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Former St. Louis teacher gets kids out of the classroom to learn life lessons

"We believe that experience is the master teacher and so we provide as many real-life experiences as possible," said Morrison.

ST. LOUIS — Spending time helping others keeps you from wasting time.

That's the mindset of Kenan Morrison, and why he showed up at the office of Park Central Development with an army of young men.

They traveled to the heart of St. Louis, to help clean up a basement. Just a typical Saturday for Morrison's nonprofit The Village.

"Everybody has a dream," said Morrison. "Everybody has a gift and a talent but the question is, are you surrounded with the people and planted in a healthy place for that to really be cultivated?"

The 43-year-old has a degree in Petroleum Engineering from Missouri S&T but decided to trade in oil exploration for education, becoming a teacher in the city of St. Louis.

"I really felt I was going to be counted as a number," he said. "And because I graduated the same semester as 9/11, I would prefer to make a difference."

Then at church, he noticed two young men just hanging around week after week, looking for something to do.

"I told them, 'Come with me on Saturdays. You know I could always use an extra set of hands,'" recalled Morrison. "And they kept bringing people!"

And because it takes a village to raise a child, that was the start of The Village.

Every other Saturday, you can find Morrison leading dozens of young men to help out local food banks, fill in dangerous potholes or learn about the latest in science.

Credit: Kenan Morrison

"We believe that experience is the master teacher and so we provide as many real-life experiences as possible," said Morrison.

Kids can get homework help from mentors like 22-year-old Darius Washington, who is also available to give guidance.

"We talk about things that every young man faces, especially African-American men," explained Washington. "And we don't have the opportunity to express."

And if it all sounds pretty weighty, keep in mind at The Village, joy is serious business.

"It's a very fun place where we get to learn and grow together with lots of young men," 10-year-old Wilhelm White said.

Kids like White also get to enjoy hikes, bike rides, or even learn to catch a fish. Though an afternoon of cleaning up is just fine with him.

"We're on the earth," he said. "And you know like when you're in an apartment or something you have to pay rent? Our rent to the earth is by cleaning it up."

His mom says the only thing growing faster than Wilhelm, is his confidence.

"That's him being part of The Village," Manall Bey said. "That's learning that his voice is important. That's him being talked to and not talked at all day."

As the clean-up continues at Park Central Development, known for investing in St. Louis Neighborhoods, Morrison said he will continue to invest in kids. After all, that investment pays the most interest.

"He took this thing he was doing on the weekends just to be a civil servant," Bey said. "And he's now turned into an entire organization and is willing to grow it so he can help more."

Kenan Morrison and The Village, giving kids the tools to learn that you become what you believe.

"I think it's priceless," said Morrison.

Do you know someone Making A Difference? Let Mike know by filling out the form below, or emailing Mike at mbush@ksdk.com.

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