Community based program that enhances stages childrens development

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The Harlem School Zone is a not for profit community-based program that enhances every stage in a child's development. It encompasses not only education, but the social network that contributes to a successful life for a child. The evolution of the school and its programs was shaped not only by the reality of poverty on families but on the personal experiences of its founding director Geoffrey Canada. Geoffrey after finishing his own education, returned to his childhood home of Harlem to help the next generation. He knew firsthand the obstacles the young children of Harlem faced. Having been raised by a single mother with his three brothers, he witnessed the struggle many families face in Harlem. ( ) When Mr. Canada arrived in 1983 at the Rheelen Institute which would evolve into the Harlem Children's Zone, he knew that the neighborhood was no safer than when he was child on its street, every day was a struggle to survive and fear. When he was young he had learned from an older child how to become "street smart "and know the rules the code of conduct , and learned how to fist fight. That as a child he had carried a knife when on the streets for he felt it was better to not be a coward but to fight. He still carries a minor injury on his index finger after accidently cutting himself as a child with his own knife. He says ". The finger is my reminder of what young people are willing to do for protection." To combat this dilemma, Geoffrey opened a karate school for children. At the school the kids learned to combat violence with skills and restraint. That if one knows they can protect themselves they will not act out of fear.

When he became director of the school now known as the Harlem School Zone, he started to ask how he could change the lives of so many poor children. He knew that it would take bold action to overcome the obstacles of poverty and its long term effects on families. That the reality of life was that low skill jobs were going away, manufacturing jobs, were disappearing. These jobs did not need a high degree of education, but, were being replaced by jobs that required a degree of education that was not found or stressed in many poor families. Another factor was that Harlem which was once an area where mixed income families lived together. It had seen the loss of many middle income families this left poor families without a role model of what education can do for upward mobility. What was left in the area were high poverty rates and high unemployment of mainly black families. Children in this neighborhood seldom talk to individuals who are working and educating themselves for the future. Geoffrey realized it would take a massive program to change this social background. He called it the conveyer -belt system. He had originally started the school with an incoming class of six graders but testing after they had attended the school for a year showed they were still behind other children. That even six graders could be so far behind that it would take a longer time to catch them up to their peers. Mr. Canada came to the conclusion that intervention had to start at a younger age.

Geoffrey Canada began to question the values of the black community what were they and how did it impact their children's future ?His experiences also showed him that black families had to see that their participation was important for the success of their children. Even though he was poor his mother tutored her sons, restricted their television intake, instilled them with values, and took them to civil rights marches, Her children were aware that she regretted not being able to finishing college. After two years in college, their mother was told by her parents they were unable to pay for any more college. In later years, she would get a masters degree and become a substance abuse counselor.

Mr. Canada then had to ask himself what of the values of other poor black families? This question was answered by a sociologist named Annette Lareau who in 1992 did a study of what effect did the attitudes and beliefs and values passed down by families have on academic success. "Page 48 what ever it takes. This study found that there are differences between working class, poor class, and middle class. Middle class families she discovered think they are responsible for their child's development. They planned activities to enrich their children. The parents involved themselves and their children in school sports, visits to museums, and music lessons all to enhance development. Middle class families treat their child like little adults encouraging them to ask questions about assumptions and mores, They taught them how to work within the "system " so that it worked for them. In contrast, poor and working families did not structure their children's after school lives. The children were allowed more free time to socialize, play and chose what to do with their free time. However they did not have the freedom to question the rules or the authority of the adults. Their world revolved around family and friends and less with people in the "system. Children were seen as children and adults lived in a different world. Lareau found that working and poor children learned how to use their time and work within a peer group. However Lareua discovered that in one poor household family members did not look each other in the eyes' as she states "an appropriative response in a culture where can be interpreted as a threat, but ill suited in a job interview where a firm handshake and a steady gaze are considered assets and a failure to make eye contact can make a candidate seem shifty "page 50 whatever it takes.} This subtle aspect of poor and working families makes it difficult for children of these classes to gain upward mobility. However, middle class children are learning skills that society values. They feel entitled to upward mobility, in part, because they have been taken seriously by adults around them. They also are familiar with the workings of institutions. By questioning adult's views, they learn to negotiate and problem solve. They see teachers as someone to help them on their way to adulthood. In poor families, children learn that teachers are authority figures, which they must obey but resented also. This study showed that middle class children have an advantage that society values. They are prepared to achieve on standardized teats and as adults in the workplace. A surprising find was that most of the middle class parents in this study were raised in poor or working families but raised their children in the values of the middle class. Another surprising development in this study was that middle class families were not aware of the advantages they gave their children. They were not aware that the advantages of middle class values were being passed on to their children. Some of these advantages were the language the parents used when interacting with children and adults. This process resulted in a child having a larger vocabulary. Because they had been listened to and taken seriously they are more assertive when dealing with adults and institutions. Through the process of osmosis of they adopted their parent's attitude and values towards life. Their positive expectations of their lives were reinforced by the forces of society's values.

