Our intention is to focus our teacher pool within specific MTR partner K-12 feeder-pattern schools that serve students within identified partner neighborhoods. This intentional focus will increase the access to high-potential, residency-trained teachers for children in partner schools. Now in our 8th year, MTR currently has 268 residents and graduates teaching and leading mostly within our 36 partner feeder-pattern schools that serve six MTR partner neighborhoods: Binghampton; Orange Mound; Frayser; Mitchell Heights; Graham Heights; and, Alcy Ball.
Frayser is a community in North Memphis bordered by the Loosahatchie River to the north, Mississippi River to the west, and Wolf River to the south, roughly defined by the 38127 ZIP code. A small piece of the Jackson Purchase, this area of land known as “The Point” remained sparsely populated with farmers during the first half of the nineteenth century. The area later became home to wealthy Memphians like John R. Frayser, a prominent physician for whom the community was eventually named, who wanted an escape from the city. When large corporations International Harvester and Firestone moved into the area in the 1940s, the community experienced growth and prosperity.
Unfortunately, Frayser has seen significant economic decline since these two employers closed their doors in 1983. About half of its residents currently earn less than $25,000 per year. Still, many of Frayser’s community members have a deep sense of pride in their neighborhood and are actively seeking to improve the community. There are currently about 15 public and charter schools in the 38127 zip code run by 7 different networks, including the ASD and several charter networks. Neighborhood partners and assets include the Frayser Community Association, Frayser CDC, Frayser Neighborhood Council, Resurrection Health, and Christ Community Health Services.
Mitchell Heights is one of three “Heights” neighborhoods north of Summer Avenue in Memphis, and it overlaps with the Highland Heights neighborhood to the point that next door neighbors may often give you two different names for the same neighborhood. The history of the community can be traced back to its use as part of the Pope Cotton Plantation until it was repurposed by Shelby County in the late 1880s. The Raleigh Street Car Line ran from Memphis to Raleigh and through the Mitchell Heights community in the early 1900s. This new access to public transportation sparked commercial development and facilitated housing growth. The community was officially annexed into Memphis in 1928.
Throughout its one-hundred year history, Mitchell Heights has both thrived and struggled. Although modernization and the expansion of Memphis initially helped develop the community, it also later resulted in a depletion of resources, opportunities, and community leaders as Memphis continued to expand. Resources such as the Heights CDC, United Way of the Mid South, nearby Christ Community Health Services on Broad, Memphis Athletic Ministries at Leawood Baptist, and The Corners of Highland Heights seek to build a stronger community where people choose to invest their lives, talents, and energy. The Heights CDC has designed a useful neighborhood asset map to give an overview of these resources and more.
Graham Heights is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Memphis, with a demographic makeup of approximately 40% Hispanic, 35% White, and 25% Black. The community has a growing sense of uneasiness, however, due to an increase in families living under the poverty line (40%) and an uptick in housing vacancy (currently 20%).
Several organizations and community assets provide services to residents of the community including Gaisman Community Center, Memphis Athletic Ministries at Leawood Baptist, STREETS Ministries, and Su Casa. The Kingsbury High School soccer team exemplifies the diversity of the neighborhood and its schools. The team’s players speak seventeen languages, learn English in the classroom, and speak Spanish on the field. In 2009, the team lacked the funds to pay for their first trip to the state championship but due to the financial support of the community they were able to raise the money needed for the trip. The beauty, diversity, and collaboration between cultures, ethnicities, and organizations are signs of hope for this community.
The rural town of Binghampton developed in the late-1800s at the intersection of railroads and streetcar lines through what had been the farm of an Irish immigrant, William H. Bingham. Today, Binghampton lies at the heart of the city of Memphis. It was annexed by the city of Memphis in 1919 and has experienced many changes due to desegregation and suburbanization. At the turn of the century, the community was home to several major factories employing almost 3,000 people and four grocery stores. In 1948, the architecturally beautiful East High School was completed in Binghampton under the guidance of famous Memphis architect Everett D. Woods.
Today, about 45% of residents live below the poverty line with higher than average unemployment. The community was previously currently identified as a “food desert” for lack of grocery stores but is getting a brand new grocery store after years of work to bring one to the community. Residents of the tight-knit community maintain hope despite their challenging environment and, when asked to describe their neighborhood, residents chose words like “beautiful,” “changing,” “friendly,” and “fun.” Community assets such as the Lester Community Center, Christ Community Health Services, SOS, Binghampton Development Corporation, Eikon Ministries, and Shelby Farms Greenline provide the community with a source of expectation for their future.
Orange Mound was started in the mid-1890s as one of the nation’s first planned African-American communities. Originally a plantation, Elzey Eugene Meacham purchased the land in 1890 and subdivided it into narrow 15-ft wide lots. Orange Mound has grown since then and covers a larger area than just this initial area of subdivision. An economically mixed, self-sustaining community resulted, where African-Americans not only owned their homes but also owned and operated thriving businesses, stores, theaters, churches, and schools.
Today, Orange Mound has one of the higher levels of housing blight in the city and an unemployment rate that has for some time remained above 20%. Some tidy homes and thriving small businesses have faded into vacant lots and boarded-up storefronts. However, conversations with Orange Mound residents reveal an undercurrent of determination and optimism. From civil rights pioneer and patriarch Fred Davis, who refuses to desert his community, to organizations such as Orange Mound Outreach Ministries, RedZone Ministries, Christ Community Health Services, Memphis Athletic Ministries, SOS, and historic churches such as Mt. Pisgah CME, Mt. Moriah-East Baptist Church and Beulah Baptist Church, it is clear that the identity and history of the community provides a source of pride and hope for the future.
Referred to as “the suburb of South Memphis,” Alcy Ball is a community just northwest of Memphis International Airport. Several of its schools can trace their history back to a man named Green Polonius Hamilton, whose research in the early 20th century found that only 30% of African-American children in Memphis were receiving an education. In the 1960s, several elementary schools were founded as the community flourished, but job opportunities have since diminished partially due to the closing of the Defense Depot, a distribution center for the US Military, in 1997. Two major corporations still housed in the community, Kellogg Company and Barnhart Crane and Rigging, employ mostly commuters.
Today, the community has a 44% poverty rate and the highest unemployment rate of any of the MTR partner neighborhoods. While few homes in Alcy Ball are vacant, property values are decreasing in part due to chemicals left in the area by the Defense Depot. Hamilton High School, built to house 2,000 students, now holds roughly 600. Still, lifelong residents remember the community as a place where neighbors look out for each other, and they see its great potential. Community organizations include three Memphis Athletic Ministries locations, the Alcy Ball Community Development Corporation, Repairing the Breach Ministries, and the Alcy Ball Community Association.