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Geoffrey Canada    

Inner-City Youth & Education Advocate

Geoffrey Canada has a radical new idea: if you really want to change the lives of inner-city kids, change everything all at once - their schools, families, and neighborhoods. As the former President and CEO of the revolutionary Harlem Children's Zone in New York City, Canada has dedicated the past twenty years of his life to helping the most impoverished, at-risk youth beat the odds. Radically ambitious and startlingly simple, Canada's programs are on the cutting edge of preventing youth violence and fostering community development. In 2014, he announced his retirement at the end of the school year, ensuring that he will continue to remain a passionate advocate for education and poverty issues.

Canada's groundbreaking work for a 24-block neighborhood in Harlem has been replicated in communities across the country. Through programs such as the Beacon School, Community Pride Initiative, Harlem Gems, Harlem Peacemakers, and the Promise Academy, a new generation of charter school, he has developed a network of services that reach most of the 6,500 children and their families living in the Harlem Children’s Zone.

The acclaimed author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America and Reaching Up for Manhood, a moving vision of hope for young boys, Canada is also east coast coordinator for the Black Community Crusade for Children. Most recently, he can be seen in the groundbreaking documentary Waiting for "Superman," directed by Davis Guggenheim, which challenges the current American education system.

Canada knows inner-city life firsthand. Having grown up in the South Bronx, he went on to earn a Master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has been honored with the prestigious McGraw Prize for education, and his life work is chronicled in New York Times reporter Paul Tough’s book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America.

In his vibrant, hands-on presentations, Geoffrey Canada teaches communities about improving the lives of today’s youth, one child at a time.

Speech Topics

The Crisis Facing Youth: What Adults & Communities Can Do to Save Our Children

American youth face problems that many of us never imagined. The issues of violence, gangs, drugs, and failing schools are not confined to one city, or community. You find these problems in urban and rural, rich and poor communities. The answers are not to be found in any one strategy; individuals, families, schools and communities must develop a plan of action to save our children.

An educator and advocate, Canada offers a vision that with hard work, dedication, and a prioritizing of our resources, we can create a safe, caring and stimulating environment for all children.

Leadership Is Only as Great as Those Around You

Improving the Lives of Children, One Poor Child at a Time

Leveling the Playing Field, Helping Poor Children to Succeed


Geoffrey Canada talks life and ambition

Famed author and educator Geoffrey Canada visited Central High School on Feb. 8 to tell students about his life’s journey and to encourage them to be curious in the pursuit of their own.

“Go and open up and explore different places,” said Canada, a Valley Stream resident. “If you keep looking, you’ll find something you really like.”

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