Springfield Promise Neighborhood was founded in 2010 around the thought that engaging the community and activating the talents of our neighbors would help us all lift up our children. Our initiative is just one of many Promise Neighborhoods operating in cities all over the country. Unlike others, Springfield Promise is one of only a few Promise Neighborhood initiatives that began with only local funding. While all of these efforts seek to make a difference in our most economically stressed neighborhoods, our work has a unique asset-based approach:
- Commit to the public school system and working with the Springfield City School District to serve students in need
- Spark resident-led social change, working with neighbors as they build their community into what they want it to be
- Create a culture of aspiration, in which it is normal to succeed, to be smart, and to be kind
- Amplify the resources, talents, gifts, and skills of residents and expert organizations to build a shared and unified community
We believe that the long term goal of poverty alleviation depends upon caring for children. The foundation for social and academic success begins early in a child’s life. If we succeed here, then we all succeed. It is the mark of a caring community to care for its youth. It is the mark of personal faith and honor to care for the least of these, those who don’t enjoy the same development opportunities. That honest and fruitful effort depends on us all.
Be The Promise!
In 2017, the Springfield Promise Neighborhood began expansion beyond Lincoln Elementary into other southside elementary schools. In a joint effort with the City of Springfield and numerous partners, the Springfield Promise Zone – the neighborhoods around Kenwood, Lincoln, Perrin Woods, and Fulton Elementary Schools – was defined as a geographic area for targeted programming and engagement efforts.
SPN oversees several initiatives in partnership with Promise Zone schools and community organizations. With the Springfield Promise Neighborhood Association and resident leaders, SPN hosts community events that connect residents to family & youth opportunities, to education, health, and human service providers, and to each other. Action teams around housing, health, and safety, as well as parent and family activities, provide numerous opportunities for residents to build stronger neighborhoods. With youth organizations and local schools, SPN pilots extended learning programs that include early literacy tutoring for grades K-3 in four schools, after-school and summer programming, volunteer opportunities to develop a service mindset, college and career exploration, and social enrichment opportunities to help our students be smart and kind. In association with government and civic organizations, SPN facilitates place-based and asset-based community development initiatives and encourages grassroots resident involvement. Our social entrepreneurial efforts include original place-based research, developing innovative curricular and instructional programs, and helping local partners organize collective approaches to poverty alleviation.
Meet the Team
The Springfield Promise Neighborhood is operationally supported by an Executive Director, a Community Engagement Administrator, a Youth Development Administrator, a PromiseCorps Supervisor, year-long AmeriCorps VISTA members, part-time PromiseCorps members, and summer VISTA Associates.
Kali Lawrence, Executive Director
Kali has been involved with the Springfield Promise Neighborhood since its inception in 2010 as a volunteer, summer employee, AmeriCorps VISTA member, and Administrator. Kali is focused on the daily operations and oversight of the Promise Neighborhood’s initiatives, financial management, partnerships, and equipping and coaching VISTA members.
Kali moved from northeast Ohio to graduate from Wittenberg University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s of Music Education. In addition to Promise, she serves as the conductor of the Northmister Presbyterian Handbell Choir, is President of the Springfield branch of American Association for University Women, and participates in a local citizen’s group People for Safe Water.
Donald Brownlee, Youth Development Administrator
Donald joined the Promise team in February of 2018. Originally hired to be an extended learning coordinator with the Bobcat Builders Club at Lincoln Elementary, Donald stepped up to the role of Youth Development Administrator to oversee all of Promise’s Youth Development initiatives, including extended day and year programming, Promise Ambassadors, and family-oriented activities, events, and projects. Originally from Chicago, Donald spent his formative years in Springfield. He studied psychology at Clark Sate Community College and Central State University. Before joining the Promise team, Donald was a program leader for Project Choice at the Lincoln Park Community Center. Donald also coaches a youth basketball team and plays drums for Restored Life Ministries and numerous local bands.
Aaron Clark, Community Engagement Administrator
Aaron joined the Promise team in October of 2018. Born and raised in Springfield, Aaron brings a lifetime of relationships and community-building through music. He also directs Wise Guys and Biz Ba$ics for Springfield City Youth Mission; is the Family Life Coordinator for High St. United Methodist Church; leads his own ministry and praise band; and participates in the fellowship of Restored Life Ministries with his wife, Cassandra.
Zach Cohn, PromiseCorps Administrator
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Zach studied middle childhood education at Wittenberg University, concentrating in math and science. He volunteered as a group leader for Promise’s extended learning programming while still a student, and also served as a Summer VISTA Associate in 2014; he returned in the summers of 2015 and 2016 to help guide data collection and assessment for summer camp programs organized by Promise. After graduating from Wittenberg University, Zach worked for Teach for America and the Columbus City School District, but wanted to step into a larger leadership role. His passion for teaching and servant leadership brought him back to the Promise team in 2017, and he oversees the PromiseCorps program, to recruit and equip 20 AmeriCorps members who serve across the Promise Zone. Zach has studied Taekwondo since he was six, and he married his wife Kristina in January 2019.
Dr. Bob Welker, Founder
Dr. Bob has been a teacher for over 40 years. He was a middle school and high school teacher before teaching at Ohio State, Denison University and for 23 years at Wittenberg University. He helped convene the coordinating team that conceived of the Springfield Promise Neighborhood in 2010 and has served as its first Executive Director. When he is not in Promise Land working on the community garden and raising money for the organization, he is making bread and fishing with his grandchildren. This means that he is good at putting bait on a hook, pulling bluegill off the line, and trying to get fishing gear out of trees.
Ashley Jones, Community Engagement VISTA Member
Ashley Jones is a proud mother of four. She loves serving with Springfield Promise because it gives her the opportunity to give back to the community in which she lives. In her free time she enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons and all types of games with her family.
Brittany Craig, Volunteer Engagement VISTA Member
Brittany originally came to the Promise team to serve as a PromiseCorps member, helping students become better readers. She is working on her early childhood education degree at Clark State Community College and is passionate about girl empowerment and women-led leadership.
Kristen Clark, Youth Development VISTA Member
Kristen Clark is a Social Work graduate from Clark State Community College and Capital University. For the last four years she has worked with youth and the mental health community. She is a member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the Clark County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
P.O. Box 145
Springfield, Ohio 45501