In the summer of second grade, Wes Keelan walked nervously onto the Regis Northwest Denver Campus wearing his brother’s hand-me-down backpack that looked bigger than him. For two years he had looked up to his brother Jeremiah for going off each summer to learn how to lead and come back to be a role model in the family. Even though he was eight years younger, Wes decided he could lead, too.
In the end, they spent a combined 15 summers growing up on campus at the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy (PBLA).
“Without Lonnie Porter and PBLA, I wouldn’t have been able to attend Regis. And without Regis, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Wes said.
The 22nd annual program begins again this month at Regis. The three-week intensive academic program for students in grades 4 through 12 offers its graduates opportunities for scholarships to attend Regis. More than 175 students will attend the daylong, three-week academic program that targets at-risk and low-income Denver youth.
The Academy prepares students to become leaders among their peers and gain skills for succeeding in college. Students who complete seven years of the Academy and qualify academically are provided scholarships for tuition and fees to attend Regis University.
The academy is named for its executive director, beloved former Regis men’s basketball coach Lonnie Porter and former NBA all-star Chauncey Billups, a Denver native who helps orchestrate the program. They serve mainly minority and low-income children whose parents did not attend college.
After graduating from the program eight years apart, the brothers both received the Porter-Billups scholarship, enabling them to attend and graduate from Regis University. Jeremiah earned a degree in business administration, while younger brother Wes focused on communications.
Wes’ three years as a Denver police officer inspired Jeremiah to join the force in 2016.
“Now as a police officer I get to have a meaningful impact on people every day,” Jeremiah said.
As the brothers put their lives on the line to keep Denver safe, they understand how their dedication to service started at Regis.
“I live the mission every day,” Jeremiah said. “I put on body armor to help people and to be a man in service of others.”
Wes credits his degree with helping him mediate and a counsel in crisis situations.
“I learned how to relate to people – how to show them where I’m coming from,” Wes said. “Talking people into handcuffs isn’t easy, but I got the foundation for that at Regis.”
Porter knows that their commitment to service is due, in part, to his commitment to them.
“We’re not finished after PBLA,” Porter said. “We are joined together for life, all of us.”
Learn how you can make a difference with PBLA. PBLA is coming to Regis this month.