After 24 years as the chief executive officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), Geoffrey Canada is stepping down.

An educator, social activist and charter school advocate, Canada, 62, has been known for his work on education reform and his work serving children and families in the Harlem section of New York City.

Canada gained attention for the “cradle-to-college” social, educational and medical services offered by the HCZ, which covers over 100 blocks, and includes a preschool program, parenting classes and network of three charter schools serving over 12,300 students and 12,400 adults.

The goal of the nonprofit organization has been to break the cycle of poverty by providing a safety net for children throughout the targeted neighborhoods.

The New York Times Magazine called the Harlem Children’s Zone “one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time,” and Canada has touted its 95 percent college acceptance rate among its high school seniors. A new $100-million Promise Academy school was completed last year.

Further, Canada was featured in the 2010 film Waiting for Superman, which focused on the challenges facing public education in the U.S., and offered charter schools as an alternative for children. “One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me ‘Superman’ did not exist,” Canada said in the film. “She thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because there was no one was coming with enough power to save us.”

Read it at The Grio.