In the 1990s, the Zeist Foundation co-founders, Dr. George Brumley and Mrs. Jean Brumley, were inspired by President Jimmy Carter’s anti-poverty initiative known as “The Atlanta Project” to adopt a “place based” approach to their philanthropy.
With a commitment to children and families and a focus on health and education, in 1994 they selected the Edgewood neighborhood and established the first school based pediatric clinic in Georgia, under the guidance of Dr. Veda Johnson, at Whitefoord Elementary School.
The Zeist Foundation initiated this public private partnership with the Atlanta Public Schools because Whitefoord Elementary School Principal Dr. Betty Blassingame recognized that student success required strong community partnerships and Emory University Medical School was a willing and resourceful partner.
This initial foundation investment was a catalyst for a community based approach to philanthropy that has transformed Edgewood into a safer neighborhood where families with children and youth have a greater chance to be successful.
From the school based health centers operated by Whitefoord, Inc. to the affordable housing offered at the Retreat at Edgewood, the foundation’s place based philanthropy has evolved to serve families in poverty and stay true to the Brumley family vision.
Education Innovation Strategy
Over the first two decades, the foundation learned many lessons and two of them led to an expansion in geographic scope and education innovation.
School Based Health Centers
After 15 years of supporting the school based pediatric clinics at Whitefoord Elementary and Coan Middle schools, the foundation committed to replicating the school based health center model across the state of Georgia with Dr. Veda Johnson leading the way. Since 2009, this health + education combination on a public school campus, in both urban and rural settings, has made a positive impact on student health, behavior and performance from north Georgia to south Georgia.
Cluster Collaboration and Innovation
In recognition that the children living in the Edgewood neighborhood would follow a path through the Maynard Jackson HS cluster, in 2013 the foundation expanded its education investments and collaborated with other place based funders, such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation Atlanta Civic Site and the CF Foundation, to support the Atlanta Public Schools in this cluster.
More importantly, this cluster framework was not limited to the traditional schools in the Jackson cluster, but included the three charter schools – Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Drew Charter School and Wesley International Academy. As a result, the schools have embraced an education innovation culture and nonprofits working within the cluster are also collaborating for the greater good of children, youth and families.
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