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News

Promise Heights In The News

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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.

Promise Heights awarded a $30M Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant

Jennifer Hasselbusch

DOE.png
PH Logo 9.2.16.png

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.

The Community Schools National Forum honors Hallie Atwater with the Community School Coordinator Award for 2018

Jennifer Hasselbusch

H. Atwater.jpg

Congratulations to the AMAZING Hallie Atwater for receiving the National Community School Coordinator Award!

Her work with the Renaissance Academy High School #433 school community will be recognized at the 2018 National Forum in Baltimore on May 2-4. She's being honored for developing over 40 school-community partnerships, focusing on issues of social justice and violence prevention, and lifting up youth and family voices to successfully advocate to keep the school open.

Click to learn more about the Community Schools National Forum Leadership Awardee winners  

Hope to see you in May for the big event! #Partner4Equity

Join the Promise Heights team!

Jennifer Hasselbusch

We are currently looking for a new person to join our team!

ESSENTIALS FUNCTIONS:

  • Conduct social work assessments that examine risk and strengths of children and their families who attend the Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts (BTW).
  • Develop service plans by identifying evidence based or informed programs and services available for a variety of client issues dealing with challenges, strengths, change and crisis. Establish and monitor the connection between the service providers and individual children and their families.
  • Participate on the school’s leadership team and support the principal’s vision for school day and after-school program curriculum to the fullest extent possible.
  • Provide training, guidance, and support to teachers, school administrators, and staff as well as other community partners regarding issues including mental health, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, physical abuse, rehabilitation, social adjustment, child care, and /or medical care.
  • Maintain case records and document client(s) progress.  May perform chart reviews and generates notes on evaluations, therapy sessions, reports, and other accountability measures.
  • Participate in capacity-building activities, including initiative-wide and site-based training, network meetings and study visits, and with the principal ensure the participation of other site-based staff as needed or required.
  • Train social work interns working at BTW.
  • Use traditional and non-traditional communication channels such as social media and other web technologies.
  • Performs other duties as assigned.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Education: Masters in Social Work
  • License/Certification: Licensed as Graduate Social Work (LGSW) in the State of Maryland
  • Preferred Experience: Two years working with low-income communities

KNOWLEDGE, SKILS, AND ABILITIES:

  • Knowledge of best practices in the field as well as relevant federal, state, and local rules, regulations, and programs/policies utilizing proper application of diagnostic tools.     
  • Strong interpersonal skills; ability to effectively interact with a diverse client population using various approved interviewing techniques and consultative approaches. Ability to work as part of a team, as well as with individuals and/or families from diverse ethnic, racial, and social-economic backgrounds. Demonstrated leadership ability, effective verbal and written communication skills, and capacity for creative problem-solving, conflict resolution.
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality of client information in accordance with professional standards, HIPAA (Health Information Portability  &  Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) and state regulations.
  • Strong written and oral community skills as well as proficiency in information technology work processing, spreadsheets, and databases.

For more information or to apply, please visit https://umb.taleo.net/careersection/jobdetail.ftl?job=170001WF&lang=en. This posting has been extended until January 16th!

Please pass on to any individuals that you think would be a great fit for our team!

Parent University I 9 Graduates in the news!

Jennifer Hasselbusch

This past Tuesday, November 7th, marked graduation day for the 9th class of Parent University. While this occasion that has always been a wonderful way to wrap up the class, this past Tuesday WJZ 13 reporter Mike Schuh stopped by to learn more about our program and families. Watch his segment here.

Thank you Mike and WJZ for meeting our parents and showing off the great work they are doing to improve the lives of their kids.

Our next round of Parent University I will begin in late February. For more information contact Britney Pitts, Parent University I Coordinator.

 

Strange Fruit wins big at the Baltimore International Black Youth Film Fest

Jennifer Hasselbusch

Strange Fruit is a short film created by Renaissance Academy students, working under Ras Tre Subira of Griot’s Eye, about their experiences growing up in the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood and how police brutality has affected their lives. Filmed during the 16-17 school year and submitted to the Baltimore International Black Film Festival for their Youth Film Fest, the students walked away with the honor of Best Film.

Congratulations to all of the individuals involved with the creation of this project.

Special thanks to MSDE, who partially funded the program through the 21st CCLC program awarded to Promise Heights.

You can learn more about the Baltimore International Black Film Festival by visiting their website.

Renaissance Academy Renovations Unveiled on September 18, 2017

Jennifer Hasselbusch

Renaissance Academy Senior Tyshaun Wallace speaks to Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson after the press conference on Monday, September 18, 2017.

Renaissance Academy Senior Tyshaun Wallace speaks to Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson after the press conference on Monday, September 18, 2017.

A press conference on Monday, September 18th, marked the official unveiling of extensive renovations to Renaissance Academy High School. Started at the end of the 2016-2107 school year, the project was funded by a generous donation of $1.5 million byThe Baltimore Ravens to Baltimore City Public Schools after seeing multiple stories about the dedication of RA students and the community to the school.

Speakers at the event included Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, Ravens President Dick Cass, Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, CEO of BCPS Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, University of Maryand Baltimore President Jay Perman, and RA Principal Nikkia Rowe. Improvements made to the school include:

  • Classrooms modified to increase office space for social workers and mentors who need private settings to provide counseling services to students.
  • New food pantry and laundry room
  • Updated science and art rooms.
  • A large student common area.
  • Cosmetic and beautification to throughout the school and complete re-do of the lobby.

Perhaps Nikkia Rowe, RA Principal, says it best.

"At Renaissance, we always speak to 'changing the outcome,' and we are humbled by the leap of faith taken by the entire Ravens organization."

Thank you to the Baltimore Ravens for improving the lives of our students and teachers!

Read more about the press conference:

Video coverage:

  • CBS            
  • WBAL        

 

photo credit: Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun and Betsy Stein, University of Maryland Baltimore

Stacey Stephens presents for the US Dept. of Defense

Jennifer Hasselbusch

B'more for Healthy Babies Upton/Druid Heights Director, Stacey Stephens, presented at the Department of Defense's Fatality Review Summit in July in Alexandria, VA. She and Dr. Shelly Choo, Senior Medical Advisor of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health at the Baltimore City Health Department, presented on the B'more for Healthy Babies SLEEP Safe Campaign. Read bit more about the Summit and their presentation here.