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Graduate of Peace Corps Fellows Program Wins Award that Celebrates African-Americans

Rahsaan Harris, a graduate of TC's Peace Corps Fellows program who received a master's degree in Science in Education, was honored with 12 other former African-American Peace Corps volunteers for exceptional community service-both at home and abroad.

Harris was given the Franklin Williams Award on February 24, in Washington D.C. Williams was an extraordinary foreign and domestic public servant who was a civil rights activist, a Peace Corps regional director for Africa, and a U.S. Ambassador to Ghana.

Harris was a bilingual biology teacher at George Washington High School, located on the northern tip of Manhattan, but received a fellowship from the Open Society Institute to initiate strategic planning and fundraising for the digital publication, HarlemLive, subtitled "The Online Publication by Teens in Harlem." In 1998 he began volunteering at HarlemLive and now he's the Associate Director of the publication.

As Harris puts it, "HarlemLive is a vehicle for the youth to get their voice out. So, they do a lot of interviews with people and do reporting in their local area. They'll go to community-based events and institutions and take those reports and post them on the Web."

The site's home page sets out HarlemLive's purpose, which is "to empower youth of color to be productive, creative and thoughtful leaders who will be responsible caretakers of our future. This Web site showcases our talent. By using emerging technologies, we cover events, people, issues throughout Harlem, learning as young men and women the processes of journalism, Web creation, professional growth and so much more."

For example, the site covers wide-ranging stories from the New York City Police shooting death of Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant, with commentary from one its editors Guyan Wilks, to the "First Black Grand Master Teaches Chess in Harlem," Maurice Ashley, who is bringing chess to a Manhattan Avenue Police Athletic League community center.

Harris has been able to garner several small grants, one from the Manhattan Neighborhood Business School to do a video project, another from the Black Business School Students Association of Columbia University, to acquire new technology. However, Harris said, "Right now we are in the process of looking for foundation funding."

Asked why he believes he was selected to receive the Franklin Williams Award, Harris responded, "I think because the HarlemLive project is addressing the question of what's going to happen to inner-city youth, especially African-Americans and Latinos, if they don't get to understand technology and become critical thinkers."

"But personally," he added, "the award is a reaffirmation that the work I'm doing is worthwhile."

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