Our Mission & Values

Our Mission

The Harlem Children’s Zone started with one mission that was the most ambitious and audacious in U.S. history: to end intergenerational poverty in Central Harlem and lead the way for other long-distressed communities nationwide and around the world to do the same.

Harlem Children’s Zone breaks the cycle of intergenerational poverty with on-the-ground, all-around programming that builds up opportunities for children and families to thrive in school, work, and life. From early childhood, education, and career programs to community outreach and wellness initiatives, HCZ opens pathways to mobility and prosperity.

Our mission centers around the belief that the most powerful way to fight poverty is to invest in every opportunity for people to rise above it. From education and employment to housing and healthy living, we’ll do whatever it takes so that our children, families, and communities can live up to their promising futures.

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Video: Close up of Kwame Owusu-Kesse speaking to camera

Our Values

Our six values guide everything we do.

Our values, which follow, are a critical part of our culture and model for success. They help us ensure that we provide the best programs and supports to the children and families we serve. The values work together and balance each other, informing how we behave and make decisions across the organization.

Children First

We embrace a holistic, youth-centered approach to create transformational opportunities, driven by justice and a radical hope for their future.


We set high expectations and uncompromising standards because our children, families, and community deserve consistent, high-quality opportunities and services.


We deeply value the knowledge, diversity, and experience that every child, family, community partner, and colleague brings.

Strategic Relentlessness

We explore every option to find the best approach to address the complex challenges each of our young people and families face.

Army of Love

We support each other and work together with laughter and joy to turn shared strength and wisdom into collective impact.

Best Selves to Best Serve

We bring our best selves to this challenging work each day, to best serve our young people, their families, and this community.