Speech — Les Pee Wee Harrison of Meadowlark Lemons Harlem All-Stars will present anti-bullying message Thursday at two Newberg schools

Newberg holds a special place in Les Harrison’s heart, not only because he played basketball and earned an MBA from George Fox University, but because during that time the community embraced him and made him feel at home with his family all the way back in Omaha, Neb.

After finishing his Bruins playing career in 1986, “Pee Wee” Harrison joined Harlem Globetrotters legend Meadowlark Lemon’s Shooting Stars team and has been playing alongside the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer on various teams for the last 28 years.

In the meantime, Harrison has become an in-demand motivational speaker and after connecting with recent George Fox graduate Shaina Inn at a business school function last year, he will present his character education and anti-bullying message to students at Joan Austin Elementary and Mountain View Middle schools on Thursday.

“It’s fitting that I get to come back during black history month and say I made a dent in the world and I’m from Newberg,” Harrison said.

Harrison is bringing his presentation to the schools free of charge, with Joan Austin principal Terry McElligott and MVMS counterpart Wayne Strong responding first when Newberg Public Schools director of instruction Don Staples put out the word to district administrators that he was available.

“If I can get a free assembly and it talks about character ed. and talks about not to bully and at the same time is by somebody that is going to do some basketball tricks and really keep kids entertained while they’re learning, why would you not want them there?” McElligott said. “It’s a message that kids can always hear and learn something.”

Currently representing Lemon’s Harlem All-Stars outfit, Harrison spoke at more than 150 schools across the nation last year, blending humor and life stories to facilitate the building of positive relationships in a non-violent atmosphere.

Harrison said he involves the crowd in his presentation from the moment he steps on the court and captivates audiences without the use of a microphone.

And while McElligott doesn’t believe bullying is a specific problem at Joan Austin, she knows better than to think it doesn’t happen at all. When it does, the staff works with students to get through it.

“We talk about what good character is, what a good citizen is and how you don’t treat people that way,” McElligott said. “To have somebody else come in to really share that message and to talk about their life I think gives kids another perspective of looking at it.”

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