Friday, February 26, 2010

Who We Are: Staff Stories

Submitted by Tyson Smith, Assistant Director of Administration at GHCC.

I think I wanted to be an actor for as long as I can remember.  There is just something about performing, or even watching someone else perform, that makes me feel spectacular.  Growing up in Utah, though, I knew that if I wanted to have a future in acting, I was going to have to move to the east coast.  And so, two years after I got my college degree in Theatre Performance, my partner and I decided to move to Baltimore – a smallish, kind of artsy city, close enough to Washington and to New York but with a reasonable cost of living.
To get a job, you need a local address, and to get an apartment, you have to have a job, so after a month of trying to make the advance planning impulse pay off, we just decided we were going to have to physically get here, or this move we had planned would never happen.  So, we picked up everything we owned, put it in a rental truck and drove across the country.  We got to Baltimore at about 4:00 AM and after sleeping for 5 hours in a motel, signed up for temporary job placements through Kelly Services.  That gave us the reference we needed to find an apartment, and three days later, we were living in Cherry Hill.

My intention was to act, obviously, but since moving across the country had taken every single penny we had, I needed to work a temp job for a while.  My first placement fell through even before I worked my first day, and then my second placement was at Greater Homewood Community Corporation.  Before I had even worked for three hours, I could tell that this was a very special place.  The scope of work I saw going on was incredible.  The dedication of these community activists, AmeriCorps VISTAs, full and part time staff members and volunteers was something I had never experienced before.  But I had to know – what made them all want to make this part of Baltimore better?  Why do this and not something else?

Now, three years and (almost) one month later, I think I have a good answer to that question.  We work here, we volunteer here, we spend our lives here, because we believe in Baltimore.  We believe in the people of this city, we believe in the city itself.  And when I caught that vision, it made me realize something.  If I had been an actor, I would have spent my life marketing myself at auditions and in front of audiences.  But because I was lucky enough to accidentally get a temporary job placement at Greater Homewood Community Corporation, I was given the opportunity to participate in vibrant, innovative and meaningful initiatives which make a positive impact on the world.  That is something I never even knew was possible, but it makes coming to work every day worth it.

Tyson with Executive Director Karen Stokes and fellow GHCC staff members at GHCC's 40th Birthday Party in October 2009

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

University of Baltimore to Host Second Annual Urban Child Symposium

On Thursday, April 1, the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts will host its second annual Urban Child Symposium.  This year the Symposium will focus on the wide range of health challenges facing children in urban environments, with a keynote address from Congressman Elijah E. Cummings and three panels with a variety of excellent presenters.
The brochure is now online with full details.  Over 250 people attended last year's event, so please register if you plan on attending.  Online registration is available at the School of Law's website.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Baltimore Algebra Project Organizes Rally for Youth Opportunities

Spring is on the way!  How do we know? We're hearing about education advocates planning rallies, bus rides to Annapolis, and petitions to keep education funding cuts at bay as state lawmakers craft their budgets.  One such organization is the Baltimore Algebra Project, a student-run and -organized program founded to provide math tutoring to elementary and middle school students.  The group also advocates for public education funding and an end to the "school to prison pipeline."

Governor O'Malley has proposed to spend $280 million to construct three new detention facilities for youth tried as adults and women.  On Thursday, March 4, the Baltimore Algebra Project, Peer-to-Peer organizations, and several other advocacy and activist groups are organizing a rally to demand that $100 million be diverted youth employment opportunities.  This "March on Youth Jails" will occur from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Camden Yards.  For more information, visit the official Facebook group (Prison is the 13th Grade) or event page (March on Youth Jails).  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

VISTA Spotlight: George Shardlow

We got a lot of good feedback on our guest post from AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) member Tara McKenzie.  We have quite a few of these dedicated people offering a year of service in our communities.  Today, we caught up with George Shardlow, an AmeriCorps*VISTA member who is working to connect community associations in Greater Homewood to valuable resources for strengthening neighborhoods.  Read on to hear his story, and make sure to leave something in the comments to let him know what he can't miss during his stay in Charm City!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Village Parents to Present Series of Five Discussions on Urban Education

