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Director of Parent and Community Engagement Shares 25 Years of Smiles and Support

Latasha Morgan, Director, Parents and Community Engagement

Woman stands smiling in front of Harlem Children's Zone office

Latasha Morgan has had many roles in her 25 years at Harlem Children’s Zone: director of parent and community engagement, coordinator, event emcee, hype woman, parent.

But perhaps no other title has been as important as this one: neighbor.

Across her two-plus decades at Harlem Children’s Zone, Latasha has invested time and energy into getting to know the children, families, and community members who live in our 97-block zone. She’s someone they look to for support on parenting, accessing our pipeline of services, and even improving their jump shot (Latasha was a Division II star college basketball player).

Latasha — now the director of parent and community engagement — is a bright light in our community, an ever-smiling source of love, joy, and positivity. It’s no surprise that, when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2019, the entire community rallied to help her beat the disease.

“The impact I’ve been able to make on our children, parents, and staff is priceless,” Latasha says. “So is the impact they’ve made on me.”

 

Knocking on doors

Latasha is one of the many Harlem Children’s Zone staff members who were born and raised in Harlem. She knows that building a successful program means building trust and familiarity with those she serves.

It’s an approach she’s come back to throughout her career. When Latasha became director of Countee Cullen Community Center in 2005, she chatted with residents on their stoops, asked drug dealers to stop selling in front of the Center, and only ordered breakfast from the Red Rose restaurant down the street.

Today, she’s doing the same as director of Community Pride and The Baby College. In the former role, Latasha leads a public-facing team of grassroots connectors and problem solvers devoted to empowering our community and providing essential services. In the latter role, she manages a program that educates new and expectant parents on the ins and outs of early childhood development.

“Without community engagement, there is no Harlem Children’s Zone,” Latasha says. “I tell folks, ‘I’m not too far from who you are and where you’re from.’”

Building the ladder as she climbs it

Latasha’s commitment to our children and families extends to her commitment to our organization. She hasn’t just worked at Harlem Children’s Zone — she’s helped build it.

After starting as a coordinator at our Peacemakers program in 2002, Latasha spent a combined decade directing our Promise Academy I After School and Lincoln and St. Nicholas housing programs; led our signature Healthy Harlem program for five years; and currently oversees a portfolio of parent and community programs.

With each stop of her career journey, Latasha helped make our programs what they are today. In that sense, her career history is also a history of the evolution of HCZ. She built the ladder as she climbed it.

 

Beating cancer

That climb was put on hold in 2019 when Latasha was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. 

With all that she had done for our community, we quickly came to her aid. Staff members, including then CEO Anne Williams-Isom, threw “Chemo Parties” for her at the hospital. Students celebrated once she returned from treatment. Parents prayed for her. Today, Latasha is cancer free.

 

“Hope, possibility, and life”

Over the past two years, Latasha has been back at work making an impact on our children and families. Most recently, she energized our community as the emcee of our Well+Woke celebration.

However, Latasha stresses that that impact goes both ways: she found her husband at Harlem Children’s Zone, and now, is a proud parent of Promise Academy schoolchildren. She’ll never forget the way the community showed up for her in her time of need.

“To me, this community means hope, possibility and life,” Latasha says. “Everything I do here is a personal mission for me.”