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HCZ Helped Reyna Bonaparte Build a Bright Future — Now She’s Doing the Same for Her Son

Woman in grey sweater holds baby and smiles

From our Education and Youth Programs to College Success Office (CSO), Reyna Erika Bonaparte went through nearly the entire Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) pipeline. She came out the other side with her college degree and her dream career.

Now an adult, Reyna is back at HCZ — this time, with her son, Ezzie, who is accessing the resources he needs to succeed. 

“As a young Black boy, to see Black teachers, to be in a community of successful Black people, that changes how you view yourself,” says Reyna, a theater professional, teaching artist, and poet. “I’m excited Ezzie is having that from the very beginning.”

Reyna is among the many successful scholars — all grown up now and with children of their own — who are returning to HCZ to enroll their young ones in our Education and Youth Programs. HCZ helped Reyna build a bright future for herself. Now she’s doing the same for her son.

Follow Reyna’s journey:

‘HCZ was My Village’

Reyna first started attending HCZ’s Education and Youth Programs when she was seven.

Then known as the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families, HCZ was among the first organizations in New York City to open a beacon center — a space offering high-quality programming and a safe destination for local children and families to come together.

There, Reyna could explore her flowering interest in theater, media arts, and film. When she started college, she got support from CSO to thrive in her post-secondary journey.

“I spent so much time at HCZ: I got out of school and went there from 3 to 7 PM, and then I was there all day Saturday,” recalls Reyna, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the prestigious Bard College. “They offer programs from the moment you are born until post college. I needed a village and HCZ was my village.”

Back to the Zone

Though she reached the end of HCZ’s pipeline of Youth and Education Programs, Reyna’s journey with us didn’t stop there. After graduating from college, she returned to HCZ to lead youth writing, media, and arts programs.

Today, she’s back at HCZ with Ezzie, who graduated from The Baby College and Harlem Gems pre-school. Next stop for Ezzie: HCZ Promise Academy, our premier K-12 charter schools withing HCZ’s pathway of services.

“I didn’t get to go to Promise cause it wasn’t a thing when I was young,” Reyna says. “I’m so glad my son is going to have that opportunity.”

Reyna Bonaparte with her infant son, Ezzie.

Reyna Bonaparte with her infant son, Ezzie, at The Baby College.

‘Setting my kid up for success’

Besides working at HCZ, Reyna built a career as a theater professional. Currently, she works for the People’s Theatre Project, a nonprofit organization in New York City that “makes theater with and for immigrant communities to build a more just and equitable world.”

“I love working there very much and it reminds me of HCZ,” Reyna says.

Reyna Bonaparte stars in a theater performance with a colleague

Reyna Erika Bonaparte, who earned her BA from the prestigious Bard College, now works as a theater professional.

It was at HCZ that Reyna was given the opportunity to “use my voice” — an experience that empowered her to pursue a career in theater.

“I don’t know if I would be who I am without HCZ,” she says. “I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the support.”

She hopes that, one day, “Ezzie feels the same way that I feel about HCZ. Then, we’ll be two generations of HCZ kids in this family. One day, maybe three!”