Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City, is taking the nation by storm. His simple and straightforward message is that he will do “whatever it takes” to serve his community’s children and families. On February 9th, 2010, Mr. Canada came to the University of Washington to instill hope and motivate others to replicate his efforts. It is not hard to see success in similar programs in Seattle—FamilyWorks, for example, offers community programs that nurture, empower, and strengthen individuals and families from birth to adulthood.
Support at HCZ starts at birth, with parenting classes offered for expectant parents and those with children up to three years of age. It continues into preschool, where students are adequately prepared to enter kindergarten by participating in a program that teaches English, Spanish and French.
HCZ runs two charter schools for elementary school students: Promise Academy I and II. “Since their creation in 2004 and 2005, Promise Academy I and II elementary schools have done well enough to lead Harvard economist Roland Fryer to conclude that the students had actually closed the black-white achievement gap. The schools have a longer school day and year, and feature wide-ranging, enriching after-school programs. In 2009, the third-graders from both schools were 100 percent on or above grade level in the state-wide math program. At PA1 the third-graders were 94 percent on or above grade level in English Language Arts, while the third-graders at PAII were at 86 percent.” Students who do not attend these charter schools can still take part in Peacemakers, a program run by HCZ that “trains young people who are committed to making their neighborhoods safe for children and families.”
Of course, it doesn’t stop there: HCZ offers programs for middle and high school students that educate, coach, and nurture. This project pushes students to achieve by giving them the skills they need to succeed. They offer job training and community involvement, college prep and arts coaching. “197 students were accepted into college for the 2009-2010 year, representing 90% of HCZ high-school seniors.”
If you want to be truly inspired, check out the HCZ website for more information on what an impact this project has on families and children of NYC. Then, get involved! Be a part of this great movement—one that believes in the future and is committed to providing the best for children in its community here and now.