At-Risk Youth Shine in Martial Arts Program

One year ago, the Midtown Miracles youth martial arts project was just an idea shared by St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway and Rev. Dr. Bryant Keith Harrell.

Today it has blossomed into a two-program class geared toward at-risk youth in the St. Petersburg area with nearly 80 children, ages 4 to 15.

“I was tired of turning on the TV and constantly seeing these babies in trouble,” said martial artist and pastor Harrell. “We get a lot of foster kids.”

Harrell, who is a 10th-degree black belt, and his wife, Leotte-Keiva Harrell, run the program out of the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center, 1000 28th St. S.

With the initial handful of kids spiking to nearly 80, a second two-hour class has popped up at the Lake Vista Recreation Center, 1401 62nd Ave. S.

“It’s amazing, seeing what these kids can do,” Harell said.

Despite being a relatively small non-profit, Midtown Miracles has a pretty big sponsor.

The St. Petersburg Police Department and Chief Holloway provide all of the equipment and martial arts uniforms for the program. Parents pay just five dollars monthly for their children to participate, keeping the program affordable, compared to the average cost of a one-hour martial arts class of about $40, says to Harell.

“A lot of people think ‘Oh you’re teaching them to fight,’ but the most important aspect is discipline for the kids,” Harrell said. “It’s a community, a village, a form of peace.”

Paula McCoy agrees. She enrolled her two children – Leigh’ada and Timmy – in the program after hearing countless positive testimonies.

“Since they’ve been in the program, they’ve moved up in their belts, gotten straight As – they just love to go and meet new friends,” McCoy said. “[Harell] teaches them with kindness.”

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