CAMBRIDGE — “This doesn’t happen everywhere,” CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore Jeff Breslin said on March 30. “The STEM programming is just a start.”
Mr. Breslin was speaking about classes that start on April 7 at New Beginnings Youth & Family Service, led by Dr. Theresa Stafford. The classes, named, “So You Want to be a Chemist,” will take place every Wednesday.
“We’re really hoping some of our middle school kids will take advantage of that,” Dr. Stafford said. “Boys and Girls Clubs will provide the staff and materials.”
Included in the conversation was former Mace’s Lane Middle School Principal Jymil Thompson, who is now with the John & Janice Wyatt Foundation. The organization works to foster cooperation among county schools and local non-profit groups.
Other local groups that have set up “learning labs” and other after-school programs are the Empowerment Center, operated by the Pine Street Committee, and Harvesting Hope Youth and Family Wellness, Inc. They combined their efforts in a collaborative body called the Dorchester Academic Support Coalition (DASC). DASC was formed to better communicate information and share resources while supporting disadvantaged out-of-school students. All three organizations have a long history of working with youth in the community by offering robust after-school and summer programming to over 100 children every year in the Cambridge area, as well as partnering with the Dorchester County Public School system.
The Foundation provided support for the projects. Establishing a collective impact effort that builds bridges between Dorchester County Public Schools, local non-profits, government and business is a central strategy for the group. Efforts being taken by the Empowerment Center, Harvesting Hope, and New Beginnings are designed to work with, and in support of, the school district.
Boys and Girls Club
The county bought the Leonards Lane property late last year and is examining cooperation with the Boys and Girls Club. Now, the groups are pulling together to establish further services.
“STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is the tip of the iceberg,” Mr. Breslin said. The Boys and Girls Club is assigning staff from Baltimore to the effort, and plans to hire local workers as well.
As the Club prepares to move into part of the Leonards Lane site, they continue working with the Mace’s Lane Foundation, which has been planning to renovate the remaining portion of the old Mace’s Lane High School for use as a community center. The Cambridge Police Department has also expressed support for cooperation with the Club, especially in terms of the Police Athletic League’s activities.
In February, former Director of Rec & Parks Frank Stout said the club would like to expand its operations to Hurlock as well.
“Ultimately, the community benefits when we collaborate,” Mr. Breslin said.
Mr. Thompson said regarding the DSAC, “We have been extremely pleased with their cooperation.”
To get the Club into Leonards Lane, minor renovations to part of the space will be needed. “We’re cautiously excited we’ll be in a home in May,” Mr. Thompson said.
Mr. Thompson said studies have shown the need is there. He referred to a study that said in Maryland, 390,000 children would enroll in an after-school program if they could.
Plans are now being made for the summer break. Dr. Stafford said her group will offer a 30-day program for elementary school students, from July 12 to Aug. 12, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon. For middle schoolers, there will be sessions for language arts and math.
To learn more about the club, visit bgcmetrobaltimore.org.
The John & Janice Wyatt Foundation website says it is “a 501c(3) non-profit, grant-making family foundation established in July 2018. We are intensely focused on creating equity and leveling the playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged children and youth in our geographic service area. Our focus is on early childhood education through high school — the cradle to career pathway — and our goal is to help these children stay engaged and become successful, active citizens in today’s rapidly evolving world.”
The Foundation works in low-income areas, where minority enrollment is over 50%, and more than 67% are eligible for free and reduced meals.