Arlington Woods | Indianapolis, Indiana

JEWEL Human Services Corporation

A man speaking at a podium outside during a groundbreaking ceremony

In Arlington Woods, a new education center represents a model of hope to dismantle a century of racism and poverty.


The Challenge

In Indianapolis, new highways and other civic projects forced untold numbers of Black families out of their homes and communities. Displacement through the decades cut off families from the city’s major economic hubs. It also sabotaged generational wealth-building.

Eminent domain and other racist systems deepened the economic divide. Redlining and lack of access to housing. Unfair lending practices. A tax system dependent on local income and property taxes to fund public education, health care and infrastructure.

Disinvestment carries a heavy and enduring toll. Today, Indianapolis’ Arlington Woods neighborhood remains on the Center for Disease Control’s list of most vulnerable communities. It has the state’s lowest graduation and college placement rates. Median incomes and population continue to decline.

JEWEL Human Services is the community-building arm of Eastern Star Church. The organization owes the social and economic disparity to the lack of quality education and affordable housing in Arlington Woods. At the same time, the organization believes fervently in the talent and resilience of neighborhood residents.

The organization has been working for transformative change and a better future in Arlington Woods since 2001. Through its ROCK Initiative, the work continues with a strong corps of committed partners and resident leaders. Their input and involvement are clear: “Nothing for us without us.”

A home with a sold sign in front of it.


The Plan

Families should be able to live, learn and play in their own communities. That belief is core to JEWEL Human Services. And it’s the driving force behind their plan to create a middle and high school complex in Arlington Woods.

The proposed education center will serve 225 students in grades 7 through 12. It will be operated and supported by two strong partners: Rooted School, a performance-focused charter school, and Mind Trust, an award-winning education partnership for charter and alternative school development.

Middle and high-school students will gain access to rigorous academics and extra-curricular programs. The school’s impact will be bolstered by the ROCK Community Center for Children & Youth, a 60,000-square-foot hub currently under development. The center received support from Eastern Star Church’s congregation and a major grant from the Lilly Endowment’s Enhancing Opportunities Initiative.

The new school is a critical piece of JEWEL Human Services’ comprehensive community-building plan. The ROCK Initiative also calls for the development of:

  • A new, affordable apartment development with 30 rental homes
  • 13 new 2-story homes
  • A public garden, park and green space

In all, the plan promises to create vital opportunities for equity and upward mobility in Arlington Woods.

“The financial and technical support will make a huge difference for the community. We’re so excited to have the Arlington Woods neighborhood recognized and to partner
with Fifth Third Bank and Enterprise.”

– Leigh Riley Evans, Director of Community Development, Eastern Star Church

What Success Looks Like

JEWEL Human Services has set a clear vision for its place-keeping plan.

Quality education is not academics alone. It requires the understanding of how to create whole, resilient young people.

  • In 3 years, 112 resilient and healthy young men and women will graduate, ready to realize their dreams.
  • In 10 years, 375 graduates will be employed in the community with high-wage jobs.
  • In 25 years, the community will prove change is possible in a generation whose success exemplifies education, entrepreneurship and community building.

Affordable housing is more than the structure itself. It requires an understanding of a shared vision for a better life.

  • In three years, the planned apartments and single-family homes will have allowed 43 families to live without the financial burden of a home they can’t afford – and to believe in the impossible.
  • In 10 years, the homes will offer students and young families affordable, quality housing, increase surrounding property values and allow families to invest in new opportunities.
  • In 25 years, the apartment building could be converted to senior living to meet residents’ needs and lifestyles; the single-family homes will have created generational wealth for Black families.

To meet these goals, JEWEL Human Services will continue working with the community to combat racism and poverty, and promote economic mobility.