Olivia Erica, 10, looks over the biographies of people of color as Nathan Joyner (C), who mans the table talks, with Mark- Anthony Tynes of We Need More Thinkers. They are standing by the Knowledge Box library in the Learning Corridor, installed by Tynes. Tupac Shakur is pictured on the box Melanie Stengel

At the corner of Shelton Avenue and Hazel Street in Newhallville sits a green space, the Learning Corridor—a hub for educating young children and connecting families to healthy living. The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail runs through the garden, where children can stop by and browse books from a box and adults can take a spin on a bike.

Once known in the neighborhood as the “mud hole,” a crime spot for “drug trafficking and all kinds of stuff,” the Learning Corridor is now a place where neighborhood residents gather to take care of their health and well-being, said Doreen Abubakar, founder and volunteer director of the Community Placemaking and Engagement Network (CPEN).

“We held a six-month in-house training about diabetes,” Abubakar said. “My sister who had diabetes brought down her blood sugar to pre-diabetic levels after she did the training.” The participants learned the importance of exercise to manage their diabetes, and residents joined the national walking club movement Girl Trek. Last year, Abubakar and her team planted native perennials and shrubs, and this year received a grant for the nursery from the Audubon Society.

But those who live in and work to improve Newhallville—a neighborhood long associated with poverty, violence, and trauma—know more work needs to be done.

Newhallville is one of thousands of neighborhoods in the U.S. where childhood opportunity is ranked “Very Low”—a designation that impacts their health, well-being and even lifespan—new neighborhood-level data from Brandeis University show.

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