The Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) announced Wednesday that is has hit a milestone of enrolling more than 500 families in its effort to help children in a 234-block area of north Minneapolis reach college.

The milestone represents more than a tripling of families enrolled since NAZ got a federal grant in late 2011 that transformed it from a locally funded pilot program to one of 12 federally designated Promise Neighborhoods that were awarded money to carry out their plans.

The zone is bounded by W. Broadway, Penn and 35th Avenues and N. 3rd Street.

The 500-plus families include more than 1,300 children who are enrolled in nine partner schools. Other organizations provide preschool, housing, employment and other assistance. Families set goals and get intensive help from school- and family-based specialists toward a long-term goal of kids reaching college.

NAZ's mid-2012 presentation to the Minneapolis school board shows its recruitment reaching about 750 families this year, but Michelle Martin, its chief operating officer, dismissed that number Wednesday, saying it was just a crude graphic.

Federal sequestration has cost NAZ about $500,000 of its anticipated $5 million in annual revenue from its five-year federal grant. Martin said that loss has caused the organization to scale back its goal of reaching 1,200 families by the end of 2014, to 1,000 families. She said the organization is developing a sustainable strategy for continuing its work after the federal grant ends.

NAZ has ambitious annual benchmarks to measure the academic effects of its work against the progress of zone children not enrolled in the program. The program so far has registered its biggest gains at the stage of kindergarten readiness, but has had less effect on older students.