Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone Essay

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Historical Context
“Education in our country is the social service equivalent of Katrina. Part of the challenge that we face in this nation is that we have to confront the fact that we have systems that are designed essentially to fail kids,” states Geoffrey Canada in his address at the Social Justice Leadership Conference (Newport, 2011). Canada has an innate ability to blatantly state the problems facing communities in this country. However he is not just talking; he is doing something about it. Growing up in Harlem himself, Canada had struggles as a young person. The 1950s in the United States was a time of dichotomy. Although it was time of economic wealth, it was also a time of racism and inequalities for the African American
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He fled afraid. Geoffrey’s brother yelled to him, “You better never bother my brother again.” He recalls, “The only real lesson I learned from the jacket episode was if someone takes something from you, tell your mother you lost it, otherwise you might be in danger of getting your face punched in by some boy on the streets of New York City,” (Canada, 1995, pg. 6). This forever changed him. Growing up he learned street smarts and kept a knife in his pocket for protection (A&E, 2011). These experiences helped to frame his later work. When he was 15, he moved in with his grandparents to go to a better high school. He received a scholarship for Bowdoin College where he graduated with a degree in sociology and psychology. Immediately after, Canada went to the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he received his master’s degree.
Contributions of the Individual
Canada returned to Harlem in 1983. He worked at The Rheedlen Institute. This provided youth with drop in after school care, truancy prevention, teen anti-violence trainings and other youth focused services (Tough, 2008). Canada was frustrated by the waiting lists and the inability to help more children. He knew in order to break the cycle of poverty he had to do something else. Rather than evaluate what programs worked for kids, he started with the outcomes he wanted. Canada liked programs like Head Start but saw the growth deteriorate soon after

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