Having grown up in poverty as one of four children of a single mom, this 61-year-old New York City educator understands the struggling families in the one hundred block square of Harlem that he calls the “Harlem Children’s Zone”. Now, as its CEO, he is changing their lives.
In his Promise Academy Charter School, the children go to school from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and there is an after-school enrichment program every day and sometimes on Saturdays. There is one adult for every six children in the classroom. And the children get only a three-week vacation in the summer.
Canada guarantees to parents that if their children come to the Promise Academy, they will get into college and he boasts a 95% success rate in meeting that goal.
The Harlem Children’s Zone offers “Baby College” to new parents so they can learn how to help their children come to school ready to learn “like the rich folk do”. They offer health services in the school and healthy meals in the cafeteria to help fight obesity. They stay in touch with their graduates and offer them help when they struggle in college.
It’s expensive, but Canada is a tireless fundraiser. He counts on $5,000 a year to educate each student. But, he explains, it costs $47,000 a year for each inmate in a penitentiary. For $5,000 a year, he keeps young people out of the penitentiary. And these people go on to be productive members of our society.