Mr. Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix and Ambassador Avant’s spouse; Hon. T. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education of The Bahamas; Geoffrey Canada, CEO and President of the Harlem Children’s Zone; U.S. Ambassador, Her Excellency Nicole A. Avant; Sen. The Hon. Dion Foulkes, Minister of Labour and Social Development of The Bahamas; The Hon. Loretta Butler-Turner, Minister of State for Social Development of The Bahamas; and Mr. Edward Turner, Attorney-at-Law.
Nassau, Bahamas - In celebration
of Black History Month, United States Ambassador to The Bahamas, Her Excellency
Nicole A. Avant and Mr. Ted Sarandos hosted an event in their home on February
18, in honor of American education reformer and advocate, Geoffrey Canada -
President and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Leaders from The Bahamas’ public and private sectors,
including representatives from the Lyford Cay Foundation and the Cape Eleuthera
Institute, gathered together for a dialogue with Mr. Canada who shared insights
from his work over the last two decades focused on closing the achievement gap
in Harlem, New York.
government officials who participated in the dialogue included the Minister of
Education, Hon. T. Desmond Bannister; Minister of Labour and Social
Development, Sen. The Hon. Dion Foulkes; Minister of State for Social
Development, The Hon. Loretta Butler-Turner; and Permanent Secretary in the
Ministry of Education, Mrs. Elma Garraway, who presented the Vote of Thanks on
behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
remarks, Ambassador Avant emphasized that the goal of U.S. Embassy events -
such as the dialogue featuring Geoffrey Canada - is to connect technical
experts from the United States with Bahamian leaders to foster future
“In the United
States – much like The Bahamas – schools and communities are grappling with the
challenge of ensuring that the next generation is prepared for our rapidly
changing global environment…Geoffrey Canada is an innovative leader who firmly
believes that all students have the right to a top education, regardless of
where they live,” Ambassador Nicole Avant said.
Ambassador Avant’s special guest, Mr. Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone.
Canada is nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and
families in Harlem and for being a leading voice for education reform in
America. As President and CEO of
the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) in New York City, he has dedicated the past 20
years to helping the most impoverished, at-risk youth in America obtain a top
education and go on to college.
The New York Times Magazine called the HCZ "one of the most
ambitious social experiments of our time.” Canada was recently profiled in the 2010 film Waiting for
“Superman”, directed by Davis Guggenheim who also directed the climate change
documentary An Inconvenient Truth featuring former U.S. Vice President, Al
Canada led the
launch of the Harlem Children's Zone Project in 1997 by defining a geographic
area in Central Harlem and infusing the Zone with a range of comprehensive
services targeting students, their peers, and parents. Canada, who grew up in the Bronx and
graduated from Harvard’s School of Education, targeted Central Harlem because
it was home to the largest number of children in foster care of any place New
York; the worst-performing schools; the highest incidence of children entering
the criminal justice system; and one of the highest rates of children with
asthma in the United States.
Today, the HCZ covers 100 blocks in Harlem and aims to serve over 10,000
children this year.
for reversing years of neglect and low achievement in Central Harlem is focused
on the belief that in order to change the lives of inner-city kids,
interventions must go beyond schools by targeting families, and the surrounding
neighborhoods. Canada’s sense of
urgency is based on data from the last two decades that shows a large majority
of students in economically depressed areas in the United States do not receive
minimal levels of instruction while in school and often graduate unprepared to
compete in a “flat” global environment.
need to face the fact that the old model doesn’t work. The old model wasn’t
designed to prepare all students for college—a very small percentage of
students were being prepared for college, and everybody else was being prepared
for the factories,” Canada told the group of Bahamian leaders.
In the Harlem
Children’s Zone teachers are fully responsible for students’ success. Canada described the HCZ as a “no
excuses” environment. The HCZ’s
charter school, called the Promise Academy, commits to doing whatever it takes
to ensure that its students enter and succeed in college. To fulfill that promise, students and
parents must commit to longer school days and an extended school year. All Promise Academy students have
access to quality health care and top performers are rewarded for their
achievements. The HCZ’s ultimate
goal is to break the cycle of generational poverty by ensuring its students
attain rewarding careers and become valuable members of their community.
Due to the
HCZ’s data driven environment, researchers - including Will Dobbie and Roland
G. Fryer, Jr from Harvard University - have been able to track and analyze
student outcomes.Dobbie and
Fryer’s April 2009 study documented the Promise Academy’s dramatic academic
gains; effectively closing the black-white achievement gap in mathematics at
the middle school level and in mathematics and English at the elementary school
level. Their findings show that a
high quality learning environment is an essential component in the Promise
Academy’s success and that community investments alone cannot explain the
charter school’s results.
President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have publically recognized
Canada’s achievements and the HCZ’s holistic approach. The Obama Administration set aside $10
million in funding to establish "Promise Neighborhoods" to support
cradle-to-career services in a diverse set of communities throughout the United
States, including major metropolitan areas, small and medium-size cities, rural
areas, and one Indian reservation.Using the HCZ as a model, on September 21, 2010, U.S. Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan announced that 21 nonprofit organizations and institutions
of higher education would receive one-year grants to create plans designed to
improve the educational achievement and healthy development of children
throughout the United States.