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Introducing “Thirkield University”

In the fall of 2014, youth of the historic South Atlanta neighborhood began to articulate a vision and a plan to help kids from the neighborhood prepare for and succeed in college. The youth were guided in this effort by Malcolm Cox El, whose personal experiences and commitment to the cause fueled the initiative. Malcolm talks about TU in the video below. And he is more than one of the key founders of this effort. Malcolm is well on his way to becoming the first success story of TU as he enters the latter stages of his time in college at Georgia State University. His success is inspiring the 20 other youth who are currently involved in the program.

The program includes vital peer-to-peer support and helpful connections to supportive leadership and resources. While this is not a formal university, the youth believed that including the ‘university’ moniker would keep everyone focused on the goal – graduate from college with a vision for your life and your head held high. They named it for one of the streets in South Atlanta where the kids hang out – a street that happens to be named in honor of Wilbur Thirkield, an early twentieth century Methodist bishop and educator who championed the cause of education for African Americans.

Dan Crain has played an influential role in the process by encouraging Malcolm and other youth in the neighborhood to engage their talents over the past several years. He and Malcolm have co-facilitated Dignity Serves classes and have worked on numerous small projects together. The strength of their relationship and the things they are accomplishing are testaments to how much more we can do together than we can do alone.

Malcolm was afforded the opportunity to come on staff with POLIS part-time to build this initiative through a grant from Wesley Community Centers. He and Dan both joined Atlanta-based Church on the Street at the start of 2016 in order to mature this work and other efforts in Lakewood/South Atlanta.

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