In the Zone
While a number of organizations work to address the inequities that exist in America’s public schools, one in particular has caught the eye of President Obama. And with good reason: the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), recently featured on 60 Minutes, has achieved solid results with its full-on approach of education, social-service, and community-building programs targeting 100 square blocks in New York City. Ninety percent of high school students who attend HCZ’s after-school programs go on to college; 100 percent of its third graders tested at or above grade level in math. In an effort to replicate that success, the Obama Administration has made an early commitment of $10 million to fund the strategic start-up effort involved in translating HCZ’s approach to 20 “Promise Neighborhoods” in cities across the country.
Lauren Scopaz (MBA ’07) came to HCZ through the HBS Leadership Fellows Program, which offers a select group of graduating MBAs the opportunity to experience high-impact management positions in nonprofit and public-sector organizations for one year at a competitive salary.
Now entering her third year at HCZ, Scopaz has worked closely with COO George Khaldun and CEO Geoffrey Canada on a number of large and small special assignments, including a two-year project that analyzed and streamlined the organization’s database so that the information can be used by staff to improve the programs and services that target the 10,000 children served by HCZ (the organization follows children and their families from infancy into college). More recently, she organized a two-day conference for some 1,400 attendees who gathered to learn how the HCZ model works, discuss common obstacles and strategies, and hear more about Obama Admnistration’s Neighborhood Promise Initiative.
“There’s a strong conviction throughout the organization that you can’t work here unless you believe that all kids have the potential to succeed,” Scopaz says during a quick phone call. “I wanted to stay beyond my fellowship year because the people I work with are all committed to that mission. They’re intelligent, committed, and open to new ideas. People walk the walk and get things done. That culture makes this an interesting place to work.”
HCZ operates two charter schools and is constructing a new building for one of them, a process that Scopaz will help coordinate. “The introduction to HCZ through the Leadership Fellows Program has been great because it’s given me direct access to senior management right away,” she says. “That’s why I went to business school in the first place — I want to be on the management side and use my education and skills to help organizations like this succeed.”