Charles Village’s new parents’ organization, The Village Parents, is proud to present School Daze: Five Conversations on Urban Education in the Nation, in the City, and in the Neighborhood. The panel discussion series, co-sponsored by Greater Homewood Community Corporation, Loyola University’s School of Education, and Barclay and Margaret Brent Elementary Schools, will feature local education experts discussing the academic and social issues facing today's urban schools.
Please join us for the first event of the series, The State of Urban Education in America, on February 22, 7:00 p.m., at Barclay Elementary School.    Peter C. Murrell, Jr., Dean of Loyola University Maryland’s School of Education, together with professors Robert Simmons and Stephanie Flores-Koulish, will address the challenges and opportunities facing students and teachers in today’s city schools. They’ll discuss the implications of federal academic policies for both urban students and their suburban counterparts, and why city schools often suffer more from a perception problem than an actual content deficiency.  Refreshments will be served.
The series will continue with a second panel discussion on March 22 at Margaret Brent Elementary School. Former elementary school principals Gertrude Williams (Barclay Elementary School) and Mariale Hardiman (Roland Park Elementary School), along with Charles Village community leaders Jo Ann Robinson, Karen Cook and Dorris McElroy, will share how they worked to reverse the middle-class trend of rejecting neighborhood public schools in favor of private or charter schools. For details on these and the rest of the panel discussions, please visit the Village Parents website.

About the Village Parents

The Village Parents is a group of families working to enhance Charles Village’s family-friendly offerings. They're devoted to building a strong community among families by creating more children’s activities, investing in the local parks and playgrounds, and advocating for competitive, high-quality public schools. Please find them online and join their mailing list.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Snow Continues to Fall on Baltimore!

If you live in Baltimore, chances are you've been spending a lot of time indoors this week.  GHCC offices have been closed all week due to the series of storms that have paralyzed the city.

Wondering what to do?  Here are a few helpful pieces of information for you as you weather the storm:

  • Stay inside!  Snow and heavy wind gusts have created blizzard conditions threatening to life and limb.
  • As of this afternoon the MTA has suspended all bus, MARC train, and light rail services.  Metro subway trains will be running between Mondawmin and Johns Hopkins stations only.  Transit has been operating on a very limited basis since the blizzard hit on Friday night, so check the MTA website for the most up-to-date news before heading out to the bus stop, even as conditions begin to improve.
  • Baltimore City has implemented Phase III of its snow emergency plan, meaning only authorized emergency vehicles are permitted on city roadways.
  • Baltimore City has established a Snow Page for residents to get important updates.  The storm has suspended city services such as trash and recycling collection, so make sure to check in for the latest news.
  • To keep informed about what's happening minute-by-minute, try following some official Twitter feeds, like Mayor Rawlings-Blake or Baltimore City Police.
Most importantly, stay safe!  Today is not a day to venture outside, so make some hot chocolate, get out some movies or board games, and spend some quality time with your neighbors and family.

Baltimore rowhouses in the snow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Register Now for the Scrabble Fundraiser for Literacy!

I know Spring must seem so far away, especially with the impending snowstorm, but it's time to get that early bird registration prize and sign up for GHCC's ninth annual Scrabble Fundraiser for Literacy on Saturday, March 27.  This wonderful event offers competitive and social Scrabble play, a light fare buffet to keep your brain fueled, and fabulous prizes to encourage a little friendly competition.

Don't think the Scrabble Fundraiser for Literacy is just for Scrabble pros, either -- this is one of our favorite events here at GHCC because it's a whole lot of fun and it benefits a great cause.  The social brackets match participants up with players of all skill levels, so there's no pressure (unless, of course, you want to go competitive) if you feel a little rusty.  The event turns out a lot of people, so it's a prime opportunity to catch up with your Greater Homewood friends and neighbors over one of America's favorite board games.

Registration is $35 ($20 for students with ID or seniors ages 62+) and gets you in the door from 5:30 - 9:30 p.m. for all the Scrabble and good company you could ask for.  The event will be held at the Calvert School again, which is located at 4300 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, 21218.

For more information, visit GHCC's website, where you can find a downloadable registration form with full details and directions to the event.  Last but not least, make sure you RSVP to the Facebook event page so you can get your friends in on the action.

We'll see you on March 27!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Take the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge!

Ever wondered how you could reduce your monthly energy bill?  Today we learned about a great new program called the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge (BNEC).  Although Roland Park is the only target neighborhood in Greater Homewood right now (others include Reservoir Hill, Greater Lauraville, C.A.R.E., Park Heights, Fulton Avenue, Mount Washington, and Ten Hills), anyone can start using the BNEC website to plan energy-saving projects in their home.  

The BNEC is a nine-month pilot program of the Baltimore Office of Sustainability and the Baltimore Community Foundation.  The goal is for residents of these neighborhoods to share knowledge and motivation to conserve energy and money.  Target neighborhood residents who register on the website receive a free pledge kit and can connect with their neighbors and access their BGE information on the BNEC website.

Even if you don't live in a target neighborhood, it's fast and simple to enter your address, verify a few details about your home, and start saving a list of projects to increase your energy efficiency.

To see how you can reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and help create a more sustainable Baltimore, check out BNEC's website and take the pledge!