In the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, a drug culture took root throughout the 1980s and 1990s, which left dilapidated homes, failing schools, and broken families in its wake.  Having worked in the Harlem community for many years, beginning with truancy-prevention programming, Geoffrey Canada and the founding staff of the Harlem Children’s Zone refused to accept the way things were and began a series of after-school and community based programming, to meet the needs of local families.

The Harlem Children’s Zone formally began as a pilot program in the early 1990s, with the idea of addressing the problems facing families in the neighborhood, from substandard education, to high rates of violent crime.  That one-block pilot program quickly grew to a 27 block radius and currently serves a 100 block section of New York, providing services to over 10,000 children.  With its emphasis on measurement and accountability to the community, the HCZ has expanded its services over the years to include “birth to college” programming, including parenting workshops, pre-school, health education, and numerous public charter schools.  It truly is a holistic approach to uplifting a neighborhood, a city, a nation.

The HCZ has become a national model, inspiring President Obama’s Promise Neighborhoods Program.  The new national program (launched in 2010) selects cities through a competitive process, to create Children’s Zones in 20 cities across the U.S.

Geoffry Canada

For more information about the Harlem Children’s Zone and the work of Geoffrey Canada, go to