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Meet Keon Berry of Berry Academy in Southwest Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keon Berry.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Keon. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
The beginning. Well, the conception of Berry Academy was initiated by a dream. Arriving to college, I had no desire to create an organization. I was your typical college freshman who sought to live it up with no strings attached. I enjoyed giving back to the community, but I thought that doing something like Berry Academy would require too much work and energy – more than I was willing to give. Late one night, I found myself unable to go to sleep. I sat up in my dorm room and began to draw. What I drew, became the logo that initially branded Berry Academy.

After that night, I learned to create a website and emailed over 50 schools in the Greater Atlanta Area conveying my interest in starting a mentoring program. Of those emails, I was either rejected or received no response. I was very discouraged but I understood that sometimes, rejection is just redirection. The acceptance of redirection helped me to push on in my desire to make a difference. With no “yeses” in my inbox, I decided to take a different approach to enacting change so in the beginning of the new year, I started doing motivational speaking at schools. My second engagement was a crowd of 700 students and that particular speech was recorded, and gained a lot of attention on Facebook.

Since that video gained so much attention, I used it as a platform to continue doing the work that I had dreamed about. I realized that you are never too young and it is never too early to make a difference. Change should happen every day that we are breathing and capable of imparting it.

When the Fall of 2018 came, I was finally granted the opportunity to implement my mentoring program at Dunbar Elementary School in Southwest Atlanta. I had two days and one night to write a curriculum to present on a Monday morning. Thankfully, school administrators loved the idea, and the Berry Academy Mentoring program began the following week.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Absolutely not. I did not even tell anyone about my vision, and that was difficult. Initially, I kept it to myself, even from family members, because I felt like this was destiny, and I believe that sometimes, even friends and family can give negative feedback that will cause you to hesitate in the pursuit of your dreams. I knew that Berry Academy was what I was supposed to be doing, so I had to let it manifest on its own before saying anything about it.

The hardest part about this entire pursuit was finding funding. Dreams do not fund themselves. In the beginning, I was using my own credit card to pay for everything, from transportation to resources. There were multiple times where I reached my credit limit. But I was so confident in my vision for Berry Academy, I knew that God would restore my credit (and He has).

After months of digging deeper into my own pockets, I decided to reach out to non-profit organizations, corporate businesses, and prominent community leaders, to see if they would be willing to assist in funding Berry Academy so that this program would be a success.

It was not until Berry Academy’s second year when we got our first break. DreamChasers, reached out to me because they were inspired by the mission of Berry Academy, and offered to fully fund the program. DreamChasers is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create chapters across the country that fight to ensure that opportunity gaps no longer stop students from their dreams. This was the biggest lift we have ever gotten, and we are grateful for them.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Berry Academy – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Well, Berry Academy is a mentoring program that commits itself to education reform, community outreach, and social change through youth development.

The vision of Berry Academy is to inspire young men to use character preeminence, civic responsibility, self-discovery, and academic excellence as tools to unlock their full potential so that they can serve as a positive catalyst of change for the world. Our mission, is to close the opportunity gap by providing resources, opportunities, empowerment, and mentorship for ambitious students in underrepresented, underinvested communities.

Our world is a completely different place today from what it was yesterday or any other day before in history. Our world tomorrow will be even more different from the day before and in the days to come. Although our education systems have made many strides that we are proud of, there is still much more progress that needs to be made in forthcoming days as we inch towards the educational prosperity that exceeds our hopes and dreams.

At Berry Academy, we want to assist in this effort of educational prosperity by starting with our youth; they are truly our future. We believe that students who display positive characteristics of a role model, who are aware of the needs of their community and are civically engaged in them, and who never quit in the constant pursuit of knowledge, are the best equipped to take on the world of tomorrow that stands brightly before our eyes. We are fully invested in making sure that they have the knowledge and the tools that they need to lead the effort, and we support them in accomplishing this task. We believe that if we follow this model and collectively strengthen our efforts, all students have the power to impact the world because they have unlocked their full potential and consequently, will serve as beacons of hope for the entire world.

I am proud of the fact that the work of Berry Academy is executed by all undergraduate students. This sets us apart from other mentoring programs, because there is a different level of relationship in age and knowledge which create a truly unique dynamic. We can relate to students better because we are younger, and thus, know how to compose an engaging, transformative curriculum that student will want to partake in so that they can grow.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I don’t believe in announcing my future plans. I believe the best way to approach life is by taking things day by day because we don’t know what tomorrow holds. I want my execution speak for itself and I try to live my life saying less and doing more.

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