The Socially Conscious Book Club (Week 7): Whatever It Takes

Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Book Club, Education, Featured, Videos

Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) began in 1970 working with young children and their families as the city’s first truancy-prevention program. Since then HCZ has been led by Social Entrepreneur Geoffrey Canada and become a beacon of light within a city that has lived through the best of times and the worst of times.


In Whatever It Takes, Author Paul Tough follows the story of Canada and what it takes to help every single child in Harlem (97 inner-city blocks) graduate from high school and get through college (ten years ago, a little more than half of Harlem students graduated high school).

Canada has went through leaps and bounds to secure the future of Harlem kids. He grew HCZ to ten times the original size. He also created a comprehensive system of integrated services going from cradle to college. The system includes two charter schools, a health clinic, farmers market and free tax help center.

The main component of Canada’s program is Baby College. Baby College gives poor parents lessons on science-based growth strategies of children ages 0 and 3 — the most important ages for development. Curriculum in Baby College classes teach parents how children develop cognitive and emotional skills and how important the first years of a baby’s life is.


The results speak for themselves: 100 percent of the third-graders at HCZ Promise Academy II scored at or above grade level in the statewide math tests. A few blocks away, 97 percent of the Promise Academy I third-graders were at or above grade level. And these are just a few of the many successes at HCZ — President Obama is planning on implementing the program in 20 more urban cities in 2010.

This book is a great read for poverty alleviaters and parents from all walks of life. Canada believes there is a solution to poverty in America and it starts with YOUth!

Harlem Children’s Zone

Harlem Children's Zone How Our Work is Succeeding for Poor Children and Families

The Harlem Children’s Zone aims to break the cycle of generational poverty for the thousands of children and families it serves.

Tristan Pollock

Co-founder of SocialEarth and Storefront. AngelPad alum.

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