Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas Tell Our Story: Downtown Achieves


The past few months provided an exceptional opportunity to bring clarity and direction to how we can help children in and around the downtown Las Vegas core through public education. We created an active dialogue between educators, school administrators, and leaders from a variety of sectors throughout our community. The results of these conversations has led to Downtown Achieves – a collective impact demonstration zone – designed to improve the academic outcomes of children within a geographically isolated area, study the outcomes, and then replicate what works and course correct when necessary. On August 8, more than 120 community leaders made a commitment to support the schools within Downtown Achieves. The working session was designed to solicit feedback on the proposed vision and to develop strategies for future efforts.

Principal Interview Summary

Community Leaders were asked to conduct a semi-formal interview with the principals of 20 schools located within and around the downtown core. The purpose of the interviews was to solicit informal information from principles about opportunities for improvement in each of the identified sectors, and engage principals and community leaders to solicit support and buy-in. The interviews, which finished in late August, were not a stringent or academic approach to collecting data, but the results are intended to drive conversation and help define the goals for Downtown Achieves.

Parenting classes, after-school programs, school facilities, and housing donations came up most frequently. An evaluation team is meeting to identify a scope of work for an academic needs assessment and follow-up evaluative services for any programmatic and systems changes. Additionally, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Education has taken a first step in organizing professors around the development of the needs assessment and evaluation criteria. Efforts will be concentrated on schools in two feeder patterns, starting with 7 elementary schools and 5,000 kids.

Community Commitments

Downtown Achieves is a collaboration of many different organizations and leaders. A small group of partner organizations (City of Las Vegas, Clark County School District, Public Education Foundation, Teach For America, Communities in Schools, The Andson Foundation) began meeting on a regular basis to identify a targeted approach for achievement in downtown schools. At the same time, community leader Gard Jameson organized a small group of individuals—The Jameson Fellows—to host a leadership program for leaders in the sectors identified above. The intent was for these community leaders to drive systemic change by supporting the efforts of the Las Vegas Healthy Communities Coalition (LVHCC), an initiative of the United Way of Southern Nevada. Finally, the LVHCC was working towards the identification of a pilot project to demonstrate the value of a Collective Impact Effort. The three separate collaborative efforts have joined forces and are supporting Downtown Achieves. Over the past several months, the collective effort has grown to many more organizations that have demonstrated an interest in participating in the collective impact model.

On August 8, we asked community leaders to make a bold commitment to academic success for students within Downtown Achieves. Those individuals who represent organizations were asked to look at resources within their control and their ability to align those resources around the academic success of children.

Partners and Resources

Brian Knudsen

• Coordinating Downtown Achieves and forming a leadership council for ongoing efforts.

• Supporting the engagement of City Year in Las Vegas and Downtown Achieves.

• Supporting efforts to ensure every child in Downtown Achieves is enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid, if eligible.

• Promoting the work of Teach For America, Communities in Schools, Public Education Foundation, Andson Foundation, and After-School All Stars.

• Promoting the research and evaluation efforts of Downtown Achieves by working closely with UNLV.

Children's Advocacy Alliance
“I will commit to ensuring that every child in DA has access to high-quality, early childhood learning opportunities.”

Spread the Word Nevada
• “As funding allows growth – 1st priority to adoption of DA elementary school not yet served by us. We are currently in 2 of the 7 – Twin Lakes & Lake.”

• “Our Summer Reading program commits to targeting neighborhoods of elementary Downtown Achieves Schools.”

• “Analyze amounts of available MS & HS books we have accessible and target giving them to Downtown Achieves middle and high schools for homes of kids.”

Teacher's Union
• “Applying for funding for teachers to conduct home visits.”

The Mob Museum
• “Develop virtual learning opportunities for students.”

• “Offer space to groups.”

• “Offer museum internships to students.”

• “Develop formal mentorship program pairing Zappo’s employees with downtown students.”

• “Adopt a school a year, determine needs, fundraise, volunteer, etc.”

Outside Las Vegas Foundation
• “Working to expand outdoor programming with After School All Stars – Can we align and expand to Fremont?”

• “School programming in schools / after-schools / after-school programming. Partnering with other programs to do so.”

• “Supporting open space / engaging community efforts in creating and interacting with those spaces.”

• “Environmental education exchange.”

City Year

• “Extended learning before and after school. City Year will provide the people before and after school.”

• “Local business outreach – walk-abouts to give flyers to businesses, which can lead to in-kind donations.”

• “Calls to parents with positive examples of what their kids are doing – not just calls about bad stuff.”

Downtown Project
• “Open facilities for Homework hour / After-school options.”

• “Already doing family game night.”

Las Vegas – Clark County Library District
• "Family place at West Las Vegas Library.”

• “Help HUD with wireless strategy.”

• "Train people on resources available.”

Hunter Group
• “Core Values creation in each school to create positive school cultures.”

• “Mentoring.”

• “Networking.”

Communities in Schools
• “Establish out program in as many Downtown Achieves Schools as we are able to secure funding for.”

• “Actively seek additional funding to expand our schools served.”

• “Actively spread the message of the importance of Collective Impact, Community Collaboration.”

Miracle Mile Shops
• “Commit to moving my company’s community resources to financially support after-school educational programs like Andson Foundation, After-School All-Stars, Communities in Schools[...].”

• “Teacher appreciation events to support teacher morale [...].”

• "Job shadow programs with my company executives [...].”

Brandon Wiegand
• “How can we better utilize and engage our HOA’s with school district and community resources to support early childhood learning and access to learning opportunities?” • “How do we better design and accommodate communities?” • “Commit to volunteering to PAYBAC a minimum of once per year.”

Andson Foundation
“Andson can work with principals, counselors, and faculty to make sure every child who needs academic support can receive it.”

Jenny Yu
• “Participate in PAYBAC every year.”

• “Provide sustainability tours to students.”

• “Pitch to HR to promote the importance of education to our team members who are also parents.”

Desert Reign Foundation
“Desert Reign is willing to teach parents and students the value of living a healthy and active lifestyle through daily physical activity. This is done through learning camps before and after school, and over weekends and summer break.”

The Public Education Foundation
• “The Public Education Foundation is committed to providing the programs or resources needed through Foundation initiatives to schools in Downtown Achieves."

• "I commit to offer my skills and the resources of the PEF to focus on the success of the DA Project.”

Nevada Institute for Children’s research and Policy (NICRP)
“I will commit NICRP to providing input into data collection and metrics for program evaluation and collaborate and coordinate with other staff / faculty at UNLV.”

Nevada Partners
“Will commit to leveraging the Graduate Advocate Initiative at Western and Valley High Schools.”

The Public Education Foundation
• “Design best practices for learning environment.”

• “Steer MSW into downtown zone.”

• “Enrichment programs.”

• “Steer psych majors practicum placement into zone.”

• “Develop 528 promise zone.”

• “We can offer needs assessments and evaluations to help focus the scope of the project e.g. logic model.”

• “We can offer students and faculty to support service learning to address immediate student needs.”

Regional Transportation Commission
• “RTC will meet with principals to define transportation needs • “RTC will undertake a “mentor challenge”

• “RTC will commit to exploring funding.”

The Smith Center
“Continuing CCSD partnership / Communicating with school principals the opportunity to ensuring the arts for any given child initiative with the Kennedy Center.”

The ongoing community conversations that have taken place over the past several months have been exciting to say the least, and the commitments and brainstorming session around strategies provides a framework from which to start the next stages of Downtown Achieves – Action!

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  • Thanks for sharing - particularly curious about the Spread the Word program! Look forward to learning more.

    Betsy Rubiner, the GLR Network's community manager.

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