Anthony Duke ’41, founder and president of Boys and
Girls Harbor, and Hans Hageman ’80, the executive director.
(courtesy the Harbor)
Nonprofit offers inner-city youths
what suburbs take for granted
The Harbor: As
a teenager, Anthony Duke ’41 worked as a summer camp counselor
for immigrant children in New York for several years. Convinced
that fresh air mixed with discipline and mutual respect would go
a long way for inner-city boys, Duke decided to start his own camp,
Boys Harbor, in 1937, rounding up his prep-school and college friends
to serve as counselors and mentors. Sixty-eight years later, “the
Harbor” is still going strong.
From the start, working with poor city kids, Duke saw beyond stereotypes.
“I learned [the boys] were not at all what they were supposed
to be ... wild and crazy, delinquent, into gangs,” says Duke,
who still serves as the Harbor’s president and is the former
vice president of an import/export company and former director of
the American National Bank. “I found a lot of talent in that
first group and I found a lot of talent forever after,” adds
Duke. Former Harbor campers, for many of whom Duke has helped find
college scholarships, have gone on to become firefighters, police
officers, doctors, lawyers, professors, and nurses.
What started during the Depression with about 60 kids at summer
camp has grown to a year-round organization, now called Boys and
Girls Harbor, based in East Harlem, and serving some 6,000 people
annually. For disadvantaged children and adults in East Harlem,
Harlem, and the South Bronx, the Harbor offers a host of programs,
including day-care centers, a charter school for grades 1–8,
a private high school, a literacy program, after-school and performing
arts programs, health services, and a camp in East Hampton, N.Y.
Through its programs, the Harbor aims to help inner-city youths
discover their talents and reach their potential.
As Duke begins to contemplate “lessening my hold”
on the Harbor, he looks to Hans Hageman ’80, hired in 2002
as executive director, to steer the Harbor into the future. An East
Harlem native, Hageman in 1992 founded, with his brother, a private
middle school for at-risk youths in East Harlem. Four years ago,
Hageman left his brother in charge and with his wife founded a school
in India for poor Hindu and Muslim girls. But the pull to return
to his roots and a commitment to helping urban youths in his Harlem
community drew him back to the Harbor.
The Harbor, says Hageman, acts as a safety net and ladder for
families in Harlem, by providing what many people in the suburbs
take for granted. The Harbor’s mission — to cultivate
productive members of society — “is not sexy,”
he says. But time and again Harbor alumni return to tell Duke what
a difference the programs made in their lives. One program alumnus,
at his investiture ceremony to become a New York State Supreme Court
judge, broke down in tears and attributed much of his success to
his years at Boys Harbor. Says Duke, “Quite a few [Harbor
alumni] tell me that. I like hearing it, but I also tell them that
all we did was find out what you were made of and help you develop
it. I don’t want to take credit for what a boy or girl already