Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, will be the third speaker of the 2010–2011 George T. Hunter Lecture Series on Feb. 15.
In 1997, Mr. Canada launched the Harlem Children's Zone which creates an interconnected pipeline of education and social-service programs from birth through college for 10,000 children in a 100 square block radius in central Harlem. The New York Times Magazine called the Harlem Children’s Zone "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time."
Mr. Canada’s work was recently highlighted in the award winning documentary Waiting for Superman and is the subject of Paul Tough’s book, Whatever it Takes.
Over 300 communities across the country applied for the U.S. Department of Education Promise Neighborhoods grant program modeled on the HCZ. In Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Promise Zone grew out of a partnership between the Hamilton County Mayor’s office, the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Chattanooga Housing Authority. The CPZ will focus on improving student performance to ensure that young people most at risk in the areas of highest poverty in the county are ready for college.
Mr. Canada will be the education speaker for this year’s George T. Hunter Lecture Series. Prior to Mr. Canada’s speech, he will be speaking to UTC students, CreateHere fellows and community leaders at a meeting at Hardy Elementary School.
“Geoffrey Canada’s innovative work on school reform and the welfare of children make him a national leader on some of the issues most important to the Benwood Foundation and our community," said Corinne Allen, executive director of the Benwood Foundation. "We are delighted to have him as a part of the George T. Hunter Lecture Series this year.”
“We are very excited to have Geoffrey Canada at UTC.” said Dr. Roger Brown, chancellor of UTC. “This is another great example of the partnership that has brought so many national leaders to our city.”
David Eichenthal, president and CEO of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, said, “Having worked with Geoffrey Canada in New York and closely studied the success of the HCZ, I know there couldn’t be a better time for all Chattanoogans to hear his important voice on how to improve education and reduce poverty in our community.”
The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall located inside the Fine Arts Center on the UTC campus. All lectures in the series are free and open to the public. Seating is limited and is on a first-come first-serve basis. Overflow rooms with live streaming video of the lecture will be provided in the Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater in the Fine Arts Center, Grote Hall Room 129, the Benwood Auditorium and the Card Auditorium both in the Engineering, Computer Science and Math Building.
This year marks the third annual George T. Hunter Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the Benwood Foundation, in partnership with the UTC, the Ochs Center, and CreateHere.
By bringing leading national voices like Geoffrey Canada – and prior speakers such as Malcolm Gladwell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Brooks and Madeleine Albright – to Chattanooga, the Benwood Foundation hopes to promote discussion of important issues to our country and the nation.
Geoffrey Canada grew up in the South Bronx in a poor, sometimes-violent neighborhood. Despite his troubled surroundings, he was able to succeed academically, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College and a master's degree in education from the Harvard School of Education. After graduating from Harvard, Mr. Canada decided to work to help children who, like himself, were disadvantaged by their lives in poor, embattled neighborhoods. Mr. Canada joined Harlem Children's Zone, Inc. (then called the Rheedlen Foundation) in 1983, as education director. Prior to that, he worked as director of the Robert White School, a private day school for troubled inner-city youth in Boston.
For his years of work advocating for children and families in some of America's most devastated communities, Mr. Canada was a recipient of the first Heinz Award in 1994. In 2004, he was given the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education and Child Magazine's Children's Champion Award.
The New York Times Magazine said the Zone Project "combines educational, social and medical services. It starts at birth and follows children to college. It meshes those services into an interlocking web, and then it drops that web over an entire neighborhood....The objective is to create a safety net woven so tightly that children in the neighborhood just can't slip through."
The work of Mr. Canada and HCZ has become a national model and has been the subject of many profiles in the media. Their work has been featured on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, CBS This Morning, The Charlie Rose Show, National Public Radio's "On Point," as well in articles in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, USA Today and Newsday. Mr. Canada has also received the Heroes of the Year Award from the Robin Hood Foundation, The Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Spirit of the City Award from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Brennan Legacy Award from New York University and the Common Good Award from Bowdoin College. He has received honorary degrees from Harvard University, Bowdoin College, Williams College, John Jay College, Bank Street College and Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary.
In 2006, Mr. Canada was selected by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as co-chair of The Commission on Economic Opportunity, which was asked to formulate a plan to significantly reduce poverty. In 2007, he was appointed co-chair of New York State Governor's Children's Cabinet Advisory Board.
The National Book Award-winning author Jonathan Kozol has called Mr. Canada, "One of the few authentic heroes of New York and one of the best friends children have, or ever will have, in our nation."
Drawing upon his own childhood experiences and at the Harlem Children's Zone, he wrote Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America, and Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America. In its review of " Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America Publishers Weekly said, "a more powerful depiction of the tragic life of urban children and a more compelling plea to end ‘America's war against itself' cannot be imagined."
Following Mr. Canada’s lecture on Feb. 15, the remaining speaker of the 2010 – 2011 George T. Hunter Lecture series will be Dr. Vandana Shiva.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, April 26– Environment Speaker: Born in India, Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental leader and thinker. Director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology, she is the author of many books, including Water Wars: Pollution, Profits, and Privatization. Dr. Shiva is a leader in the International Forum on Globalization and has addressed the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, as well as the recent World Economic Forum in Melbourne. Time magazine recognized Dr. Shiva as an environmental hero, and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators in Asia. Dr. Shiva is a recipient of Global 500 Award of the United Nations and Earth Day International Award. She has also received the Alternative Nobel Prize Right Livelihood Award and is a member of the Order of the Golden Ark.
For more information, visit www.benwood.org.