Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Founder's Spirit Drives Program

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Founder's Spirit Drives Program

Article excerpt

BILL HARRISON WOULD have been proud.

The program that he founded and nurtured to help young black men is going strong.

Harrison started St. Paul Saturdays 11 years ago through St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.

An associate dean at Forest Park Community College, Harrison didn't limit his teaching to the campus. He met on Saturday mornings with youngsters from the age of 6 on up to help them gain self-esteem and strong academic skills. Through his efforts, St. Paul Saturdays became nationally recognized.

Harrison made a point of exposing the youngsters to many aspects of St. Louis culture. He once explained to me that he felt it was important to do that because so many young men rarely see anything outside of their own neighborhoods. They don't realize that there's a big world out there with all sorts of opportunities. So, it was no surprise to see him pop up at all sorts of occasions with several young men at his side.

Many worried about the program last June when Harrison died suddenly while exercising. Some wondered whether it would be able to continue.

Today, I'm happy to report, St. Paul Saturdays is not only still going, it's still growing.

Keith Antone, who had worked in the program with Harrison, has taken over as director.

"The memory of Dr. Harrison continues to serve as an inspiration," he said. "Being proud of who you are and being willing to work for what you want are two tenets we continue to instill in our young men.

"A lot of people in the community, especially adult volunteers, put their arms around us when Dr. Harrison died."

The result has been a stronger - and larger - organization.

As an example, Antone noted that the program takes youngsters on a trip once a year. "Last year, we took 41 young men to Washington, D.C.," he said. "This year we're taking 80 to Atlanta. By this summer we'll probably be averaging 100 young men a week."

Part of St. Paul Saturdays teaches youngsters the importance of responsibility. Toward that end they do such things as participate in Operation Brightside clean-ups, help clean up cemeteries and serve as ushers at the St. Louis Black Rep.

They also take educational trips to such places as the St. Louis Science Center and the Portfolio Gallery. …

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