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Harlem Children's Zone

Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Integrated services to 100 blocks.

Harlem Children’s Zone began life in 1970 as Rheedlen, New York’s first truancy prevention program. Over the next quarter century, however, Harlem continued on a steep decline, ravaged by the crack epidemic and gang violence. In the early 1990s, a pilot project was launched with the idea that by bringing a range of support services to a single block, an organization could comprehensively address the problems faced by poor families. By 1997, the scope had expanded to a 24-block area and the Harlem Children’s Zone was born. 

The project is defined by a unique approach to rebuilding social fabric and breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty, underpinned by a focus on guiding children through a ‘pipeline’ from school to university and on to the job market. Now encompassing a 100-block area – serving more than 8,000 children and 6,000 adults – the Harlem Children’s Zone brings together a number of targeted initiatives. While the most prominent is the network of ‘Promise Academy’ charter schools, the organization also delivers after-school, social service, health and community-building programs free of charge, working towards a developmental ‘tipping point’. 

Although the long-term impact of this ambitious ‘cradle to college’ model cannot yet be known, early evaluations have shown substantive improvements already across a range of educational and health indicators.

(Photo © Harlem Children's Zone)