The School of Government and the Kenan Institute at the University of North Carolina collaborated recently to create a strategic business plan for Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc., a nonprofit community collaborative organization modeled after the highly successful Harlem Children’s Zone in New York.  Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. is focused on serving children and families in an 80-block area in East Kinston, NC and an additional 18-block area in a neighborhood called Mitchelltown.  The organization works through existing community-based programs to create a continuum of “cradle-through-college” solutions to improve the academic and developmental outcomes for children at all stages of growth: early learning, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.

Kinston Promise Neighborhood partners have been operating since April 2010 with a dedicated leader and a small group of community volunteers.  Through the business planning process, we were able to articulate the vision and structure of the organization in a single document.  We also outlined a 5-year implementation plan to formalize and grow the organization; however, the bulk of the work will take place in Year 1.  In fact, one of the first key steps for implementation will kick off later this month.  Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. will soon begin work with a group of researchers from Tufts University to conduct a comprehensive youth needs assessment in the target area.  This needs assessment is sponsored by the America’s Promise GradNation Communities program.

Other key implementation steps for Year 1 will include hiring staff, recruiting a strong Board of Directors, and, of course, raising funds.  The business plan outlines key staff positions, including job responsibilities, as well as recommendations for Board composition and governance.  The business plan also outlines projected financials for Years 1-5 of operations and provides a clear competitive analysis and risk analysis that can be reviewed by potential Board members or funders.  The strategic business plan provides an important road map for Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. to move forward boldly and intentionally.  With a strategic business plan in hand, the organization can really begin to expand their work, formalize operations, and increase their impact on children and families in East Kinston.

For more information on Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. visit

Betsy Robeson holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC.

Here is a wonderful article that Betsy Robeson, a CED intern and MBA graduate  from UNC Chapel Hill.
Betsy has been working with us to develop a business plan for the Kinston Promise Neighborhood.  
It is our hope that the Business Plan will help us to take our work to the next level.


Kinston Promise is a comprehensive approach to educating children and strengthening families in the town of Kinston, a mid-size community in eastern North Carolina. An organization, Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc.,  works through existing community-based programs to create a continuum of “cradle-through-college” solutions to improve the academic and developmental outcomes for children at all stages of growth: early learning, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.

Once a vibrant community, the East Kinston neighborhood was devastated by inland flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  Many residents in the area were displaced when their homes were destroyed and the county was forced to purchase a large amount of condemned property.  East Kinston today has become known for high crime rates, public housing, food deserts, and low-performing schools.  

The city of Kinston has invested significant time and resources in improving the Martin Luther King, Jr. corridor which passes through the East Kinston community; however, city initiatives have focused primarily on attracting new development and private investment in the area.  The vision of Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. is to provide a comprehensive network of resources so that all children growing up in the East Kinston Promise Neighborhood will have access to effective schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and career.       

The Kinston Promise Neighborhood model is based on the highly successful Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), developed by Geoffrey Canada in the early 1990’s.  The figure below illustrates the HCZ and Kinston Promise Neighborhood service model.

In his first term, President Barack Obama highlighted the successful work of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone by developing a Promise Neighborhood Initiative, under the Department of Education, which would provide communities across the nation the resources to replicate the HCZ model.

As outlined by the Department of Education, a Promise Neighborhood organization should break down agency “silos,” which means ensuring that multiple public agencies at all levels work together to share information, plan jointly, focus on improving outcomes, and ensure that outcomes are shared, communicated, and analyzed on an on-going basis.  To that end, Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. will monitor existing programs and ensure continuity from grade to grade.  The organization will review current program offerings and ensure adequate programming exists across five core areas (academics, mentoring, health, safety, and service) at each of the major developmental stages.  Finally, Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. will manage data collection and facilitate data sharing across all Promise Neighborhood community partners to ensure that no child or family falls through the cracks.

The Promise Neighborhood grant process has been highly competitive.  Despite tireless work by Executive Director Theresa Williams-Bethea and a collection of community partners, Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. has not yet been able to secure funding from the Department of Education; however, Ms. Williams-Bethea and a team of community organizers are committed to strengthening and growing a Promise Neighborhood in the East Kinston community in line with the goals of the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhood Initiative.

With support from the Community-Campus Partnership, I will be working with Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. to create a business plan and a strategic roadmap to help launch the initiative into its next phase of work.  Witha business plan and strategic roadmap in hand, Kinston Promise Neighborhood will be better equipped to pursue private funding, begin Board development, and strengthen community engagement.

Betsy Robeson holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC.
The Kinston Youth Enrichment Project is sponsoring Camp Promise 2012, “Science, Self-Esteem and Service,” a summer enrichment program for students in grades 6-8 from July 16-31, 2012. The free enrichment camp will meet daily from 9 a.m. to noon on the campus of Rochelle Middle School, which is located at 301 N. Rochelle Blvd. in Kinston, N.C.

Kinston Youth Enrichment Project recently received $2,500  funding from the NASA Summer of Innovation mini-grant program to offer NASA-themed, science enrichment activities for camp participants.  The session will include lessons such as “Learning the Wright Way to Fly,” and “Robotics Hands Down,” an introduction to Robotics.

