Geoff Canada, Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children's Zone
Gerald Herbert/AP
Geoff Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone speaks in the East Room of the White House in
Washington, Tuesday, June 30, 2009, prior to President Barack Obama delivering remarks
highlighting innovative nonprofit programs.

One Nonprofit’s Holistic Approach Helps At-Risk Kids Succeed

January 07, 2010 05:30 PM
by Colleen Brondou
Harlem Children’s Zone aims to put children—and entire communities—on a path to academic and economic success.

From “Cradle to College”

In the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit that offers a network of services to a 97-block area in Upper Manhattan, caring begins even before children are born, Stephanie Banchero reports for the Chicago Tribune.

Baby College is a prenatal parenting class that focuses on brain development and discipline. Young children attend the Harlem Gems preschool and go on to Promise Academy charter schools. After-school arts and music lessons, and chess and karate classes, fill the afternoon and early evening hours. The Zone also offers free dental and mental health care, adult education courses and tenant-ownership programs.

“We target the entire community so we reach the kids who are the victims and the ones who are the bullies; the parents who are struggling and holding on, and those who are struggling and failing,” Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Zone, told Banchero. “We are building a stronger neighborhood, while improving the individual outcomes for children.”

The program emphasizes a small student-teacher ratio, parental involvement, nutritious eating and an extended school day and school year—students attend classes for an extra three hours a day and go to school for 11 months, not the standard nine.

Background: Obama pushes for more school

Canada isn’t the only one that thinks longer a longer school day and extended school year are a good idea: President Obama is pushing to add more hours to the school year. In September, he announced that he would like to lengthen the school year and cut summer vacations short. According to the president, children in America spend too little time in school, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with students in other countries.

Related Topic: Youth violence in Chicago

Obama also thinks the Harlem program is worth replicating in other cities and has promised $10 million for 20 other communities to try it. Next year, cities will be able to compete for money to initiate “Promise Neighborhoods” in their own at-risk neighborhoods.

According to the Chicago Tribune, leaders in three Chicago neighborhoods plan to apply for the program. Bishop Arthur Brazier, head of The Woodlawn Organization in Chicago, is working with the University of Chicago to create a plan of action for the Woodlawn neighborhood. He told Banchero that Chicago’s high rate of youth violence and education problems demand “a bold, comprehensive strategy.”

Reference: Education guide

Find more information on education, including resources for parents, in findingDulcinea’s Education Web Guide.

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