The mission of Orlando Kidz Zones (OKZ) is to level the playing field for children in the city’s highest poverty neighborhoods and equipping them to become successful, healthy, well-educated adults. Modeled after Harlem Children’s Zone, OKZ aims to reduce juvenile crime, teen pregnancies, child abuse and neglect and high school drop-out rates among Orlando’s most vulnerable youth.
The city’s efforts began in 2006 when Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer launched Parramore Kidz Zone (PKZ) to “move the needle” on the academic, social and economic success of children in Orlando’s Parramore Heritage Neighborhood. At the time, Parramore had the highest child poverty, juvenile arrest, teen pregnancy and child abuse and neglect rates in Orlando and the high school Parramore youth attended was one of only two in Florida that had been rated “F” by the state for five consecutive years.
Since then, the city has invested in a robust array of partner organizations to collectively develop and deploy a cradle-to-career continuum of evidence-based programs to the neighborhood and link a critical mass of Parramore’s children to these programs. Investments have been made in the things that make a difference in children’s lives – such as high quality early childhood education, academically-enriched after school programs, youth development programs for teenagers, youth employment, access to health care, mentoring, tutoring, college access assistance, family economic stabilization and more. The results are impressive. Between 2006 and 2019:
- More than 6,000 children have been served
- Juvenile arrests in Parramore are down 78.3%
- Teen births in Parramore are down 63.4%
- Infants, toddlers and preschoolers attending early learning programs are up 117%
- Verified cases of child abuse and neglect are down 62.4% in Parramore.
In 2020, the success of PKZ inspired the city to replicate the model in three additional Orlando neighborhoods: Holden Heights, Mercy Drive and Engelwood.