Other camp sessions include:  “Take 5 and Read,” a literacy program with free book distributions from the Bluford Series and Artemis Fowl series for middle school readers; Introduction to Photography with Peter Eversoll; SETCLAE activities (Self-Esteem through Culture Leads to Academic Excellence); 4-H Project Alert presented by Lenoir County Center for Cooperative Extension; Zumba sessions with Takeema Blackwell Parson; and  Childhood Obesity and Home Health presentations by the UNC Institute for the Environment.  Students also will design and implement a community service project.

K’Von Williams, a 2011 Camp Promise participant said the camp offered an opportunity to have fun while learning.  “I feel as if we do things that other camps don’t do,” K’Von said. “I have learned about my culture.  I have made new friends.  I have been fed great meals each day.  I have also been awarded with prizes for my good behavior and character.  This experience is something that I can use to help me become a successful person in life.”

Students attending the camp also will be able to participate in the Summer Feeding Program sponsored by Lenoir County Public Schools.  Breakfast and lunch will be available to students daily in the school cafeteria.

The Kinston Youth Enrichment is a program of Young Women of Promise, which was founded in 2001 by Kinston native Theresa Williams.  “Camp Promise is designed to provide academic enrichment for our students during the summer when opportunities for academic stimulation are limited,” Williams said.

The camp is free, but pre-registration is required before Wednesday, July 11, 2012.  For more information, contact Theresa Williams at 252-378-8918. Applications can be requested by sending an e-mail to or downloaded from the calendar page at

Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Inc. (KPN) will sponsor, “Grants for Learning,” a grant writing workshop on Monday, July 9, 2012  from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Kinston Enterprise Center located at 327 N. Queen Street, Kinston, NC.

The “Grants for Learning” workshop will introduce teachers and other education professionals to the grant writing process and provide resource information on how to obtain grant funding to support classroom instruction and educational activities.

The workshop cost is $10.00 to cover expenses for printed materials and resource listing. For additional information, please e-mail to request an application or complete contact form below. . Pre-registration is required for this workshop.  The registration deadline is Tuesday, July 3, 2012.   

Workshop presenters include Kinston Promise Neighborhood volunteer leader Theresa Ann Williams and Brenda Griffin, a fourth grade teacher at Southeast Elementary School.

Theresa Williams is a Kinston native and nonprofit consultant with over 20 years grant writing experience.  She has written successful grant proposals to Youth Service America,  NC Department of Social Services TANF After-school Grant program; NC Department of Public Instruction 21st Century Learning Centers; NC Committee on Dropout Prevention; NC Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission,  Points of Light Foundation; Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation;   NC DPI Learn and Serve America, Compassion Capital Fund;  Southern Partners Fund, Philip Morris USA;  Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Open Society Institute, Bridge Builders Foundation,  Bank of America Foundation, North Carolina Civic Education Consortium,  National Alliance of Faith and Justice and more.

Brenda Griffin has been a 4th grade teacher at Southeast Elementary School for 7 years.  She has also taught 4th grade for 14 years at Bethel Christian Academy in Kinston. 

Brenda uses her writing talents to secure funding for programs to benefit her students and her school. Her  successful grant applications have included:
North Carolina Grassroots Arts Grant; NCCTM (North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics);  Target Field Trip Grant; Lenoir County Community Foundation Grant; Bisquick Pancake Nation Grant; Dollar General Literacy; and Lenoir County Education Foundation Mini-Grant

    Please complete form below and an application will be e-mailed to you.

I have had the opportunity to reflect over the past two weeks about the Camp Promise summer enrichment experience that we provided for our students in the Project Promise Mentoring Alliance programs.  Our students have already expressed interest in a camp experience for this year and so we are looking at possible options to help make it happen.

In the meantime, I would like to share some of the comments/reflections that some of our participants wrote about last summer's Camp Promise.

Kieanna, a student at Greene County Middle School

Camp Promise means making promises and sticking to them and it's all about learning new
things, making new friends and advice on what you should do and not . It's all about being
true to yourself and never giving up on what you believe in. I have also learned math
strategies and I learned African language and about our African Americans heroes and what they did.

On my first day of camp I was a bit shy then when I started to see people I knew from the
Saturday Academy, then I started to open my mouth and talk to new and old faces and now I have lots of friends and all the girls in my group are my friends and most of them are from the program on Saturday
and my old classmate Alexis is in my group and she made friends like I did. So I'm glad I go to Camp Promise!

Michael, a student at Rochelle Middle School

To me,  Camp Promise means a lot.  It is more than just a camp.  It is a place where you learn
important lessons that will carry you a long way.  I will always remember this camp for what it has done for me.

Camp Promise is full of people who care for others and there's not too many people in the world like
that.  We need to use this experience to our advantage. 

We also get extra help in math and reading.  We get to go on trips, enjoy arts and crafts and make new

Destinee a student at Kinston Charter Academy

To me, Camp Promise means having more confidence in myself.  When I first  came to camp, I saw some old faces and I saw some new ones.

I am a Kinston Charter Academy  student and the teachers encouraged me to meet and get to know students from other schools.

