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Children’s advocate: Start early, have fun

February 10, 2012
Geoffrey Canada
Geoffrey Canada

Helping students from a young age — and giving them ways to be creative — are key to their success, leading children’s advocate Geoffrey Canada said in a recent presentation to PPS educators.

Canada, who heads the Harlem Children’s Zone, a comprehensive social support organization in New York City, spoke frankly about the needs of children — especially those from low-income families.

“Our kids need something different from middle class kids,” Canada said. “That’s why we start early and stay with kids through their entire childhood. We need to level the playing field.”

His presentation Feb. 10 at Faubion K-8 School was sponsored by neighboring Concordia University with support from PPS, the Oregon Alliance of Black School Educators and Self Enhancement Inc.

In addition to his work at Harlem Children's Zone, Canada, 60, is the author of two books: "Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America," and "Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America."

Canada's experiences — both as the child of a single mother growing up in the South Bronx and from his years working with children — have convinced him that to succeed, students need "extras" like music, art and sports in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic.

He noted a student who committed himself to earning good grades because he would be kicked off the basketball team if he fell behind.

“That’s OK with me,” Canada said. “You don’t know what’s going to save some kids. So you do whatever it takes.”

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