For some, serving youth makes life worthwhile

(l-r) Dr. Mitchell McDonald, Jo Ann Clark, Theresa Neal, Mike Tate, Neda Kellogg and Nikki McComb
(Charles Hallman/MSR News)
By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer

MSR prep sports columnist and longtime educator Dr. Mitchell McDonald was among six individuals receiving half-time recognition at the Nov. 29 Como Park-Minneapolis North girls’ basketball game at Como Park. McDonald, Como Park High School Principal Theresa Neal, Jo Ann Clark, Neda Kellogg, Nikki McComb and Mike Tate were honored for their work with youth.

It was African American Family Night at the St. Paul high school.

“It is even more of an honor” to receive the award coming from where it did, admitted McDonald, who told the MSR that he learned about being honored a month ago. “I was contacted by LaToya Turk, one of the assistant coaches [at Como Park]. They said they wanted to honor me for my service to the community and my service to African American youth,” he said, adding that he was both “surprised and was humbled by it. It is always an honor to be recognized by your own community.”

“I wasn’t expecting it, and I don’t expect anything for what I do,” continued McDonald. “I do it because I like to do it.”

“It means a lot for you to be out here tonight,” said Turk to the crowd as each person was introduced and honored with a certificate for their commitment to youth in general, and to Black youth in particular, the assistant coach noted.

“I love it,” said Clark, who annually plans trips to Black colleges and universities for high school youth.

“I think it’s awesome,” said McComb, who works with Pillsbury United Communities in Minneapolis and also started an anti-gun violence campaign.

“I’m very appreciative,” added Kellogg, the founder of Project DIVA that works with at-risk girls.

Longtime Minneapolis youth coach Mike Tate said, “Getting an award from two communities [Minneapolis and St. Paul] is important. To be a part of this is really a pleasure. It showed one thing, that we all can come together from both sides of the cities and do some things together to show kids some respect.”

“I’m just humbled to be a part of this community, and to be able to provide support for young people,” said Neal. Service over self is important. That I [have the opportunity to do this] in my work makes my life worthwhile.”

Before the Nov. 29 contest, which featured Black female head coaches — North’s Crystal Flint and Alexis Gray-Lawson of Como Park — the coaches and players, all held hands in a large circle on court as Rev. Nazim Fakir, pastor of St. Peter’s AME Church in Minneapolis, blessed them and the spectators.

“Many of the girls on the [Como Park] team are members of our church,” said Fakir. “I was asked [by Gray-Lawson, who also is a member of the church] to come out and pronounce a blessing on the game. It was great to see all these families out here supporting these young girls in athletics.

“It’s really about learning teamwork and discipline, and ultimately how to live life,” Fakir continued. “It is a great honor for me to be here.”

“It’s a community event, and it is crowded with the community,” noted McDonald, a Johnson High School teacher, in response to the overflow crowd at Como Park gym.

“I hope this is an annual event on both sides, St. Paul and Minneapolis,” said Tate. “We got to do more gatherings and show the kids a difference.”

McDonald humbly dedicated his award to his late parents, Kwame and Mary McDonald: “My mom and dad would be proud, particularly my dad because this was his legacy. I wasn’t expected to follow it, [but] I am. I’m glad I am.”


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