Geoffery Canada on HCZ's Baby College: 'The most important time in a child’s life is right now'

As the 2020 presidential candidates travel across the talking about the student loan crisis and other pressing educational issues, Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) president Geoffrey Canada is advocating for something different — Baby College.

Standing out as one of the signature programs of the HCZ, The Baby College works to ensure that, from the time they are born, the children are immersed in healthy, supportive environments that will enable them to thrive and set on the path to school and college readiness. According to the HCZ site, The Baby College gives expectant parents and parents of children ages 0-3 a strong understanding of child development and the skills to raise happy, healthy babies.

Canada, who was a guest on Yahoo Finance’s “YFi PM” talked about the scientific approach taken by the HCZ and the Baby College.

“Our approach is that you start with kids from birth. Why? Because the science says those brains are developing literally from the moment they are born. And if you’re not stimulated, those children are not going to be prepared to go into school,” said Canada, who still serves as the president of HCZ.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 21: Children enjoy activities at the Kids Zone at Harlem EatUp!'s Third Annual Festival Weekend at Morningside Park on May 21, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Harlem EatUp!)

“We do what a lot of other people don’t do. We stay with our kids through elementary school through middle school, through high school, providing them with support. We get them into college and then we stay with them through college. People have tried to figure out what’s the one thing we can do right.”

Father and daughter (18 months) walking up steps to house

HCZ believes that starting a child’s education as early in life as possible is vital to a child’s academic success. “People ask what’s the three or four years that make a difference? Well, you know what, the most important time in a child’s life is right now. If they are three, it’s three. If they’re eight, it’s eight. When young people are growing up in environments where there’s not the kind of academic and social support for them, we know those kids struggle. Our theory is change that environment, support families, improve neighborhoods. Let’s make sure these children really have a chance to be successful.”

Success is something that the HCZ has seen since its inception in 1970. Under Canada’s leadership, the organization has served more than 14,000 youth and 14,000 adults, through social and educational programs and institutions like its Baby College and Promise Academy Charter School, the HCZ helped generations of black and brown students achieve remarkable success. 

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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