Zone 126: Driving Community Efforts to Help NYC Kids Succeed

Every young adult deserves the chance to go to college and build their own American Dream regardless of their socio-economic background. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for too many kids and teenagers around the nation. Zone 126 is seeking to stir things up in New York City. Read on to find out how!

More than 20,000 families are living in concentrated pockets of poverty in Astoria and Long Island City. Over 8,000 are children. These children and youth living in public housing face a different reality than their neighbors across the river. The fact is that a child living in poverty faces multiple environmental, social, and physical barriers to academic success. In the 2014-2015 school year, the four-year high school graduation rate in Zone 11101 (Queensbridge), 11102 (Astoria), and 11106 (Ravenswood) schools was only 66.2%, a significantly lower figure compared to the nationwide rate of 81.4%. Moreover, only 10% of these inner city students successfully go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Source: Uli Seit for The New York Times

These alarming figures are in part the result of limited resources and adequate support systems. The overcrowding of these Zone schools causes teachers and guidance counselors to be stretched thin. This means they cannot fully provide the individualized attention necessary to support students and ensure they are on the path to graduation and career success. However, the problems that afflict these kids are much more complex and often derivatives of other deeply embedded structural problems.

That’s why in 2009, The Elmezzi Foundation conducted a comprehensive community-wide survey to better understand the needs and assets of the residents living there. This 18-month research project culminated with Elmezzi’s decision to found Zone 126 in 2011.

What’s the story?

Zone 126 coordinates and drives the efforts of a group of individuals and organizations with a common mission of seeing all children from Astoria and Long Island City graduate from high school and attain post-secondary education by providing programs and services from “cradle to career”. Their vision is for every child to graduate from high school prepared for college, and enter the workforce equipped with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century world.

Zone 126 is the backbone organization, coordinating and evaluating a cross-sector effort with community organizations, public agencies, and private supporters to provide the necessary programs at the ten Zone schools. These programs encompass academic support, enrichment, health, nutrition, parent education, and youth development.

How it works

Zone 126 partners with like-minded and results-oriented individuals and organizations to collaborate and build upon short-term results leading to long-term impact. They mobilize and work with a wide variety of stakeholders to build awareness of the economic, educational, and social disparities to deliver holistic solutions that create sustainable change. One of Zone 126 key actors are their Community School Coordinators.

Zone 126 highly-trained Community School Coordinators work with students one-on-one, from the time they enter their junior year until they walk across the stage at graduation. By providing students access to college trips, practice SAT exams, and individualized support, Zone 126 coordinators help ensure that students are on track to graduate high school and become college and career ready.

  • Zone 126 Community School Coordinators work one-on-one with students and in groups to build out a roadmap on how to select, apply, and ensure that they are accepted into a college that fits their personal needs and financial means.
  • Zone 126 Community School Coordinators go out to students’ home to ensure that families are integrated into the student’s network of support for college and career readiness.
  • Zone 126 Community School Coordinators build strong bonds and relationships with students that shows students are valued, respected, and are cheered on by another caring adult.
How to get involved

You can support Zone 126’s life-changing work in Queens by making a donation on their website. Alternatively, if you’re getting married, you can create a charitable wedding registry in honor of this organization.


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