In contrast, poor and working class children were at a disadvantage. This study found that money is not the only thing that creates the framework of a successful adult. It recognized that better food and books in the home would assist these children. Children in a poor family may be more polite and happier then other children. And they have the skills to work with a peer group. By the same mechanisms, poor children learn their parent's attitudes and values however these are skills that society, in many ways, does not put a high value on.

This study both concerned and push Geoffrey Canada, he knew that he had to start intervention very early in the lives of these children. Thus, he developed his conveyor belt concept of a continuous path from early childhood thorough high school. But he also had to address the children who could not get on the convey belt early enough. He wanted to instill in these kids it was never to late to find success in school and life. The goals of the school are to find for poor kids the success that middle class children had come to expect. Harlem Children Zone wanted children to see some form of achievement that would turn them away from crime and dropping out of school. All children need to see that they had the choice of going to college on the horizon. Instead of putting all his attention and resources only on early development, he felt that by offering older kids a way out of poverty, he could change the culture of poor families. Looking at the whole culture was the only way to change perceptions of everyone. In trying to save these older kids could enhance the environment for the younger ones on the conveyer belt to succeed. These kids by doing well could influence their community. That this transformation would make people have pride in their child and their community. They would come to value education and work at a middle class level. That this school most be a collective effort to give children in Harlem the means necessary to succeed. Harlem Children Zone has tried to meet the needs of this strategy with innovative and all encompassing programs. Baby college is a a program to enrich a child's life and the parents understanding of child development.. It was a "discussion "group not a corrective intervention. It was asking the parents to share their knowledge to help other parents. It would be a practical program for parents, discussing discipline of children and development of a child's brain. Parents needed to know how to handle situations with the best tools instead of resorting to the familiar. They needed information, that it was this that kept them from assisting their children for the best result. It also covers home safety a class on the prevention of asthma which was rampart in Harlem and the importance of immunizations for kids. Finding the parents to enroll in this program and retaining them was the largest obstacle. The staff stated going to tenants meetings, passing out flyers and going door to door to let parents know what the program was going to do. For nine Saturdays the program would run with free breakfast and lunch for everyone. The school also raffles off gift certificates after each class and each parent receives for finishing the course. These enticements helped get the parents to class and taught them that other parents had the same concerns and questions. Every staff member of the Baby college is black or Hispanic, so no parent can say that asking parents to change is based on racism or ethnocentrism. The Baby College does not "copy "middle class values instead incorporating any useful ideas from any group.

