One of the most famous faces of urban education will soon be replaced. Geoffrey Canada, chief executive of the renowned Harlem Children’s Zone, recently announced that he would be stepping down from the position in June.
Having joined the Harlem charter school network and non-profit in 1990, the 62 year-old educational reformer catapulted to prominence after appearing in the highly acclaimed, yet divisive documentary Waiting for Superman and inspiring the film’s title.
“One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me Superman did not exist,” he recalled in the 2010 documentary. “She thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us.”
Many supporters would likely argue that the South Bronx native employed himself with the superhuman role throughout the past two decades that he has run the program. In a community once synonymous for crack cocaine and the decline of Black American, HCZ has steadily risen to defy the educational odds that most institutions based in lower-income neighborhoods face.
The privately funded program is now backed by roughly $200 million in grants and contributions—thanks in large part to a fundraising campaign spearheaded by Canada—and supported by a 95 percent college acceptance rate, as well as celebrity figures like Oprah Winfrey. President Obama revealed in January that Canada’s hugely effective model for HCZ, which involves engaging with families before a child’s birth through college, also inspired the country’s first five Promise Zones, an ambitious national housing and urban development initiative.
So, when Canada told students, staff and community leaders on Monday that HCZ’s current chief operating officer Anne Williams-Isom, 49, would be taking the reigns on July 1, the announcement made for headline news.
“We’ve worked on this plan for over four years, and we feel like this is the right time at the Harlem Children’s Zone to bring in a really talented young leader, who I think—and people are going to think I’m kidding when I say this—I actually think she’s going to do a better job than I have done in taking this organization to the next level,” Canada told Bloomberg radio.
Queens native Williams-Isom, who Canada claims has been “running the show for more than a year now,” joined the Harlem program in 2009 after having worked for New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. According to The New York Times, she pledged to “expand the use of data and to improve college graduation rates for students.”
“We’re going to get to the finish line, and we’re going to get there together,” she said on Monday.
The husband and grandfather of five revealed that he plans to spend time traveling with his family and doing “some things I’ve never been able to do.” While he plans to stay on as President of the Board at HCZ, Canada reportedly rejected any future plans to work for an administration or enter politics himself.
“There’s never a day I’ve not wanted to go to work. And so I can’t imagine I’ll be sitting home,” Canada told Bloomberg. “But I don’t have any immediate plans…I want a chance to really reflect on what we’ve done.”
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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