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News

Promise Heights In The News

Baltimore City Health Department Awards Funds to Build Capacity for Resiliency in Communities after Stress and Trauma Program

Jennifer Hasselbusch

The Baltimore City Health Department has awarded the SSW over $132,000 to help build capacity for its Resiliency in Communities after Stress And Trauma Program. Assistant Clinical Professor Kyla Liggett-Creel is the Principal Investigator.

 

The purpose of the Resiliency in Communities After Stress And Trauma Program is to build the capacity in the community to evaluate community-based programs. Dr. Liggett-Creel will work with community members to design evaluation protocols, collect data, and develop summary reports describing the important work members of the community are doing and the wonderful outcomes they are achieving. The potential impact of this project is to increase evaluation capacity of community grassroots organizations so they can apply for additional grant funding using data collected and analyzed through the Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma Program.

How an Art Mural Inspires Students to Paint Their Own Futures

Jennifer Hasselbusch

Taking a break from painting, (from left) Dyelle Washington, a sophomore at Renaissance Academy, MD First Lady Yumi Hogan, UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, and Renaissance Academy Principal Tammatha Woodhouse, pose for a picture in front of the colorful mural.

Taking a break from painting, (from left) Dyelle Washington, a sophomore at Renaissance Academy, MD First Lady Yumi Hogan, UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, and Renaissance Academy Principal Tammatha Woodhouse, pose for a picture in front of the colorful mural.

April 11, 2019    |   By Jena Frick

“One… Two… Three… Let’s paint!” exclaimed Tammatha Woodhouse, the principal of Renaissance Academy High School. And with that, a group of high school students – with the help of Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan – began putting the finishing touches on a brand-new mural inside the school.

By about noon on April 5, the students could stand back and marvel at the completed work of art. What was once a plain, white stretch of hallway is now a rainbow of colors bringing new life to the third floor of Renaissance Academy. The myriad of colors swirl together in pointed shapes surrounding silhouettes of students who are dancing, celebrating, and graduating.

Dyelle Washington, a sophomore at Renaissance Academy strikes a similar pose to the mural she stands in front of and helped to complete.

Dyelle Washington, a sophomore at Renaissance Academy strikes a similar pose to the mural she stands in front of and helped to complete.

“It makes me happy!” said Dyelle Washington, a tenth-grade student with dreams of becoming a nurse. “It brings joy to our school and it gives us all a lot of inspiration of what we could be. It really makes us feel like a family and I just love it!”

The mural at Renaissance Academy is the third in an ongoing public mural series facilitated and sponsored by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Council for Arts and Culture, for which First Lady Yumi Hogan is honorary chair. In fact, it was the First Lady who came up with the idea to have the council commission public murals at UMB’s many partner schools in West Baltimore neighborhoods.

“Art brings all of us together,” said Hogan, who is an artist herself. “It doesn’t matter your background because it’s something we can all appreciate together.”

Renaissance Academy was an ideal choice for the mural series because it’s part of the University of Maryland School of Social Work-led program, Promise Heights. Promise Heights is a cradle-to-college and career approach aimed at closing the opportunity gap in the West Baltimore communities of Upton/Druid Heights.  

“Along with five schools and 20 partners, Promise Heights will build a pipeline of much needed wrap-around services for students including, early childhood development, social-emotional support, academic support, and college and career coaching to ensure pathways out of poverty for youth and their families,” explained Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, the executive director of Promise Heights. “We are excited to have the UMB Council for Arts and Culture sponsor this mural at Renaissance Academy.”

Members of the council hope that this mural will become yet another pillar of support for the students at Renaissance Academy, and that it will demonstrate the power that art can have on the mind and body.

“This mural series is all part of UMB’s holistic view that the arts can help people heal and work through crisis and trauma. It’s also the perfect way to show that the arts go hand-in-hand with fields like medicine, nursing, and social work,” said Jennifer B. Litchman, MA, senior vice president for external affairs and chair of the Council for Arts and Culture alongside the First Lady.

