Founder: Geoffrey Canada
When: 2000 in Harlem, New York City
Bright Idea: Link social-service programs together tightly to prevent at-risk children from falling through the cracks.
Impact: In 1983 Canada was hired by a group in Harlem that focused on truancy reduction. He became ceo in 1990, expanding its mission into a $55 million multiservice operation. Canada dreamed up the Children's Zone Project to improve 100 city blocks of low-income Harlem (he'd grown up nearby in the South Bronx) by interweaving social programs that address challenges at each stage in a child's life. Initiatives include parenting classes, charter schools, teen job preparation and subsidized farmers' markets. The program covers 7,400 kids from birth through age 21 and plans to reach 10,000 by 2011.
The Next Wave: The Children's Zone concept has inspired a number of other ventures that link social programs in a specific geographic area.
Building Blocks for Kids: This Richmond, Calif., initiative meshes together interventions that have proved effective in combating alcohol and drug use among adolescents, such as parent-student training and after-school activities. Collaborating agencies include Opportunity West, Youth Service Bureau and the YMCA.
Rochester Children's Zone: Modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone, this two-year-old effort has just finished its planning stage. It will attempt to spur community involvement in kids' lives by interlacing social-support programs to help low-income children take advantage of educational and extracurricular activities.
Youth Empowerment Zone (YEZ): To help at-risk kids in Columbia, Mo., founder Lorenzo Lawson took a cue from the Harlem Children's Zone Project, whose team coached him on reaching out to at-risk teens even if they didn't show interest. Since 2005 Lawson's group has been working with a range of local agencies to help kids start-and stay-on the right track by offering educational and developmental help for young people ages 14 to 21.
by Jeremy Caplan and Kristina Dell
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