Born in New York City in 1952, Geoffrey Canada has dedicated his professional life to helping children secure educational and economic opportunities.
Since 1983, Canada has been involved with the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), rising to the position of President and CEO in 1990. Called “one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time” by The New York Times, HCZ creates a community safety net for children through a holistic approach. By combining educational, social and medical services, HCZ’s goal is to create a neighborhood “tipping point” that allows children to succeed. The zone covers 100 blocks and serves over 10,000 children and 7,400 adults. He stepped down as CEO in 2014.
HCZ has been hailed as a national model for community empowerment and has been featured on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Night Line, and many more. Canada was also interviewed about the project in the critically acclaimed documentary Waiting for Superman.
The HCZ project includes a Baby College for parents of children ages 0-3; a best-practices classroom programs for every age through college; in-school, after-school, social-service, health and community-building programs. The goal of HCZ is to rehabilitate the social fabric of Harlem after decades of crime, drugs, and poverty. The budget of HCZ is over $48 million a year.
Canada is the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America and Reaching Up For Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America. He holds a BA in psychology and sociology from Bowdoin College and a M.A. from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
In 2005, Canada was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by US News and World Report. Canada was appointed to co-chair the Commission on Economic Opportunity in New York City and was also appointed to the New York State Governor’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board. President Barack Obama has stated his goal of replicating the HCZ model in twenty other American cities.