Friday, April 22, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Harlem Children's Zone

Today's Feel Good Friday is inspired by Prince.

Like many people, I spent time reading all about him online after his unexpected death on Thursday. I learned about his philanthropy from this Bustle article and want to pay my respects by sharing the story of one of the organizations he supported.

In 2011, Prince donated $1,000,000 to the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Yes, you read that right, one million dollars!

A review of their website will tell you HCZ is "a national model for breaking the cycle of poverty." What started as a one block pilot project in the 1990s has grown to cover 97 blocks in Central Harlem. The goal of HCZ is "to give our kids the individualized support they need to get to and through college and become productive, self-sustaining adults".

To do this HCZ offers comprehensive educational and social service programs that involve the whole community. These programs cover children from before they're born, with parenting classes in The Baby College, through their school years and finish with job placement assistance provided by the College Success Office. In 2015 HCZ served 13,083 youth between the ages of 0 and 23.

Other offerings include help with applying for public benefits and tax preparation, community centers with exercise classes for adults and family game nights and a program focused on "nutrition education fun fitness activities, and parent encouragement" called Health Harlem.

The 2015 results are impressive: 7,000 kids participating in Healthy Harlem, 913 HCZ students in college, 99% of Harlem Gems tested school ready and $5,300,000 in tax refunds given to 3,504 families that participated in the free tax preparation services.

Also impressive, a complication of HCZ President Geoffrey Canada's TV appearances. So Oprah knew about HCZ before I did. That's cool.

You can support the work of HCZ with a donation or by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @hczorg. Do it for His Royal Badness.

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