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Local nonprofit enriches youths through golf and financial literacy

"Lifelong bonds and networking opportunities are formed through the organization that will help you through your whole life"
Credit: St. Louis American
Jerome Harris Jr.'s work with K-Life motivated him to leave the company and launch his own nonprofit organization, Urban Golf. with a similar mission.

ST. LOUIS — Four years ago, Jerome Harris Jr. worked for a nonprofit organization called St. Louis Urban K-Life. 

It provides north St. Louis city teens with mentorship, professional and collegiate advice, financial literacy education and access to resources often not found in their communities. 

K-Life now partners with PGA Reach Gateway, a recreation and sports fundraising and fund distribution agency that exposes underserved youths to golf. 

“They supported me financially to go into the schools and expand the game of golf to communities and areas that did not have access nor exposure to the game.,” Harris said. “We went into Clyde C. Miller Career Academy and taught intro to golf in the gym class.”

Harris said after about six-to-eight weeks, they rolled out an after-school program, which focused on students’ emotional and social learning, academic growth, financial literacy education, conflict resolution and community service. 

“We used golf as a tool to expose and develop our kids.” Harris said.

Genesis Peck, sophomore at University of Central Missouri studying kinesiology, is a former K-Life student who began a similar program.

“U Golf is fun, it’s not just about golf,” Peck said.

“Lifelong bonds and networking opportunities are formed through the organization that will help you through your whole life.”

Shakyra Poke, a junior at Southeast Missouri State University studying child and family studies with a minor in criminal justice, said when she met Harris she was an “act now, think later” type of person. Her involvement with the organization caused her to react differently to situations.

“As I participated more in the program, it opened my eyes and broadened my horizons,” Poke said. “I realized there’s a better future and I’m a much better person than I was back then.”

Harris’ work with K-Life motivated him to leave the company and launch his own nonprofit organization, Urban Golf. Gateway was its first funding source.

“I decided to start my own organization because it's something I've always wanted to do ever since I was a kid.” Harris said.

Urban Golf has been operating 18 months and Harris will create several satellite centers, what he calls “a buildout of a classroom across districts.” 

A center will be at Career Academy and will be the opposite of what Harris saw growing up in classrooms. It will include a coffee/juice bar, flatscreen TVs, turf, a golf simulator and PS5 and XBOX game systems.

Every year, the organization takes students on a college tour. Earlier this year, it introduced its first on-course program. Its goal is bridging the gap between students and professionals.

Professional golfers, St. Louis Cardinals players, police officers and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, who was serving as treasurer, have volunteered.

It began with a Golf 101 session, which provided instruction about the sport, a lunch to socialize and fellowship and a talk led by Dr. Terry Harris, owner of The Collective STL yoga studio.

“It was so impactful, so powerful, we had a lot of information that we were able to take away and really dissect and use for the programming that we’re going to institute next.” Harris said.

U Golf is among one of four local nonprofit organizations granted $250,000 on behalf of Nike’s Black Community Commitment program. 

Other organizations receiving assistance include the Riverview West Florissant Development Corporation, Peoples Community Action Corporation and Annie Malone Children & Family Service Center.

Harris’ friend suggested he apply for the program and he was overjoyed when he learned he was accepted.

“That’s a totally unexpected blessing,” Harris said. “I’m grateful we got our foot in the door and we’re gonna represent well for St. Louis.”

Harris’ future plans for U Golf consist of golf camps and more involvement with community and recreational facilities such as the Wohl Recreation Center.

“The mission at U Golf is simple, but powerful,” Harris said.

“It is preparing urban students for success beyond high school while introducing them to the vast community of golf. We want to make sure that our children are prepared for whatever is next in their life, whether it be college, trade school or employment. We are focused on developing them individually.”

U Golf works with Bellerive Country Club, Glen Echo Country Club, Missouri Athletic Club, Norwood Hills Country Club, Oak Brook Country Club and Sunset Hills Country Club.

Learn more about U Golf, here: https://ugolfstl.org/.

Learn more about K-Life, here: https://urbanklife.com/.

Learn more about PGA Reach Gateway, here: https://gatewaypga.org/.