Last Sunday’s 60 Minutes focused on Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). The segment is a follow-up to a piece that aired several years ago, when the HCZ project was first gaining national recognition. The question then was, “Will the experiment work?” Today, the HCZ boasts overwhelming success rates.
In my last post on this subject, I offered a reminder of Geoffrey Canada’s challenge to Springfield: “Take a stand.” Well Mr. Canada, Springfield has accepted your challenge, and has begun planning our very own “Children’s Zone.” Representatives from Springfield and Holyoke who attended the HCZ conference on November 9-10 in New York City (see video clip below) came away inspired, motivated, and committed to replicating the success of the HCZ, here in our own community.
We learned, first and foremost, that a successful “Zone” starts with the belief that all children can achieve. Despite the alarming statistics that demonstrate past failures, commitment, leadership, and faith can change the course of history in Springfield. And prove the skeptics wrong. In fact, the theme of the HCZ conference was “Changing the odds.” We plan to change the odds in favor our youth, and our future.
There were over 1,400 people on hand at the conference, representing approximately 106 communities from across the country. The alarming urban trends that we know first-hand are common nationwide. It is clear this is not merely a “can do” initiative for certain localities, but a “must do” for America!
With the right people on board, the next steps of the model call for planning, collaboration building, governance, accountability, and of course funding.
We learned that although municipalities may share similar problems, solutions may not be so common. For Springfield, there are still a lot of unknowns. The nuances associated with creating a “pipeline” involving existing organizations and agencies can present some very unique challenges. Nevertheless, we will continue to tackle unknowns of what a “Springfield Children’s Zone” would look like. In doing so, we identify our weaknesses, but more importantly, we bring to light our collective strength. We know that this endeavor is unprecedented. And considering our history and what’s at stake, I think we’re right on track.