Geoffrey Canada is the recipient of the Richard Murphy Leadership Award for his extraordinary accomplishments in the youth services field in New York City.
Canada has been the president of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) since 1990, when it was known as the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families. The non-profit which provides free education, health and welfare services to at-risk youth and families in Harlem has grown and expanded tremendously under Canada’s direction.
Not only did he lead the organization to start actively following and supporting the academic careers of youth served, but he also expanded its service area from 24 blocks to today’s 97.
The undeniable success of the HCZ’s model has led to its replication across the country. In 2009, President Barack Obama announced his plans to bring it to 20 cities.
Born in South Bronx in 1952, Canada is the third of four sons born to Mary Elizabeth Canada, a substance abuse counselor at the time. Four years after his birth, his parents divorced, leaving him and his brothers to be raised by their single mother with nearly no support from their father.
Canada was brought up in poverty and disorder until being sent to live with his grandparents in Wyandanch, New York on Long Island. He would attend Wyandanch Memorial High School, where he excelled and earned a scholarship from the Fraternal Order of Masons.
He continued his education at Bowdoin College and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology. He was soon accepted into the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he would complete a master’s degree in education.
In addition to his tireless work and leadership at HCZ, Canada has also worked in the public sector. He was selected by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to serve as co-chair of the Commission on Economic Opportunity in 2006, where he helped formulate comprehensive and city-wide poverty reduction program plans. Later, in 2011, he was appointed to serve on the New York State Governor’s Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors, extending the reach of his ideas and methods even further.
A well-known figure both in the field and outside of it, Canada has authored two books, numerous widely-read articles in publications like The New York Times, and has appeared regularly on national news networks and in documentaries. He was named to the TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world in 2011 as well as on Fortune‘s 50 greatest leaders in the world list in 2014.
Geoffrey Canada was presented with the Richard Murphy Leadership Award on Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 in a ceremony at the Neuberger Berman building on Sixth Avenue in New York City.