While speaking to a group of students and faculty at Alverno College this week, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle said that Wisconsin would soon be revealing its ideas for the national “Race to the Top” competition. Part of the proposal, he said, will include “Milwaukee Children’s Zones,” modeled after the successful Harlem Children’s Zone. The Harlem Children’s Zone Project offers a range of supports and programs for children and families, based on the premise that it takes much more than schools are able to offer in a seven hour day to break the bonds of generational poverty. The project’s “comprehensive systems of programs” including The Baby College, The Three Year Old Journey, College Success Office, and Community Pride, are now offered to approximately 100 blocks of Central Harlem.
The Harlem Children’s Zone’s approach has been very successful, and that model has tremendous potential for communities across the nation that face the challenge of breaking cycles of generational poverty. I am very excited to hear that part of Wisconsin’s “Race to the Top” proposal will mimic what that the Harlem Children’s Zone Project has done so successfully, and I hope that other states will incorporate tenets of this approach into their proposals as well. It takes so much more than good teachers to give impoverished kids a real shot at success. For the Nigerian Igo proverb is as true today as it ever was; “It takes a village.”