The Beginning of the
The Harlem Children’s Zone® has always been driven by the belief that the success of our children and the strength of the community go hand in hand. Their needs are inseparable and must be addressed together in order to break the cycle of generational poverty and give our kids a real shot at the American dream.
Aimed at providing comprehensive, critical support to children and families and reweaving the very fabric of community life, the HCZ® Project began as a one-block pilot in the 1990s. With bold ambition, careful planning, and a strong infrastructure, we set out to address not just some, but all of the issues children and families were facing within a finite geographic area: crumbling apartments, rampant drug use, failing schools, violent crime, and chronic health problems.
Building on the success of this early initiative, we launched a 10-year strategic plan in 2000, steadily and systematically expanding the depth and breadth of our programming to encompass 24 blocks, then 60 blocks, and ultimately 97 blocks. Today, the Children’s Zone® serves more than 12,000 youth and nearly 9,500 adults and our organization as a whole serves over 13,700 youth and 13,200 adults.
With 70% of children in the Zone engaged in our pipeline of programs each year and thousands of youth well on their way to achieving the ultimate goal of college graduation, we have not only reached the tipping point, but also have become a national model and thought leader in the fields of education, youth and community development, and the fight against poverty.
What has enabled us to achieve such unprecedented success is our steadfast application of five core principles:
- Serve an entire neighborhood comprehensively and at scale to create a “tipping point” and definitively shift the culture of the community
- Create a pipeline of coordinated, best-practice programs to give our children and families seamless support from birth through college and maximize their outcomes
- Build community among residents, institutions, and stakeholders in order to create a healthy, positive environment where our children can thrive
- Evaluate program outcomes and create a feedback loop to provide managers with real-time data and strengthen services
- Cultivate an organizational culture of success rooted in passion, accountability, leadership, and teamwork