Mercy Drive Kidz Zone

Mercy Drive Kidz Zone (MDKZ) is centered along Mercy Drive, home to several apartment complexes near the northwestern edge of Orlando’s city limits. Families living in this area now have the opportunity to experience the benefits of an Orlando Kidz Zone. The goal of the Mercy Drive Kidz Zone is to help children from cradle to career by increasing academic performance, reducing juvenile crime and reducing teen pregnancies.

In 2020, the city conducted a door-to-door survey of parents raising children in two low income apartment complexes in the Mercy Drive neighborhood. Survey results were alarming:

  • 53% of households reported that their children had suffered the loss of a loved one over the past year;
  • 66% of families run out of money to pay for basic needs each month;
  • Only 48% of families are employed full-time;
  • 40% of families do not feel that their children are safe in the neighborhood.

With the 2020 announcement that the city will replicate PKZ in Mercy Drive, children and families who reside there are experiencing the full benefits of a Kidz Zone, starting with children and youth who reside in the two aforementioned apartment complexes: Jernigan Gardens and Palm Grove Apartments.

Investments in Mercy Drive aim to:

  • Increase the number of young children attending high quality preschool programs
  • Build positive parenting skills
  • Mitigate family economic instability
  • Enhance children’s physical health and wellness
  • Support academic success among elementary, middle and high school children
  • Increase the number of youth entering – and completing – post-secondary education
  • Keep older youth out of trouble and on a positive track toward social and economic success.

Mercy Drive Kidz Zone Map

City of Orlando Student Advocates, based at elementary, middle and high schools attended by Jernigan Gardens and Palm Grove Apartments students, offer mentorship, academic support (test prep, advisement, etc.), advocacy, regular meetings, monitoring of attendance and grades, and support to ensure students stay on track for graduation, scholarships, college tours, educational, cultural and regional field trips.

Post-Secondary Advocates offer assistance with college applications and essays, assistance with scholarship applications and essays, FAFSA assistance, financial literacy training and support, academic advisement, dorm set-up, help for families of first-generation college students in understanding how things work and all the support Mercy Drive youth need to enroll in college and persist through graduation.

The City of Orlando’s Recreation Division offers competitive sports programs for elementary and middle school-aged children in Mercy Drive.

iHopeMentoring offers “Hope In A Healthy Way” to residents of Jernigan Gardens Apartments and Palm Grove Apartments. The program offers access to nutritious foods, while promoting healthy eating habits and physical exercise.

The City of Orlando’s Northwest neighborhood center offers high-quality after-school programs for elementary and middle schools students that combine fun and learning. Students can participate in supervised recreational activities, homework assistance and enrichment activities.

The Orlando Community & Youth Trust offers a Youth Employment program to Mercy Drive youth, include job training, soft skills training, job placement and monitoring, internships, apprenticeships, help with resumes and interview skills training.

The Orlando Community & Youth Trust offers emergency economic assistance to residents of Jernigan Gardens and Palm Grove apartments to prevent eviction, utility shut-offs and hunger.