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Fall 2000

Hope Springs Eternal

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A week before the start of the Democratic National Convention, Kropenske is slightly frazzled after another hectic day dealing with the logistics of holding a convention-related event at Hope Street.

What started out as a small reception for convention delegates hosted by Sallie Mae, the federal educational loan provider, to highlight literacy, has escalated into an all-day affair beginning with a press conference featuring Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and actor/director Rob Reiner, two of Hope Street's biggest supporters, and celebrities reading books to the children.

"We try to serve as a model, so we have a lot of visitors from other parts of the city, state and nation who may be interested in replicating this program," explains Kropenske. She is used to people observing Hope Street, which has caught the eye of many key policy-makers. "I see us expanding in terms of providing technical assistance, including staff development, to other communities and agencies that would like to start a center like Hope Street."

With the passage in 1998 of Proposition 10, the California state measure that levies a 50-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes to provide funding for health, education and support services for preschool children, many counties are looking to the Hope Street Family Center as an important model for delivering these early-childhood services.

The notion, too, of home visiting for children, is gaining currency, says Halfon, and Hope Street provides two successful models: Early Head Start and a nurse visitation program for first-time pregnant teens.

"UCLA and many universities around the country have invested enormous resources in creating innovative model programs to better provide health and human services," says Halfon, who has been asked by the Proposition 10 commission, headed up by Rob Reiner, for ideas on how to "franchise" Hope Street, and by the federal government to develop a series of reports on this notion of platforms for early-childhood services.

However, he says, translating a pilot program to policy has been enormously difficult. That crucial issue is something that Halfon and a new campuswide Institute for Children, Families and Communities will be working to resolve.

Not only does Hope Street serve as a model for other communities, it also benefits UCLA faculty and students as a place to engage in research, service learning and fieldwork, another way the CERC initiative is eager to connect UCLA with the center.

Both Kropenske and Halfon envision the partnership as a way for the university and the center to learn from one another. "We could be developed as a field-placement site for a variety of departments. This center is a good setting for helping students see the connection between the academic and the practical application of what occurs within a natural setting," observes Kropenske.

"We teach classes here. I have my public-health students go and do a couple of sessions at Hope Street, and they want to go back and do internships," says Halfon. "It piques their imagination about what's possible." vThis, then, recapitulates the university's missions in a new light, one in which research, teaching and service are replaced by knowledge production, knowledge transmission and knowledge application, the same ideas driving the Institute for Children, Families and Communities.

"This is allowing us to be out on the street where things are happening, rather than working only in a laboratory setting," explains Halfon. "It also allows us to develop collaborative learning experiences with our community partners." The lessons learned through such programs as Hope Street, he continues, are transmitted to public-policy makers and to the public at large, greatly broadening the scope of societal benefits.

"For a university to remain vital, it has to be innovative. It will die on the vine if it keeps on doing the same old thing. Even great ideas can get stale if not acted upon," suggests Halfon.

Getting stale is certainly not part of Halfon's vision for the future.

"If you look around the country," he says, "there's probably nothing in this arena as innovative as the Hope Street Center."

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