The council had been working in tandem with a group of students at Renaissance Academy for the past year to determine the theme and artwork of the mural. Finally, they were able to narrow it down to three art concepts, and the school got to vote on which one they wanted to see in their hallway.

A Renaissance Academy Student poses and dances in front of the colorful mural.

A Renaissance Academy Student poses and dances in front of the colorful mural.

“I think it’s important for students to know that they have ownership in this school,” explained Woodhouse. “They need to know that this school belongs to them and they have input in what it looks like, what goes on their walls, and how this school should feel to them.”

The artist behind the mural, Candace Brush, really took Woodhouse’s sentiment to heart. Before sketching out a design, Brush talked to the students about what they wanted to see and what would best represent them in the mural. Through those conversations, Brush was hit with a stroke of inspiration.

“They love music and dancing, so I felt that showing people having fun and dancing with the bright colors would really suit them the best,” explains Brush. “I love working with the students, and this extra touch of care and detail will really help to make this mural a part of them and drive their appreciation that much more.”

The appreciation showed through each of the students who were thrilled to see the mural finally completed. To them, the work of art is more than just color schemes and patterns. It represents companionship, commitment, friendship, and fun. It also symbolizes their own journeys through high school.

“In ninth grade we come into school with a blank canvas,” explained Kevin Flemming, a junior who helped to complete the mural. “Hopefully, by the time we reach our 12th grade year and graduation, we will have gained some ideas of who we are and what we want to become. In theory, we’ll be a step closer to completing our own personal murals.”

With the support of his classmates behind him, Kevin Flemming, a junior at Renaissance Academy delivers his speech to the audience during the mural unveiling.

With the support of his classmates behind him, Kevin Flemming, a junior at Renaissance Academy delivers his speech to the audience during the mural unveiling.

Woodhouse hopes that her students take away another lesson from this mural. She hopes they can have a new appreciation for art and how it can evoke thoughtfulness and inspire a new perspective on learning.

“We don’t have to just do critical thinking through books,” she said. “We can do critical thinking through art and social interaction and then use those skill sets to push our academics. For me, Renaissance means rebirth and getting a fresh start, and with this art project we can all see that we’re continuing to move forward as a school. That’s what makes me so happy to be here.”

During the mural unveiling, UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, announced yet another way that Renaissance Academy is moving forward. Through Promise Heights and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, UMB has been able to sponsor the first class of Renaissance Academy students who will be trained and certified as phlebotomists. Perman explained that an instructor from Baltimore City Community College has been teaching the course at the high school. Then, in June the students will be able to do their clinical practice at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“We don’t plan to stop with phlebotomy certifications,” said Perman. “We look at this as a stepping stone into many other health care professions, and I plan on seeing a lot of Renaissance students at UMB one day.”

In the meantime, the Council for Arts and Culture is still reviewing where they will paint the next mural in the series. The first two are on display at James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, which partners with UMB through the Social Work Community Outreach Service, and Southwest Baltimore Charter School, which partners with UMB through the CURE Scholars Program.

UMB and Promise Heights Students Take a Tasteful Course in Etiquette

Jennifer Hasselbusch

Students from Renaissance Academy High School and staff including Promise Heights College and Career Coordinator, Shirley Green (second to the left) and Promise Heights Director, Bronwyn Mayden (third to the left) gather for a group photo following the etiquette dinner at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus Center.

Students from Renaissance Academy High School and staff including Promise Heights College and Career Coordinator, Shirley Green (second to the left) and Promise Heights Director, Bronwyn Mayden (third to the left) gather for a group photo following the etiquette dinner at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus Center.

The etiquette dinner table gathering invites students from Renaissance Academy High School and the University of Maryland to include good tables manners on their path to success.

Three students from Renaissance Academy High School cool their soup. French onion soup was the first course of a four-course etiquette dinner at the SMC Campus Center, U of Maryland.

Three students from Renaissance Academy High School cool their soup. French onion soup was the first course of a four-course etiquette dinner at the SMC Campus Center, U of Maryland.

