Harlem Children’s Zone President and CEO Geoffrey Canada ’74 paid a visit to the City of Angels recently, where he challenged members of a local community foundation to do all they can to improves the lives of children. Canada’s visit was made possible by his classmate, Bowdoin Trustee Sheldon Stone ’74.
Educator Geoffrey Canada ’74 brought his message about accountability, responsibility, and opportunity to Los Angeles recently, urging members of the California Community Foundation (CCF) to do in L.A. what he and others are doing for children in New York City through the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ).
“Here’s a challenge for all of you in L.A.,” Canada told about 150 CCF donors, advisors, grantees, board members, and staff at a meeting on September 20. “I’m going to save my kids. The question is, are you going to save your children?”
Canada’s appearance at the CCF meeting was made possible by his Bowdoin classmate, Sheldon M. Stone ’74, who is the Foundation’s chair-elect, a principal and portfolio manager at Oaktree Capital Management in Los Angeles, a Bowdoin trustee, and, along with his wife, Cynthia, a supporter of Canada’s efforts in Harlem. Canada was in Los Angeles, along with colleague George Kahldun ’73 and other members of the HCZ staff, to attend a screening of the new documentary about the state of education in America, Waiting for Superman.
The New York Times has called the HCZ project “one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time.” Its stated goal is to provide “a unique, holistic approach to rebuilding a community so that its children can stay on track through college and go on to the job market.” Beginning with “The Baby College“ that works with parents of children 0-3, HCZ provides in-school, after-school, social service, health, and community-building programs in what has become a 97-block area of Harlem.
CCF, meanwhile, aims to assist the disenfranchised in Los Angeles through support for education, affordable housing, and health care. CCF also provides support for the arts at a time when municipal and state funding for artistic and cultural activities has declined.
According to Stone, who takes over as chair of CCF on January 1, he had originally intended to bring Canada together with just a few members of the Foundation’s program staff, since CCF is working on its own set of educational initiatives in Los Angeles. But as interest grew, he decided to expand the visit.
“Geoff spoke in detail about how broken the educational system is in America and the change that needs to occur if future generations are going to have a fair chance at gaining success in our society,” said Stone. “His talk was very well received.”
The talk was filmed by a two-time Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who has been following Canada’s career for nearly 14 years. It’s a project Stone supports and one that he hopes others will get behind, especially because of the importance of Canada’s work and his commitment to children.
“Geoff would be the first to tell you that what he’s doing is nothing new,” said Stone. “This is what he studied in graduate school. The difference is that he’s actually doing it.”