By Geoffrey Canada
In the 1960s, when I was a young boy growing up in the South Bronx, the poorest Congressional District in the United States, children around me were being lost to gangs, crime, drugs and lousy schools.
I, though, was sustained by a dream. My mother, a single woman, and my grandparents convinced me that if I went to school, worked hard and graduated from college, I could get out of the neighborhood, get a good job and live a “good life.”
While I didn’t believe there was a single ingredient to success, a college diploma seemed to be a good signal that you were on your way. It should come as no surprise, then, that when I created the Harlem Children’s Zone in 1970, our primary goal was to help our children get to college and earn a degree.
It’s been a long journey. We have seen the number of our students in college go from just a handful to more than 800 today. We told these students the same thing that I learned: Graduate high school and complete college, and you will get a good job. You can live a full life.
Now I worry that I may have spoken too soon.