South Madison community discusses improvement at “Get It Right Night”

“The meeting will start in five minutes. Please enter the gym when you’re finished eating.” It was just after 7:30 p.m. when Peng Her, the project director of the South Madison Promise Zone Initiative, made the announcement.

The Lincoln Elementary School cafeteria was already filled with people chatting and laughing, sharing fried chicken and spring rolls. With children running around, the atmosphere seemed more like parent-teacher conferences. And like parent-teacher conferences, attendees were gathered to discuss improvement.   

The event officially named the “Get It Right Night” began when the over 70 people settled in the gym on Wednesday, Oct. 24. The purpose of the meeting was to review survey results gathered as part of the South Madison Promise Zone Initiative and to hear feedback from residents living in South Madison.

The South Madison Promise Zone Initiative was a project launched during the spring of 2010 by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM), an organization that works to increase educational and employment opportunities in the community.

The meeting led off with a slideshow documenting the progress of the initiative. “Twenty percent of the Promise Zone residents replied to our surveys. This shows that they were really engaged in changing the South side,” Her said. “The residents of South Madison are its biggest assets.”

Short group discussions followed giving residents the time to voice their opinions on the major topics touched upon during the presentation including employment, health care, and education.

Meeting attendees share a meal before the discussion.Meeting attendees share a meal before the discussion.During the health care segment, Teri Iselin, former nurse for Meriter Health Services, said because residents of South Madison have low paying jobs with less full-time options, it can be hard for them to obtain insurance.

“They have access but no insurance to afford the services. I used to help them out at the hospital,” said Iselin.

After 40-minutes of discussion, attendees came together as a larger group to present the issues considered.

“It is really about giving voices to the residents,” Her said. “That’s why we are doing a [bottom-up] approach.”