Five forks. One dinner fork, a dessert fork, another for fish, a cocktail fork, another for salad, and four knives. Each with a specific purpose. Also, a position for each napkin, glass, and utensil to signify to the wait-staff if you were finished eating or simply resting. Fine dining can seem daunting but thankfully, last Thursday on the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) campus, the International School of Protocol coached many students through a four-course meal with lessons on dining with etiquette.

Many universities host etiquette dinners for their students, but few if any include high school students. This Etiquette dinner was unique because it included students from UMB and Renaissance Academy together.

Shirley Green, the Promise Heights College and Career Coordinator at Renaissance Academy, said the impetus for her high school students joining the etiquette dinner came from her experience as a college student when she attended the dinner. The coaching helped her transform professionally and she hopes it accomplishes the same thing for her students.

Students exhibit the proper spoon placement during the meal’s first course.

Students exhibit the proper spoon placement during the meal’s first course.

"You’re in front of people, and the last thing you need to worry about is if my tie is put on right, if my suit is correct, if I’m eating the proper way, and am I eating too much,” Green said. She added that prospective employers are taking note of your table manners.

She’s likely right.

For the past six months, Forbes Business magazine published an article each month on the importance of etiquette. Green didn’t want her Renaissance Academy students to be without this important networking skillset or feeling unprepared for upcoming out-of-state college tours.

Undoubtedly, for Nakiyah Smith, the short walk from her high school into the University of Maryland campus felt a lot like a college tour.

Smith says getting to meet new people, especially the UMB student whose spouse studies engineering was the best part of the evening because she wants to study civil engineering.

“I’m pretty sure all of them learned something new,” Green said.

About Promise Heights: The Promise Heights initiative was established in 2009 by the University of Maryland School of Social Work to improve educational outcomes for youth and ensure families are healthy and successful in the West Baltimore communities of Upton/Druid Heights.

Join the PromiseCorps Team

Jennifer Hasselbusch

We are looking for our next cohort of PromiseCorps members. The individuals in this stipended position will join the Promise Heights team for the 2019-2020 school year and work in the five Upton/Druid Heights schools. Members will be supervised by our Community School Coordinators and work with BCPS teachers to conduct assessment and make referrals for chronically absent students. To view the full job description and apply, visit https://umb.taleo.net/careersection/umb_external_staff/jobdetail.ftl?job=1900008J&lang=en

IMPORTANT: Applications must be completed through the UMB Career portal.

Please share with your network or anyone you feel would be a good fit!

More openings at Promise Heights!

Jennifer Hasselbusch

The PH Data Analyst who will report directly to the Director of Research and Evaluation and be responsible for the coordination, analysis and reporting of Promise Heights project data. This posting will close on February 5, 2019. Full description and application can be viewed here.

 The Director of Early Childhood. We would like the chosen applicant to have an LCSW-C. The primary purpose of the Director for Early Childhood is to create and implement a strategic plan that facilitates collaboration and coordination among existing early childhood education programs in the West Baltimore community of Upton/Druid Heights to prepare low income children to enter kindergarten and to improve transitions from early learning to K-12. The Director will create a local coalition to develop an early childhood system of care in which public and private providers offer a wide range of programs working toward the same goals with the same expectations. This position will directly supervise a team of Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants (licensed social workers) and facilitate a parent education curriculum.  The posting will close on February 7, 2019. Full description and application can be accessed here.

The Marketing Specialist, under the supervision of the Promise Heights Executive Director, will provide strategic marketing, communication, and public relations expertise and guidance to the initiative. This position will be responsible for communicating and promoting the mission and vision of Promise Heights, both internally and externally. External stakeholders include local and national media, funders, local and state legislators, and community residents. The position will be responsible for creating, distributing, and maintaining print, and digital communications; generating related content for the website; maintaining ongoing media outreach; developing annual progress reports; and promoting the brand and reputation of Promise Heights. The posting closes on February 25, 2019. Full description and application can be accessed here.

