In the sanctuary of Kingdom Manifesters Church in southeast Fort Worth, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, principals, preachers, university professors, high school students, leaders of large foundations, Spanish interpreters and others are meeting.At one table, youth league football coach Patrick Brown is engaged in loud, animated conversation, with "amens" sprinkled in as heads nod approval. Across the sanctuary, tears well up in a single mother's eyes as she describes the help she received from school personnel when her house burned.The Morningside Children's Partnership has brought these people together.The goal is for every child within a 2.2-mile radius in the near southside to receive a high-quality education and, in turn, improve the quality of life for every resident in the community.Starting with prenatal care, every child will be nurtured academically, socially and emotionally through the educational system. They will receive support from the health community, service organizations and individuals who will mentor then and provide opportunities beyond their neighborhood.Those involved in the early stages of the effort having started referring to the project as a movement that will change the community."People will see the power we possess when we come together for the benefit of our children," said Pastor R.J. McGinty of the Community Missionary Baptist Church."Movement indicates it is perpetual while a project has an end date," said Benita Allen, a longtime resident whose children have attended Fort Worth public schools. "We don't plan on stopping at the end of five years or 10 years."The partners in this school reform movement are the Morningside community, the Fort Worth school district, the University of North Texas, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and the Sid Richardson Foundation.The program is targeting O.D. Wyatt High School and its feeder schools: Morningside Middle School and Carroll Peak, Briscoe and Morningside elementaries.The neighborhood is among the city's neediest, encompassing more than 8,000 residents, and the average family income is less than $20,000 for a family of four. The infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the city, and major grocery stores are miles away. Two of the five schools were rated "academically unacceptable" the last year of Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing.The hurdles faced by children in the Morningside community are not unique to Fort Worth. Many in our country face the same things when poverty is part of their lives. But Fort Worth has decided to provide a vehicle for the children and families to improve their conditions.Thursday, the Morningside Children's Partnership is holding the first in a series of town hall meetings to gather community input and ideas. Those will go into formulating a five-year plan that will identify and leverage resources to create great schools and a safer community and see children and families flourish in the partnership area."We need more people that can mentor children. We need businesses that will provide jobs," said Walter Rainwater of the Rainwater Foundation. "We need everyone from each family in the community to our elected officials, school personnel, philanthropists and the Fort Worth business community to get involved in something that we can take citywide and be a model for change."Andrew Chambers is director of educational services for the Morningside Children's Partnership.
Morningside Town Hall Meeting
5:30-8 p.m. Thursday at Morningside Middle School, 2751 Mississippi Ave., Fort Worth