Inside HCZ: Latasha Morgan
Before Latasha Morgan could start working at HCZ’s Countee Cullen Community Center in 2005, she understood the need to connect with the community. So, she invested time in getting to know HCZ’s neighbors.
She chatted with residents on their stoops, asked the drug dealers to not sell in front of the center, and only ordered breakfast from the Red Rose restaurant down the street to ensure Ms. Margie, the owner, never felt slighted.
“Without the community, there is no opportunity to do any of the things we (at HCZ) do,” said Morgan. “I would tell guys: “I’m not too far from who you are and where you’re from.’”
Latasha Morgan grew up in the Martin Luther King public housing development in Harlem surrounded by a big family and loving neighbors.
Morgan was an intelligent and talented athlete, but only focused on her grades as much as it was necessary to stay on the basketball team. Often, she cut class. After graduating high school, Morgan was embarrassed that she hadn’t been accepted into a college.
“I was a star that had fallen. I crashed because I didn’t value education yet,” said Morgan. “I knew I needed to be [in school] to be eligible to play during the season, but in the off-season, I disappeared.”
After high school, Morgan visited a friend who went to Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) and the basketball coach recognized her from the newspapers immediately. Impressed by her athletic career, the coach helped her matriculate into the school. She excelled and even led her basketball team to the top of national competitions. She went on to graduate from HVCC, and later, Saint Leo University, where she furthered her education and played Division II basketball.
In 2002, Morgan started at HCZ as a Peacemaker with her life-long friend (and now, husband) Uriah Morgan. Nearly eighteen years later, she now serves as Director of Parent and Community Engagement – providing support to HCZ and Promise Academy families and the community.
“To me, this community means hope, possibility and life,” said Morgan. “Everything I do here is a personal mission for me.”
Morgan’s work is close to her own life. More than a decade ago, Morgan wrote down the names of students as they were chosen in the first Promise Academy admission lottery. Now, she starts her days by dropping off her two children at Promise Academy II and immediately begins checking in with other parents.
“As a parent, you want your children to have everything. I feel like the Promise Academy is what it says it is – a promise,” said Morgan. She also leads work in HCZ’s Baby College and Community Pride – introducing new parents to the pipeline and connecting families to resources and services.
Last year, Latasha Morgan was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. The staff and students of HCZ mobilized to support her. Staff members, including CEO Anne Williams-Isom, threw “Chemo Parties” for her at the hospital and the students celebrated once she had returned from treatment. HCZ parents even prayed with her for her recovery. Today, the HCZ community is proud to celebrate that after years of her taking care of others, Latasha Morgan is now cancer-free.