Friday, October 21, 2011

Geoffrey Canada

This week I had the honor and privilege to hear Geoffrey Canada speak. I have so much to say about the event I don't even know where to start!

Let me begin by saying it is incredible that Shreveport is even fortunate enough for him to come and visit. The Community Foundation of North Louisiana and a few other private foundations paid for his visit. Second, it is incredible that he spoke to a sold out crowd. This is a sign that people in our community really do care about each other and more importantly about the children in the community.

For those of you who do not know who Geoffrey Canada is please take a moment to learn more about him. He is the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone. He is an out-of-the-box thinker who has revitalized the inner-city schools in Harlem. While the concept of HCZ was around in the 80s, Canada really focused in on the idea in the early 90s. He took one single block in Harlem and focused all his time and energy on that one block. Making sure the children and adults alike were taken care of. "The idea was to address all the problems that poor families were facing: from crumbling apartments to failing schools, from violent crime to chronic health problems," (from the HCZ website). His team came up with a 10 year business plan and by 2007 the Harlem Children's Zone has grown to more than 100 blocks serving 10,000 children and 7,400 adults. Incredible.

The mission: "in doing 'whatever it takes' to ensure that our children graduate from college so they can be prepared for the high-skills job market." There are two keys to that statement. One- whatever it takes and two- graduate college. Whatever it takes means staying until 6 p.m. for teachers if that is necessary. It means working every Saturday. It means working one-on-one individually with students until they understand. It is doing whatever it takes, a selfless act to help the students. The second step, graduating college. Mr. Canada gave a hilarious and oh-so-true quote, " When is doubt, do what the rich people do." What he means, "rich people" don't let their children settle for a high school diploma, the are expected to go to college and graduate. And that is now what he expects of his students. E.V.E.R.Y. student in the Harlem Children's Zone attends and graduates college. EVERY student. How? Because HCZ does whatever it takes to ensure that.  They don't drop them off on the college campus the first day of freshman year and say, "Ok, good luck!" (Is that what the rich people would do?) No, they are followed through until the day they graduate college.

I could go on and on about Mr. Canada. He was incredible. Some of his ideas are controversial and can bring heated discussion. But if you listen to his ideas and believe that we, as a community and country, have the responsibility to take care of our children then you must at least consider what he says to have value.

I could continue about the film he was in Waiting for Superman. But that is another day, another blog.

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