Fifth grader Antwan Tucker, 11, stayed home when the boys in his neighborhood rode their bicycles. But that changed today for Tucker – and for all of the fifth graders at Washington Interdistrict Magnet Elementary School – when the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity donated a bicycle for every student in the fifth grade class.
“I’m going to ride with my friends,” Tucker said as he looked at the bicycle proudly. “I was the only one in my neighborhood without a bicycle.”
The donation of the bicycles was one part of what the Little Rock Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity does annually for the students at Washington Elementary. During the school year, professionals from the fraternity go into the school and mentor the young men, encouraging them to do well in school, according to Gus Swain, a retired counselor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who coordinates the mentoring program for the fraternity.
Dr. Dexter Booth, principal at Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School, a member of the fraternity, and the chair of the bicycle drive, said that the fraternity’s program was an offshoot of another program that began six years ago in conjunction with “Stop the Violence.” The fraternity adopted Washington Elementary in 2010. This was the second year that the group has given a bicycle to every fifth grader at the school.
As students in the three fifth grade classes walked out onto the basketball courts, they were visibly excited. The brand new bicycles had been separated into the three groups for the three classes, and each one was tagged with a fifth grader’s name.
Students gave the fraternity members a laminated thank you poster with all of their signatures on it, and at the teacher’s prompting shouted, “Thank you Kappa Alpha Psi.”
Booth said, “Well, this just made our year. We can all go home and enjoy our summer vacation.” The pride that the men took in their endeavor to help the students was obvious.
In 2010, the Little Rock Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Fraternity adopted the school because it was a place they felt showed the greatest need, according to Swain. The fraternity, which was founded in Indiana, boasts 55 active members with the Little Rock Alumni Chapter. Many of those members donated “one, two or three bikes,” Swain said, but other donations came from as far away as Memphis, Tennessee.
“Several of the staff and members of the military donated a bicycle,” said Randy Ward, Project Manager for Watson Services in Camp Robinson.
According to Katherine Snyder, principal of Washington Elementary, the mentoring program that the fraternity members provide has made a difference to her students . “They see these men who have gone to college and are professionals, and it has a profound effect on them.”
The gift of the bicycles was a pat on the back for the hard work and educational growth of the entire fifth grade class, and worked to help encourage students to become more active.
“We have stressed how important physical fitness is to the body’s overall well-being,” Snyder said, adding that those bicycles would give students an alternative to television and video games.
Booth estimated that the 90 bicycles cost about $9,000