It takes the values that society values and incorporates them into the Harlem household. The next stop on the conveyor belt is the pre- kindergarten program Harlem Gems. Studies have shown that poor children not only benefit from being in pre-kindergarten but they benefit more than other children {pg 209 what it takes} The program does all the usual classes and teaching seen in other pre kindergarten programs. But they also concentrate on expanding language. By using pictures and discussion, they were introduced to objects and ideas they never see in their daily life. The idea behind this principle is that poor children are not usually exposed to science, geography or foreign countries. Their free time is spent with their peer groups who have the same restricted knowledge of these areas. They would not discuss ideas, objects, things unfamiliar to them or their families unless the children were exposed to them. By introducing new language and ideas the conveyor belt would change the culture from the bottom up to the top. The Gems program .which was developed for kids to transition to Promise Academy. Problems arose because of the lottery, which is the means used for selection.. The law states that admission to a charter school must be by random selection. However, too many of the children attending Promise Academy did not attend. Gems or kids were getting into promise without the benefits of the Gems program. Each child who attends Gems cost thirteen thousand dollars a year and then they attended a public school that does not try to impact the envioerment or values in Harlem.. The school changed the lottery selection by limiting it to only two or three years old. Those selected were guaranteed a place at Promise Academy two years.. In order to not lose the gains from Baby College, Harlem Children Zone added The Three year Journey program to bridge the two programs in place. Once a week the parents meet to discuss and reinforce what the baby college taught. This program is based on the hope that by continuous learning and repetition, intervention in later years would not be required. Journey is set up using an education models for the parents. Building on the Baby College this program discusses the physcological approaches to a child's development. Parents could now know the factors that go into their actions. The school focuses on how everyday events can be used to teach children important information. Parents learn how to expand children vocabulary by trips to the grocery store as an example asking questions like what color how many asking for their input develops values necessary for a successful education. This is the change required to change a culture, to not let the child have so much free time that they are not learning every day,. It also says to the parents that they can understand concepts and ideas not familiar to them. It gives them a sense of power and confidence in their parenting skills. Promise academy is the next transition for children. This school at its core tries to push children beyond their own expectations by finding the blockades to their success. Children have been taught not only the knowledge to pass state tests but the straragies necessary to do well. That children do better when they are familiar with the envierment and that they know how practice makes it easier. The school goes to parents and makes sure their children attend after school help. All of these activities are geared to every child continuing on the conveyor belt and building momentum on the foundations in place. The Promise High School opened in 2009 and each year will add a class from Promise Academy. In the meantime, parents of eight graders are given experts and advocates to get their children into the high school of their choice. These advocates teach the parents how to use institutions for the benefit of their children. This program continues for promise students with a program added that gives each student an advisor outside of the high school they attend. This advisor develops individual action plans and stragies to keep the young person on his or her life course. It also offers a College success office that offers information on how to get into an appropriate college. Remembering students are at the same level as a middle class student after attending Promise Academy. It has a College Preparatory Program that allows kids to think about the pursuit of college early This allows kids to be around people with the same aspirations as them.. Poor children have a good education of working with a peer group so this value can be used to further the goals that society values. The school runs a Employment and Technology Center for teens and adults. It teaches computer and other related skills. For those who want to have a career open to middle class students and work that gives dignity and hope for a better life. Harlem Children Zone recognizes that poor people have to worry about today, surviving another day is the main goal. By eliminating some of these obstacles Harlem Children's Zone hopes to assist these families, In the middle school is a clinic which deals with medical, dental and mental health issues. These are services that poor families lack that can impede people's ability to learn and function. The clinic also identifies children in the elementary school in need of their services so that intervention can begin early. Other services offered include nutrition, drug and alcohol issues, mental health ,advocacy and interaction solutions within families

It has a program called the Peacemakers which goes into schools and teaches children how to deal with conflict resolution and role modeling behaviors for children to emenulate It is involved in initiatives on asthma and obesity to improve the lives of people in ?Harlem. Teaching people how to use the institutions to their advantage,. Harlem Children's Zone had revenue of 75 million in 2008, expenses of 38 million and a surplus of 37 million. It is interesting to note that only eleven percent of these monies come from government funding { The Harlem Children's Zone continues to be a model for other communities across the country and to live up to its motto "Whatever It Takes"