Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Never Miss a Beat: Excelling in Education in the Mississippi Delta

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Tuttle North (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Leigh Hersey, University of Memphis and Karin Scott, Delta Health Alliance
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education began awarding grants through the Fund for the Improvement of Education Program to support local and regional programs to support Promise Neighborhoods. The vision of this program is “that all children and youth growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career” (U.S. Department of Education, 2014).

In 2012, the Delta Health Alliance was one of 12 communities across the nation to be awarded a Promise Neighborhoods grant to replicate the Harlem Promise Zone in the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest regions in the nation. The initiative, the Indianola Promise Community (IPC), brings together nearly 20 partners to implement a community-based program to provide children the educational opportunities needed to succeed in school and attend college. Inspired by Indianola native B.B. King, who never misses a beat in his concerts, the mission of IPC is that “no Indianola child, teenager or young adult should ever ‘miss a beat’ as he or she grows academically and socially from early childhood to high school and college graduate” (Delta Health Alliance, 2015).

Using a results-based framework, the IPC has 10 goals that revolve not only around the development of the students in the four schools in the initiative, but around 15 population level indicators suggesting how the improved educational outcomes lead to an overall positive impact on the community. The goals focus on Early Childhood, K12 + Afterschool, College and Career, and Health + Community + Family Supports. Some 28 programs contribute to the IPC’s goals that help break down the barriers to academic success, including a community garden, teen pregnancy prevention, and mentoring.

Halfway through the grant period, the IPC is beginning to see the initial results of the initiative. A survey conducted in 2013 suggests that the community has a better understanding of the importance of education (IPC, 2014). This finding is important in a community where approximately half of the parents did not complete high school. The survey provides a baseline for the community as the full implementation of the Indianola Promise Community was initiated in 2014. This paper and presentation will share how IPC implemented the initiative and where the initiative stands now. In addition, the paper will demonstrate how close attention to the results of a program can lead to improved outcomes.


Delta Health Alliance. (2015). Indianola Promise Community. Retrieved from April 5, 2015.

Indianola Promise Community. (2014). Indianola Promise Community at Work: Fall 2014. Indianola, MS: Delta Health Alliance.

U.S. Department of Education. (2014). Promise Neighborhoods. Retrieved from April 6, 2015.

Full Paper: