Continuing a series of posts looking at the 5 principles that govern the Harlem Children’s Zone model…
Principle 2: The HCZ Pipeline
The HCZ Pipeline, or continuum of services, provides children and families with a seamless series of free, coordinated, best-practice programs. We focus on the needs of children at every developmental age, including specific programs addressing pre-natal care, infants, toddlers, elementary school, middle school, adolescence, and college.
Academic excellence is a principal goal of the HCZ Pipeline, but high-quality schools are only one of the means we use to achieve it. Others include nurturing stable families, supporting youth development, improving health through fitness and nutrition, and cultivating engaged and involved adults and community stakeholders.
Children can enter the HCZ Pipeline at any age and they will be supported with high-quality programs. Through our aggressive outreach efforts and multiple entrance points, we want families to easily access the HCZ Pipeline whenever they are able to do so. Once they have entered, we do not want them to leave. We promise parents that if their children regularly attend our programs, we will prepare them for college. And we have made good on that promise, even when children first enter the HCZ Pipeline in their teens. Today, HCZ has over 370 students in college who participated only in our after-school programs, and not in our charter schools or early childhood programs. However, we have found that the earlier a child enters and remains in the HCZ Pipeline, the greater the cumulative impact.
Overall, we seek to (1) maximize educational achievements for poor children; (2) ensure that each of the programs in the pipeline is strong and incorporates best practices; (3) foster strong links across programs to smooth transitions and guarantee that programs are pedagogically continuous; (4) stay community-based and responsive to local community needs; and (5) provide relevant data to program staff so that they can improve services and to policy-makers and decision-makers so that they can get the best results on their investments.
Each of the HCZ programs has been developed using hard evidence of what works for poor children and their parents. All HCZ programs, when looked at individually, are effective. But the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. The cumulative effect of multiple programs working together helps children reach their full potential. HCZ Pipeline programs consistently produce outcomes that meet or exceed national, state, and city averages.
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
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