Our Story


Harlem Children’s Zone Founder & CEO, Geoffrey Canada, visits the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. While here, he spoke to a group of leaders from across the region. Canada’s charge to our community was simple.

Focus on a small area in your community. Give children the tools and resources they need to succeed. Commit to change, the entire life of a child—from cradle to career.

A small working group soon formed to answer the charge. This group was comprised of The Lehigh Valley’s business, education, healthcare, human service, civic, and philanthropic leaders.


The working group formally created the Allentown Youth Success Zone, a 9 Square Block area of the Old Allentown Historic District. “The Zone” was modeled on Harlem Children’s Zone, and became the working group’s priority neighborhood for realizing the success of every child, from cradle to career, in the Lehigh Valley.

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley was the leading member of the regional working group, making a multi-year commitment of $1.2MM to seed the development of this effort.


Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. President Obama enters office with a vision for making the Harlem Children’s Zone model one of the cornerstones of his administration’s education policy.


The US Department of Education launched the federal Promise Neighborhoods program as the first federal initiative to place education at the center of comprehensive efforts to fight poverty in urban and rural areas. By design, the program would award significant grants to communities for planning and long-range implementation of high quality services to improve educational outcomes for students in distressed neighborhoods.

The Allentown Youth Success Zone officially changed its name to the Allentown Promise Neighborhood to better align its work with the growing national movement.


The White House releases its Neighborhood Revitalization Report, “Building Neighborhoods of Opportunity.” The report highlights Allentown Promise Neighborhood as one of the nation’s model efforts for developing strategic and accountable partnerships.

With national attention, the working group was energized to broaden the scope of its work and realize a truly regional vision for the success of children living in the Lehigh Valley. Allentown Promise Neighborhood is restructured to better achieve a broader set of objectives, becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.

The new subsidiary is renamed Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley.

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