40203 one of the poorest zip codes in the nation; colleges work on turnaround

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - To some it's a series of numbers or a zip code when it comes to mail. To others, 40203 represents a serious problem:  it's the 13th poorest zip code in the nation and community leaders all agree education - and motivation - are needed to turn things around.

"The next revolution in America will be an education revolution," said Simmons College President Dr. Kevin Cosby. "This can be understood as a reasonable idea, as it has been well demonstrated that education is the great equalizer. Much of the great disparity and wealth in this nation seems to cooperate quite well with educational attainment."

Simmons College is the cornerstone of a new initiative. School leaders want to lead the area's transformation, and they've done that within the school itself. This is the first time the school has qualified to accept Pell Grants. It's also become a junior school, helping students with classes that count for credit at the University of Louisville.

Simmons says community support is paramount, from financial donations to encouraging kids to go to school and to stay in school to earn a college degree and help them be more successful.

"I want us to start thinking about changing those words to not only college going but college finishing. We have a lot of people that have gone to college but they haven't finished. That number in our community is approximately 90,000 people," said Louisville Mayor Greg Cischer.

But education - and how to pay for it - is a hot button issue in the nation's capital.

"We're obviously going through a very very contentions debate now over the priorities of the federal government and ho much money we have and were we are going to spend it and one of the things that is most at risk in those debates is funding for education. Financial aide is on the table," said Congressman John Yarmuth.

That's one area where Simmons hopes for community support, but not all financially. Simmons wants to get more churches involved and start a Saturday Academy; a successful program in Lexington that brings school, church, and community organizations together to bolster scholastic achievement.

At Monday's meeting, a big announcement also came from a home grown star. Derek Anderson is about to bring Hollywood to the Bluegrass for his life story.

"We're going to come back to Louisville and shoot [the movie]" he said with to a roomful of applause.  But the cheering doesn't stop there.

The Doss High School and UK star is making a major investment in this education initiative at Simmons.

"I just made commitments with Denzel Washington and Ashley Judd and these people are going to come back and help me start this program and bring a film school here and the film school and this film school is going to help these kids like I grew up writing," Anderson said.

Now it's just dotting the I's and crossing the T's to get those programs to begin and end the neighborhood blight.

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