A new facility being built in the Summit Lake neighborhood will provide a number of services to all ages, from computer classes and job training to pre-kindergarten programs for children.
Construction recently began on the Summit Lake Family Opportunity Center, which will be built adjacent to the city's recreation center on West Crosier Street and will weave together a "matrix" of family services for those who need it most.
"This will not just be an AMHA facility," said Tony O'Leary, executive director of the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). "This is geared to serve the entire Summit Lake Community."
Residents from area public housing may take the Towpath trail to get to the soon-to-be-built facility, but it's open to all community members in Summit Lake, O'Leary added.
The project is made possible by a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to AMHA.
The collaborative nature of this project can very well be a model that other cities may follow, said Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, who spoke at a ceremony today celebrating the construction of the Family Opportunity Center.
"For us, education is not a K to 12 single entity," said Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James. "It's a continuum." Success with kindergarten, he said, begins when a child is born.
The new facility will include four Head Start classrooms, two Akron Public School kindergarten classrooms and two adult learning classrooms, along with client meeting rooms.
Programs and services also will align with AMHA's focus on early childhood development and education, including Head Start classes, story times provided by the Akron-Summit County Public Library, Greenleaf Family Center's SPARK Ohio program for low-income families and the Incredible Years program, provided by Child Guidance and Family Solutions to address positive parenting strategies for children through age 6.
In addition, AMHA's Early Childhood Initiative will offer the Parents as Teachers home visitation services for outreach.
"We don't get to pick our parents," said Plusquellic, who added that many children in our community aren't getting the one-on-one education from their parents that others get. "Those kids who didn't get to pick their parents, who happen to have a bad draw, need the support system that this facility will provide."
"I was a product of AMHA housing, the Akron Public Schools and Summit Lake," said Akron Ward 5 City Councilman Ken Jones. "So I'm excited about a project like this, when there's an endeavor between AMHA, the city of Akron and Akron Public Schools."
A grant also was provided by GAR Foundation to hire consultant Brenda Westbrook to help develop a new plan for the building.
AMHA was the only recipient of the funding in Ohio and received the fourth largest award in the country. There are only nine such grants available, which the Akron area obtained about a year and a half ago, said O'Leary.
H.R. Gray is the project's construction manager, heading up a team that also includes Cavanaugh Building Corporation, Four Points Architectural Services and Hasenstab Architects.