St. Pete martial arts academy changing young lives

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A St. Petersburg couple is shaping the lives of young children for the better. As we honor African American Heritage month, we discovered how a Midtown neighborhood program is what's right with Tampa Bay.

Bryant and Leotte Harrell started Midtown Miracles Martial Art to strengthen young minds and bodies to take on the world. 

"We teach them how to prevail," said Bryant. "We teach them how to overcome evil. Evil that is within us and evil that is in others."

The husband-wife duo came from humble beginnings. Bryant was raised by his grandmother.

Now, he teaches kids how to overcome challenging social and economic conditions, based on firsthand experience.

"Discipline is teaching him or her, engaging him or her, that doing the right thing all the time, not some of the time, but all the time and putting your best effort to do that right thing all the time," Bryant said.

"I'm hard. We push them hard, but just as disciplined as we are, that just as much love that we give them," Leotte said.

Bryant started in martial arts lessons when he was five years old. He's now a grandmaster. 

"I just recently been put in the book of who's who, which is a history book of martial arts. 500 members from all over the world were posted pick 200 or so and I just happen to be a part of the list," Bryant said.

The Harrells started Midtown Miracles in 2018 to give kids focus, discipline, and encouragement. It's a really big hit with the community.

"I love it when the parents come up and say, 'I see such a change in him. I see the respect,'" said Leotte. "Because conduct and character is a huge part of our program."

Their goal is to develop good citizens with discipline and love. Bryant is a 10th- degree black belt and Leotte is a black belt also. The program is sponsored by St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway and is only $5 a month.