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King's journey

Shaun King will travel with 20 students to learn about civil rights issues.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


Shaun King will travel with 20 students to learn about civil rights issues.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Timing is everything.

The Bucs had just signed free agent Brad Johnson when quarterback Shaun King was scheduled to meet with the middle school students he had been mentoring since the fall.

The eighth-graders from Academy Prep and John Hopkins Middle School had heard the news, and their thoughts and questions were about King's future.

"I knew that the kids were concerned about me, and I wanted to let them know that nothing in life comes easy," King said. "I wanted them to know that I was going to fight."

King told the group that was the philosophy of his King's Dream education program and the message of its central theme, the civil rights movement.

"He told us that just because the Bucs had signed another quarterback didn't mean that he couldn't still dream," said 14-year-old Brandon Cambridge, one of the program members. "He told us that it gives him the chance to work harder and fight for what he wants."

To wrap up the seven-month program, King on Friday will take Cambridge and 19 classmates on a five-day trip through the South. The group will stop in Atlanta; Montgomery, Ala.; Selma, Ala., and Birmingham, Ala., and will visit museums and landmarks associated with the civil rights movement.

"Obviously, it was a way for me to give something back to the community I grew up in," King said. "It's an opportunity for the kids to get an idea about the meaning of the civil rights struggle. For a lot of them it's just a chance to get away, see new places, interact with new people."

"This will be an invaluable experience for the kids and everyone involved," said John Erik Savitsky, director of marketing and development at Academy Prep. "It will help give the kids a classic sense of the true civil rights struggle. It will do it on a national and international level."

King grew up in St. Petersburg and was a standout quarterback at Gibbs High before moving to a four-year career at Tulane.

He said he was intrigued by the opportunity he had to enrich the community by teaching its middle school students more about the civil rights movement and the struggles people have had here and abroad dealing with people of different ethnic backgrounds.

In September, as he began his second season with the Bucs, King searched for the appropriate after-school center for his King's Dream program to debut.

Savitsky said the initial response to Academy Prep wasn't favorable but he convinced King and members of the Bucs community relations department to visit.

On 22nd Avenue, Academy Prep is a privately funded education center for middle school students who are "at risk" according to state guidelines, Savitsky said. The center is made up of a middle school, an after-school program, a study hall, a Saturday activity program and a summer program. It is tuition free.

On the drive back from their visit, Bucs officials called Savitsky and informed him his center was what King was looking for.

On Oct. 24, the first of 12 classes took place. Throughout the semester, students met weekly and were required to research and complete assignments on a number of topics relevant to the civil rights movement in America, colonialism, slavery and the Civil War.

The group also was asked to research and discuss similar fights outside the United States, likethe Holocaust and the struggles in Kosovo, Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

"The lessons and speakers have taught us a lot about what people have had to go through," said 14-year-old Michael Hawkins. "We learned a lot and are looking forward to going on the trip."

Said Savitsky: "When all is said and done, the students will have a keen understanding and appreciation for freedom."

Savitsky praised King's involvement and said although King could not attend every class, he never allowed the season's highs and lows affect his relationship with the students.

"It couldn't have been easy for him as the season went on," Savitsky said. "But he was nothing but professional and positive."

At the first meeting after the Bucs acquired Johnson, King wrote his phone number on the board and told the students that they could call him if they ever needed someone to talk to.

"That meant a lot," Cambridge said. "It made me feel like he was a relative. I feel like he's someone I can call any time, someone who'll be there."

* * *

WHO'S GOING: Participants in the King's Dream 12-week education-based program. Accompanied by Bucs quarterback Shaun King, the group will leave Friday for a five-day trip during which they will visit civil rights landmarks in the South:

* * *

Ashton Adams, Academy Prep

Desiree Brown, John Hopkins

Brandon Cambridge, Academy Prep

Stacey Carroll, John Hopkins

Tracey Carroll, John Hopkins

Marquel Green, Academy Prep

Michael Hawkins, Academy Prep

Javier Lawson, Academy Prep

Marcus Lockett, Academy Prep

Deron Mitchell, Academy Prep

Thuy Nguyen, John Hopkins

Iman Postel, John Hopkins

C.J. Richardson, Academy Prep

Leslie Silvers, John Hopkins

Lamonte Stephens, Academy Prep

Mario Telfair, Academy Prep

Ahmad Walker, Academy Prep

Yarshimia Weldon, John Hopkins

Martez Williams, Academy Prep

Tiffany Williams, John Hopkins

* * *

King's dream itinerary

Friday

6:25 p.m.: Group leaves for Atlanta.

Saturday

7-10 a.m.: Motor coach from Atlanta to Montgomery, Ala., for a tour of the Civil Rights Memorial, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, and the Rosa Parks Library and Museum on the campus of Troy (Ala.) State University.

Noon-4p.m.: Motor coach to Selma, Ala., with stops at Edmund Pettus Bridge, St. James Hotel and the National Voting Rights Museum before returning to Atlanta.

Sunday

7:45a.m.: Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

10:45: Tour of the Martin Luther King Jr. District, with a stop at the MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

2p.m.: Tour Morehouse College.

Monday

10 a.m.-2:15 p.m.: Tour Atlanta sites, including CNN Center.

April 10

9 a.m.: Motor coach to Birmingham, Ala., for a tour of Kelly Ingram Park and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

1:30-3p.m.: Tour Civil Rights Institute and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

April 11

7:45: Return home.

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