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Safety Team Creates Safe Spaces So Our Scholars Can Thrive

In 1996, Jasmine Tumma took a job at Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families. As a Peacemaker, it was her job to create a safe space – a refuge for kids and families to stay off the streets and enjoy high-quality programming. Jasmine never looked back: 30 years later, she is still with the organization, now Harlem Children’s Zone, keeping our community safe. 

“I’ve been through it; I’ve been present from 116th Street all the way to 145th Street,” says Jasmine, who is now the Director of Safety at HCZ, overseeing the protection of nearly 20,000 scholars, families, and community members across 20-plus HCZ sites. “I know the ins-and-outs of this community.”

Jasmine and the members of the HCZ Safety Team are emblematic of HCZ’s deep connection to Central Harlem. For Jasmine, her job isn’t just a 9-5 – it’s a mission that’s critical to upholding our values and ensuring the success of our scholars. 

Safety team is rooted in “Place” 

At HCZ, one of those values is Place Matters — building opportunities for prosperity in traditionally underserved neighborhoods. That’s not possible without safe spaces. And that’s why our Safety Team is so critical to our work. 

The team is firmly rooted in “place.” Whenever you enter an HCZ building, you’re welcomed by a safety officer; they remember names and faces and keep track of when people come and go. Often, team members are stationed in buildings near where they grew up. This awareness and familiarity empowers our Safety Team to do their jobs effectively. 

Look no further than Safety Supervisor Brandon Brown. At our Geoffrey Canada Community Center, home of HCZ Promise Academy II, Brandon always greets you with a “good morning” and a bright smile. He never forgets a name or a face.

Brandon Brown, Safety Manager, standing in the lobby of Promise Academy II, wearing a black jacket.
Safety Supervisor Brandon Brown at the Geoffrey Canada Community Center.

“Whether it’s asking scholars if they’ve had breakfast yet or asking parents how they’re doing, I always try to make everyone feel welcome,” Brandon says. “It’s simple things that make me feel like I’m making an impact.”

Our Safety Team is also grounded in purpose. They are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year. The job isn’t taken lightly: the team arrives each day (and night) with an unwavering commitment to protect our scholars, staff, families, and community members. 

“I was that kid that was rough around the edges,” Brandon says. “So I understand how important it is that our scholars have a safe place to come where they can be their best, so they can do their best.”

Discover career opportunities at Harlem Children’s Zone>

We’re looking for passionate people who want to transform the lives of our scholars by helping them thrive in the classroom, college, and their careers.

From Safety Knights to Safety Team

Before the Safety Team, there was the Safety Knights. It sounds like a superhero group from the Marvel Universe. Sporting bright orange vests, the Safety Knights would stand guard on street corners ensuring that HCZ scholars were able to get safely from site to site. 

“Rain or shine, Safety Knights were always there to protect our kids,” Jasmine says.

Safety Knights in bright orange sweatshirts on their evening watch in Harlem.
HCZ’s Safety Knights on their evening watch in Harlem.

But as HCZ grew from one block, to 24 blocks, and so on (today, HCZ covers over 97 blocks), Jasmine saw the need for a more expansive operation. After working as a Peacemaker, and then at The Baby College and St. Nicholas Houses, she helped launch our Safety Team.

Protecting the community, part of the community

Our Safety Team cares so deeply for our community because many of its members see themselves in our scholars.

“I got into this field because I knew that kids in the community needed guidance, and I felt I was a good person to do that job, since I have similar life experiences that they do,” says Assistant Director of Safety Randy Archer, who, like Jasmine, has been working at HCZ for almost three decades. “It’s important that they have people out there willing to go the extra mile to show them love and support.”

Randy Archer, Assistant Director of Safety, wears a white button down shirt with a tie, standing in the lobby of Promise Academy II.
Randy Archer, Assistant Director of Safety.

For Jasmine, the connection goes even deeper: when she got a job at HCZ, she enrolled her daughter in our programs.

“That was a blessing for me,” she says. “I had an extra set of eyes and extra family members supporting me and my daughter.”

For the last 30 years, our Safety Team has been like family to HCZ; they’ve led with love and commitment for all our scholars, families, and community members.

Discover career opportunities at Harlem Children’s Zone>

We’re looking for passionate people who want to transform the lives of our scholars by helping them thrive in the classroom, college, and their careers.

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