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Harvard To Aid School Programs

By Imtiyaz H. Delawala, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard's next planned venture to invest University resources into the community will focus on Boston education, according to University officials.

While details are still being finalized before the formal announcement in mid-March, officials said the proposed initiative will aid afterschool education programs in the Boston area.

The initiative comes on the heels of last year's 20/20/2000 housing initiative, which provides $20 million over 20 years to fund low-interest loans for affordable housing in both Cambridge and Boston.

Paul S. Grogan, Harvard's vice president of government, community and public affairs, said education was the next natural problem to confront.

"Since the housing initiative, we've been looking hard at a variety of specific opportunities in both Cambridge and Boston, and the issue of education loomed very large," Grogan said.

He cited students' low scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System Test (MCAS) and concerns about the lack of Harvard involvement in local schools as primary motivations for the initiative. Last month, Cambridge mayor Anthony D. Galluccio called for Harvard and MIT to commit to helping area schools during his State of the City address.

Grogan said Harvard already puts significant effort into working with Cambridge and Boston schools. He gave the Phillips Brooks House programs as examples.

"Harvard has been deeply involved in education, through things like tutoring and mentoring programs," Grogan said. "There's no shortage of involvement."

But he said that the proposed initiative will take advantage of University funds and resources in order to create visible improvement in local education.

"We're interested in something more powerful that moves the needle of academic achievement and makes a concrete impact," Grogan said.

While the planned afterschool initiative will only involve Boston schools, Grogan said similar efforts are being made for Cambridge schools for the near future.

"We've been deeply involved in discussions with Cambridge, but we haven't been able to crystalize as clearly the specific plans," Grogan said. "It will most likely be a multi-pronged attack focused on several areas [beyond afterschool programs]."

According to Grogan, the afterschool initiative is only the second in what will be a series of initiatives directed by Grogan's office of government and community affairs.

Grogan said a "modest initiative" involving training for city employees through the Kennedy School of Government's executive training program will likely be announced later this spring. A health initiative involving Harvard Medical School and the School of Public Health will likely take place next fall.

Harvard's 20/20/2000 program has received broad support from community leaders and participants, with $6.3 million of Harvard's money loaned out in the last year, helping to create 601 units of affordable housing.

"We're exhilarated with the success," Grogan said. "Money is going out in many different directions, and it's speeded up projects people had hoped to see."

On Tuesday, University and Boston city officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Ruggles Assisted Living facility in Roxbury, a $5.3 million project partially funded through the 20/20/2000 program.

The facility, which will provide 43 units of housing for seniors, with meals, laundry service and 24-hour medical care, is one of the first low income, assisted-living facilities in the country.

University officials hope that the new facility, which is built in one of Boston's poorer neighborhoods, will help revitalize the surrounding area.

"The double impact is important," said Lauren Louison, from the office of government and community affairs. "Hopefully it will help turn around the whole block."

University President Neil L. Rudenstine echoed the same thoughts at yesterday's ceremony.

"The Ruggles Assisted Living project is a wonderful example of how grassroots organizations in our community help the neediest among us and give hope to the entire neighborhood," Rudenstine said.

Grogan said the 20/20/2000 initiative is a departure from previous community related programs, with the University playing a more active role in committing its resources to specific projects.

"It signifies a commitment to a systematic effort of providing groups access to University resources," Grogan said. "That's a huge change."

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