Harlem Agency Hopes to End Poverty Cycle

The trick is convincing young mothers like Enjolie Evans to use a different P-word: patience. And that can be hard for parents to learn.

Evans, a 22-year-old mother of two boys and expecting another, said she likes to use time out.

"I do it according to their age," she said. "So say like for the 2 year old, I give him a two-minute time out. And the oldest one I will time him out for about seven minutes, or maybe a little longer, like maybe a half an hour, and then I go tell him mommy still loves you and what you did was wrong."

"And I'll explain to him it's all right and then we'll go about our day. Sometimes I do pop him but by the end of the day, I'd rather put him in the corner; it's much easier like that, instead of beating your child."

Evans recognizes that learning patience will benefit everyone in the family.

Others Can Undo Mothers' Progress

But it's slow going. Grandparents and neighbors can undo any progress. The good news is that the mothers who first attended Baby College have kids hitting fourth grade. And they are testing off the charts.

In statewide testing, 75 percent of the third-graders at the Zone's Promise Academy Charter School tested at or above grade level in math. And 60 percent of its seventh-graders tested at or above grade level, which bodes well for those who stay in Canada's charter school pipeline.

Six of a group of ninth-graders said they were definitely on their way to college, throwing out names like Yale, Columbia, Duke and Harvard.

In the end, what many have learned from this system is spare the rod and you might just save the community.

"I think it's true, but I will tell you that there is a lot of skepticism," Canada said. "Our theory is we have got to stay with these kids straight through until we get them through college. When I've got hundreds and hundreds of my kids coming back into my community with college degrees, then I know Harlem is going to be fine."

Canada has a lot of fans, including President Obama, who has budgeted 20 "Promise Neighborhoods" in the nation based on the Harlem Children's Zone.

For more information, visit Harlem Children's Zone at www.hcz.org

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