Kevin Upshur, a longtime resident of Strawberry Mansion, has watched his neighborhood go through changes in his life. The biggest change? Upshur’s family owned and operated bar, was converted into the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center, a non-profit neighborhood education and resource center. Opening its doors in 2008, the center, has provided the children of the community with an after school safe haven, where they can practice reading as well as computer skills. Upshur is teaching the children to not only help themselves, but to help others as well.
What is your goal for the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center?
The goal here is to turn lights on in the heads of these young students in this area. To understand life, to understand that they can do, can go, and be anything they need to be. You could be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, an architect. So, they need to realize that the world is spacious, and they need to move about, and they can realize they can do better for themselves. But, to do that, you need to have an education. So, overall, we want to have an impact. If were not having an impact, we need to pack up. That’s the reality, to have an impact.
Why is it so important to get people who are trained to talk to the kids?
The more specialists you get, or are trained in these things, the more powerful the program becomes. We touch the surface, in hopes that while we’re touching the surface, they say “man let me go in a little deeper.” That’s what were doing. We’re touching the surface of a lot of different things that we feel will help the kid be a better human being.
What types of events do you hold?
We bring different people who are educated and they talk to the kids. We have an author for example. We’re going over to the Strawberry Mansion this Saturday. The kids will listen to the author, receive a free copy of the book, but they get a tour of the Strawberry Mansion.
What keeps you motivated?
God. The thoughts of my mom. Looking at this neighborhood and seeing what it used to be, because I know what it used to be. That’s what keeps me motivated. I think its in my DNA. I’ve got to be busy. I can’t be busy doing something that doesn’t have any impact. The whole idea is to do something that may not have so much of an impact on me personally. But, if it’s helping someone else, personally, that helps me.
What was the neighborhood like before?
There were opportunities. There was hope. There was everything we’re trying to do here.
What are your goals for 2018?
We’re developing a brand new kitchen. So, that we can continue to feed the community on certain days, that we can teach the kids how to cook and eat healthy. Also, we use the Reading Terminal [Market]. We take them there for shopping. So, how to shop healthy. To implement a reading program, so that we can really track the kids progress. Develop a relationship with the schools that the kids attend. To get a van. You need to take kids out of this two to three block radius. They have to see beyond that.
-Text and Images by Matt Hayward and Nico Rossi