I have really enjoyed Camp Promise.

K'Von, a student at Rochelle Middle School

Camp Promise is an opportunity to have fun while learning each day of camp. I feel as if we do things that other camps don't  do. I have been able to enjoy playing basketball.  The church has a recreation room where we can go and play.  I have learned about my culture.

I have made new friends.  I have been fed great meals each day.  I have also been awarded with prizes for my good behavior and character. 

This experience is something that I can use to help me become a successful person in life.

I have really enjoyed Camp Promise.


I was recently invited to share my thoughts on Community Engagement and the involvement of youth in our communities for publication in the America's Promise national e-newsletter.

Why is it important for young people to be involved in their

PPMA seventh grade students were recently invited to answer the above question.
Some of their responses are included below.

  It is important because it helps people in our community.  

Community service keeps students from  getting into trouble and they will stay on task.

It will give them a chance to see what  goes on in their community.

Because if you are involved in your community, you have a less chance of being on drugs.

 So they can  make the world a better place.

 Because you should help your community and help the people in your community.

 It  is important so I can make my community better and safer.

It helps the community to be united, and it shows  effort that you are trying to do something with the

It is important for young people to be involved in their community because we need to keep the community clean.

Youth should be involved because they need to know  what they are going to be looking forward to, and be
ready for life.

Youth can help make the community  better.

If we start now, we will know  what to do later.

 I am involved in my community  so that I can make the world a better place.

 It is important to work in  your community because you need a better environment and community.

 It is important because we can  make a change in our community.

 It is important because it  helps you interact with people that you do not know and people that you do  know.

Being involved in my community  is important because it will help me be a great leader. 

It is important because we're  the next generation and we want our community to be better.





I am a student with a promising future,
I promise to be smoke and drug free;
I promise to live up to my full potential;
I promise to be respectful of others;
I promise to make a difference in my community; and
I promise to be successful in life.

Why is the Student Promise important to my future educational goals?

The student pledge influences me to do what is best for me, therefore I won't get in trouble. I will make good grades.

The student pledge lets me know what to do as a young lady.

It is important for my goals because I want a good scholarship to go to college.

The student promise is important because I can live a good life and have faith in myself.

The student promise encourages us to do our best and helps us achieve our goals to be successful.

The student promise allows me to think hard about my life, and become the things that I am saying.

It  helps me stay out of bad stuff and helps me focus on my work.

The  student promise pushes me to want to do better than I do.

Because if I follow the student pledge, I will be on the  right track and give me a head start on life.

 The  student promise helps me to get ready for my future and life success.

The  student promise makes me want to work hard to meet my educational  goals.

 The  student promise reminds me to have a wonderful life.

The  student promise is a guide to life.

 The student promise is important to my educational goals because it motivates me to do good in school.

 The  student promise is important because I want to go to college and become  something when I grow up and live on my own.

The  student promise is important because if I follow this, then I'll be successful  in life.


 On Thursday, April 26, Project  Promise Mentoring Alliance participants at Rochelle Middle School received a  special visit and motivational message from Kinston attorney, and PPMA supporter  and friend, James "Jimbo" Perry.  Mr. Perry has known many of the students since  they were third graders and participants in the Little by Little program at  Southeast Elementary School.

Jimbo was one of the founders of the Little by Little literacy and mentoring program that started at Southeast Elementary School.  Littel by Little scholarship allows our program participants to earn scholarship dollars each quarter for academic achievement and behavior recognition. A few students have already earned close to $1,000 which they can collect after high school graduation and entrance into college.

This week's Wonderful Wednesday  also includes the "Voices of Youth," as our  youth completed program surveys  this week.  Some of the questions and their answers are in separate blog entries.


Submitted by Danyala, Kids2College Program Participant

Since I was a little girl, my Mother has always encouraged me to dream big and to know that 
God has a plan for my life. She has encouraged me to try new things and to give 
it my all. She promised to always be proud as long as I give it my best. She 
taught me at an early age what God's words say. "Philippians 4:13, "I can do
all  things through Christ which strengthens me." Let's just say I've been
dreaming  big for a long time and college is a must!!!

I come from a family full of Ministers, musicians and singers. Music has been a part of my
  life since birth! My mom says she used to listen to music and sing to me before
  I was born. I love all types of music and singing, so studying music would be
my  first choice. I would choose vocals.
Along with loving to sing, I love to be around children, babies mostly. I think I
  would enjoy caring for and taking care of them. If the singing career didn't
  work, I would choose to be a doctor. A pediatrician, working with the children,
  I would like that.

 I know whichever career I choose, I would need to  further my education. My mom was so excited to hear
that I was chosen to be a  part of the Kids2College program. This is the very
thing she has prayed and  encouraged me for, to be a part of something great. To
open me up to the  opportunity to go to college. She was the best for me and I
want to be able to  succeed for her and myself.

College will inspire me to learn stuff that I  don't already know. It will inspire me to do my best. It
will give me great joy  to say, "Mom, you are looking at Dr. Spencer," know that
she will be so proud of  me. I believe I can do just that!!!