided by UE student and faculty ChangeLabs, students in EPN schools will learn design thinking skills and collaborate with community members to put these ideas into action. According to the Center for Innovation and Change, this may include school vegetable gardens, sidewalks, art, dance wellness programs, fitness trails, debate programs, and more. 

Unsure about what a ChangeLab course entails? A ChangeLab is an opportunity for students to gain class credit by working on projects that make a real difference in the real world. These projects often complement classroom experiences and provide hands-on learning opportunities. ChangeLabs always ties back to what students are truly passionate about. 

ChangeLabs are open to all students. If the Evansville Promise Neighborhood mission speaks to you, or you think you have a project that could connect or support, reach out to or stop by the Center for Innovation & Change, located upstairs in Ridgway University Center.  


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