TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Alex Harris as the 23rd Lightning Community Hero of the 2016-17 season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Boston Bruins. Harris, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Arts Conservatory for Teens.
In 2009, Harris took notice of a deficit in after-school arts-related programming for minority and at-risk youth in greater St. Petersburg. This deficit was putting youth at a greater risk of dropping out of school and potentially getting into trouble with the law. Harris recognized that access to quality education and performing arts opportunities made a positive difference in his life and wanted to create a space that could harness the power of the arts and provide access to students. Harris co-founded the Arts Conservatory for Teens (ACT), a program dedicated to educating, empowering, and enriching the lives of youth and teens through arts education.
Since beginning ACT, 1,100 teens have successfully come through the program. Of these 1,100 students, 100% of them have graduated from college in a community where the graduation rate averages at 62.5% for non-ACT students. Through ACT, teens are exposed not only to comprehensive arts programming (voice, dance, acting, photography, visual arts, etc.), but also to character development, leadership development, financial literacy, college preparation, and job readiness. Despite Harris's schedule as a part-time professor and a busy weekend performance travel schedule, he commits over 30-hours per week to ensure that his organization provides the best opportunity to the at-risk youth and teens in the greater St. Petersburg area.
Harris becomes the 252nd Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $12.75 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. Last summer, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10-million over the next five seasons.