Promise Heights honored by The Greater Baltimore Committee

Jennifer Hasselbusch

The Greater Baltimore Committee named Promise Heights and the University of Maryland Baltimore as one of the 2018 Mayor’s Business Recognition Award recipients. As one of 12 recipients, they praised Promise Heights’ ongoing commitment to community service at the award luncheon on December 5th. USM Chancellor Robert L. Claret, PhD, who nominated UMB for this award and highlighted the work of Promise Heights, attended the event as well as Jay Perman, UMB President, Richard P. Barth, Dean of the School of Social Work, Promise Heights leadership, as well as the Rosalind Lockwood, Executive Director for Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy. You can read UMB’s full press release here.

From left, Rosalind Lockwood, Executive Director, Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy; Henriette Taylor, Director of Community Schools, Promise Heights; Brownyn Mayden, Executive Director, Promise Heights; Kyla Liggett-Creel, Director of Research and Evaluation, Promise Heights; and Rachel Donegan, Assistant Director, Promise Heights. (photo credit: Mary Phelan)

From left, Rosalind Lockwood, Executive Director, Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy; Henriette Taylor, Director of Community Schools, Promise Heights; Brownyn Mayden, Executive Director, Promise Heights; Kyla Liggett-Creel, Director of Research and Evaluation, Promise Heights; and Rachel Donegan, Assistant Director, Promise Heights. (photo credit: Mary Phelan)

Promise Heights is looking for you!

Jennifer Hasselbusch

Promise Heights is looking for a Budget Analyst! This individual would be responsible for providing analysis and reviewing sustainability plans for the Promise Heights program. The position would also prepare, analyze, forecast, and report budgetary information for Promise Heights' grant and contract budgets.

To see the full job description and/or to apply, click HERE to be taken to the UMB Career portal. All applicants MUST apply through the portal and the posting will close on January 4, 2019.

Spotlight: Fun Fall Festival at Pedestal Gardens

Jennifer Hasselbusch

B’more for Heathy Babies Upton/Druid Heights partnered with interns from Coppin State University to throw the Kids Fun Fall Festival for the Pedestal Gardens Apartments community in October. A big shout out to Pedestal Gardens for being a wonderful partner in our community and creating opportunities to share information.

You can check Pedestal Gardens blog to read a bit more and keep up with what is happening there!

College Knowledge Jeopardy! at Renaissance Academy

Jennifer Hasselbusch

On October 10th Ms. Green, our new College and Career Coordinator, organized College Knowledge Jeopardy! for 9th grade students at Renaissance Academy High School. Participating freshmen were invited to the auditorium and divided up into three teams to play. Students were able to show off their existing college knowledge by answering questions from five categories. After a shy start, Team 3 came out on top with a total of 2,400 points and received awesome Morgan State t-shirts as a prize.

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Following the friendly competition, freshmen were able to enjoy lunch as they learned more about Ms. Green’s afterschool College Crew sessions that will be starting next week. This event marks the kick off of our MSDE Next Generation work by providing a fun learning experience about college for students and enable them to bond with their fellow classmates, hear about the supports made possible through our Next Generation Grant, as well as meet Ms. Green formally. We are very excited about what is to come for the 2018-2019 school year!

Promise Heights awarded a $30M Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant

Jennifer Hasselbusch

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The U.S. Department of Education has awarding $30 million over 5 years to Promise Heights as one of their most recent Promise Neighborhood implementation awards recipients. In a press release from The University of Maryland Baltimore*, “[t]his funding [will provide] access to educational and enrichment opportunities that underfunded and under-resourced schools like the ones in Upton/Druid Heights so desperately need,” said Promoise Heights Executive Director Bronwyn Mayden, MSW.

“When we talk about the achievement gap for children of color, we should be more focused on the lack of equity which exists for schools in high-poverty neighborhoods.” We are excited for what the future will bring and cannot wait to begin the work. Thank you for your support—we would not be able to do this work without you.

*To read the full press release from University of Maryland Baltimore here.