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November 14, 2012
In October, the U.S. Department of Education recognized Elev8 Chicago and Elev8 Baltimore for their efforts to turn around low-performing middle schools in low-income areas. In East Baltimore, through partnerships with community groups, Elev8 Baltimore officials provide after-school programs for students and services for them and their families. In this report, WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn visits an Elev8 Baltimore school to see how the program is working.
Students: If one subtract negative two, plus negative two squared and that’s negative one.
Gwendolyn Glenn: This is Tench-Tilghman Elementary Middle School, where eight-grader Jourdan Moore is hammering out homework with classmates, during Elev8 Baltimore’s after-school program. Jourdan says they didn’t have tutoring sessions like this before Elev8 stepped in. She says it’s helped her a lot.
Jourdan Moore: My reading level wasn’t that high, but when elev8 came it helped my reading, it helped my math during the school year so, you know sometimes you be afraid to ask a teacher for help, but with Elev8, it’s young people.
Glenn: Jourdan is referring to the 11 college students hired and trained by Elev8 to come four days a week to tutor and mentor the students.
Danielle Jones: When you have a positive number in the front, you need to subtract it from both sides. (take under)
Glenn: That’s tutor Danielle Jones, a Baltimore native who recently graduated from the Community College of Baltimore County. She is working on a degree in early childhood education. Elev8 Baltimore’s senior director Nicole Johnson says hiring students like Jones was a key part of their strategy when they began their work here four years ago.
Nicole Johnson: We realized they needed to see someone who was a little closer to their age who had maybe grown up in the same neighborhood or a similar community that they had grown up in, who was actually aspiring to greater academic achievement.
Glenn: In addition to Tench Tilghman, Elev8 Baltimore provides academic and enrichment resources to the tune of over $2 million at Collington Square, Dr. Rayner Browne and East Baltimore Community schools. Elev8Baltimore is part of a national initiative funded primarily by The Atlantic Philanthropies, and local supporters such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Family League. Johnson says Elev8 focuses on middle school students because those are crucial development years when many need extra help.
Johnson: We see them as pivotal years--years where a young person can be on the path to college and life success or a path to dropping out and having a really hard time recovering.
Glenn: Eight-grader Tyras Jones is getting pointers on football from the Elev8 college interns. He says he may have dropped out had it not been for this program.
Tyras Jones: I was off track and didn’t know how to control my behavior. They helped me a lot by a lot of role models coming and talking to me, telling me if I do good, I could make it somewhere in life…. I finally found out it’s helping me stay off the corners and stopped running around the streets.
Glenn: According to Johnson, they did not come with set ideas for the program but met with parents and students first to get their opinions. In addition to the academic and sports components, they were asked to offer leadership sessions, drama workshops and fencing classes like this one taught by Charles Greene.
Charles Greene: Fencing is an activity that helps the kids deal with discipline, order, self-esteem and goal setting.
Glenn: Greene, whose salary is paid by Elev8, plans to enter some of these students in the national fencing championship in Baltimore in February. Tench Tilghman Principal Jael Yon says they would not have been able to have programs like this without Elev8’s help.
Jael Yon: Those are expensive programs and so it’s a great partnership and the kids have the opportunity to participate in all different types of sports free of charge to them.
Glenn: Yon adds that Elev8 also provides resources for her staff.
Yon: Last year, we had quite a few new teachers in the middle grades and we came to Elev8 and they were to hire some mentors for those teachers to help them, so whatever the need is so the kids can be successful and graduate, they really help support.
Glenn: Many students do not graduate because they are chronically absent. Johnson says a lot of that is driven by illnesses, such as diabetes and asthma. To tackle that issue, Elev8 officials upgraded its four schools’ health clinics, which are staffed by Baltimore Medical Systems and Johns Hopkins. Elev8 spends about $900 thousand annually on the clinics, which all have a full-time medical assistant and school nurse. Tench Tilghman’s clinic has a receptionist area and fully-equipped examining and isolation rooms. It was the first Elev8 school to have a nurse practitioner on site several times a week. Students often come to the clinic with asthma problems or they need immunizations. But clinical manager Brian Mroz says they handle more complex issues too.
Bryan Mroz: As opposed to a traditional school, we can diagnose, we can prescribe, we can do lab work here which cannot occur in a regular school. It really provides access to a lot of kids that don’t have that access whether money or time. Parents don’t have to take off work to get here. They can just treat the student in school and then send them back to class.
Glenn: Elev8 officials say having parents with steady jobs is key to a student’s success. So they have formed a partnership with Humanim workforce development group, which is helping about 100 parents remove barriers that may prevent them from getting a job.
Johnson: We’ve helped parents with legal expungements, so if they have a record or something in their legal past that needs to be cleaned up, we’ve assisted parents with that, in order to find a job or, keep a job, they need to stabilize their housing, so we’ve assisted families with that, there’s programs out there that will allow families to have seed money so they can go out and purchase a car because getting transportation can be a huge barrier to work.
Glenn: Robert Cheatham has grandchildren and Candace Baxter has two children at Elev8 schools. Both found jobs through Elev8’s partnership with Humanim.
Robert Cheatham & Candace Baxter: All I know is that I been out of work a while and they stuck with me and they helped me and I’m working again now. I was basically doing like work programs for social services and that wasn’t really doing anything for me, so once I got plugged in with Elev8 and Humanim, I became a working woman.
Glenn: Johnson says Elev8 also tries to get parents involved in their children’s schools. They have hired several parents to help on that front.
Johnson: They do a lot of the outreach, a lot of the pulling parents in.. The parent outreach worker is supported by a full-time family advocate. Their entire focus is on developing programs and activities that parents will enjoy and creating ways for them to be more involved and more connected to the school.
Students: All together once, betty bottom
Glenn: School officials say Elev8’s work at Tench Tilghman is producing tangible results. Yon says her students, who struggled to meet Maryland’s adequate yearly progress requirements on state standardized exams, are now meeting them in math and reading.
Yon: The first year that Elev8 was on board we did as well, so we’ve been able to see our growth and this is I believe, a direct correlation of the teamwork that we have between Elev8 and Tench Tilghman.
Glenn: Elev8 officials say they are committed to supporting the East Baltimore schools as long as they are needed. I’m Gwendolyn Glenn reporting in Baltimore for 88 1, WYPR.
You can reach the WYPR Newsroom at email@example.com.
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