Wednesday, April 28, 2010

York Road Alternatives for Youth (YAY): A Peaceful Response for a Better Neighborhood

Since 2000, GHCC's Youth Programs increased the availability of positive activities for Greater Homewood youth by building partnerships between schools, communities, and youth service providers to foster an integrated approach to meeting youth needs.  GHCC's established repuation as an intermediary enables our program to serve as a networking resource to promote common solutions.  Our current range of programming works with local youth providers and institutional partners to facilitate cross-sector collaborations and coordinated efforts to maximize and expand the reach of programs for underserved youth. To learn more about our youth programs, click here.

Submitted by Rev. Heber Brown, III

As the Summer of 2009 prepared to make its entry, the Govans community in north Baltimore experienced a rash of violence that unsettled many of our residents and neighbors.  Govans isn’t regularly featured on the nightly news for incidents of crime, but last summer was a reminder that no community is immune to acts of violence.  

On May 31, 2009, Joseph Woah-Tee, long-time Baltimore resident and owner of the Gaimei Nangbn Multi-Purpose Neighborhood Center in the 4300 Block of York Road, was killed in a robbery attempt at his Center.

A little more than two weeks later and less than one mile away, a young man in his late teens was killed in what the Baltimore Sun describes as a raucous “street fight between several people.”  The young man was stabbed and died about an hour later at an area hospital.

A couple of shootings occurred on the Alameda and Old York Road in July 2009, and two months later on September 11, a drive-by shooting occurred at York Road and Radnor Avenue.  Eight gunshots sliced through the air of that night and when the smoke cleared, two bodies were laying on the ground in the front yard of Patrice Brown – my mother.  Bullet casings decorated the cement and bullet holes pierced the walls of the American Friends Service Committee Building across the street.

In response to these shootings, a coalition of community members from all walks life gathered themselves for Prayer and Peace Vigils.  People of Faith and Conscience – from local churches, organizations, and the surrounding community – gathered to ensure that violence would not get the last word in the communities along the York Road Corridor.  
They participated in public actions for peace on two occasions: once on Sunday, July 19, 2009, beginning at the intersection of York Road and Woodbourne, and again on Sunday, October 11, 2009, beginning at the American Friends Service Committee and continuing along Radnor Avenue.

Building on the momentum of two well-supported public actions, conversations ensued about what proactive steps could be taken to prevent violence.  A diverse coalition and subset of the larger group began to meet, eventually coming up with the idea to have churches make their buildings and resources available on a weekly rotational basis to youth recreation on Friday nights calling the initiative: Y.A.Y.! It’s Friday.

In January 2010, this effort began with Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and in subsequent weeks moved to Govans Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church – all churches along York Road.  A few months later, Holy Comforter Lutheran Church signed on as a host site as well.  Youth from the churches and the community have come together not only to play board games, cards, and Nintendo Wii, but have also shared in a review of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, had an Open Mic Night to share their talents, and had a forum on education equality in Baltimore City.

The gracious donations of the participating churches, partner organizations, and supportive neighbors have given Y.A.Y.! It’s Friday a promising start.  

As Summer 2010 is rapidly approaching, Y.A.Y. is preparing to ramp up our efforts, recruit more host sites/partner organizations, and reach a broader segment of community youth.

If you are able to lend your support to this effort with space, donations, time, or in some other way, we would love to hear from you!  Please contact Gary Gillespie as (443) 847-8989.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

VISTA Spotlight: Andrew Stiller

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.

We'll be featuring several VISTA stories in the coming weeks to raise awareness of national service.

Want to know more? Visit our website!

Submitted by Andrew Stiller

I never thought my time as a VISTA member would land me in front of a room of civil servants while being webcast live across the United States. But then again, I didn’t really know what to expect.

Though my parents tried to instill a sense of civic pride and responsibility in me, it didn’t really stick until I got to college. Community service was part of my middle and high school curriculum, but we never embraced it because it was forced upon us. Teenage angst and rebellion almost required that I scoff at being forced to clean streets.

Luckily, that all changed. As an undergraduate at Dickinson College I joined the event planning organization, a service-oriented club called the Keystones, and a traditional Greek fraternity. Surprisingly, I had a better service experience motivating the Greek men to roll out of their beds for philanthropy on Sunday morning than I did with the Keystones. I realized I could affect more change by motivating and teaching others. This was my philosophy throughout college.

After graduation, I was applying for policy-oriented jobs and anything else I could find. I was really lucky to be turned on to the AmeriCorps* VISTA program, and when a position opened up at GHCC, I jumped at the opportunity. VISTA reflected the ideals and methods I adopted in college.

My role as Community Connections Coordinator at GHCC immersed me in a Baltimore City public school community, working with parents and administrators at the school and a variety of partner institutions in the neighborhood. It became apparent early on that true success would be measured by how much buy-in I could get from the parents and the community. A large part of my responsibility would be motivating parents, churches, businesses, neighborhood institutions, and local colleges and universities to invest in Waverly Elementary/Middle School.

I had an opportunity to articulate my experiences when representatives from the Department of Education and the White House’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships came to Waverly to discuss partnership building. I don’t remember saying a lot, but it must have stuck with them. A few months later, I was asked to give a presentation on my role as a VISTA member to the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. A briefing had been scheduled to discuss the possible collaborative efforts between the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). As a VISTA member working primarily with schools, I was located at the epicenter of this relationship.

I felt really honored to present on my VISTA experience. I found that the hardest part was limiting the length of my speech. GHCC’s VISTA members wear many different hats on a daily basis: organizer, capacity builder, mediator, teacher—the list is almost limitless. It was really difficult to put it all these amazing experiences into words. I worked on my speech up until the night before, trying to find the right word to express how it felt to see a parent step up to participate at the school.

When I spoke, though, I was confident. The audience was attentive and after two PowerPoint presentations from officials at CNCS, I think my firsthand experience was a useful counterpoint. I spoke about the day to day things, my major accomplishments, and ways any VISTA member can positively change a school. Regardless of my pre-speech jitters and what I had written down, I found that speaking about my VISTA year was actually quite easy. I think the reason is simple: I became a VISTA to help motivate others, yet it was their efforts in return that motivated me even more. I am now just as invested as anyone else in Waverly Elementary/Middle School and its surrounding community. I hope that means my job has come full circle. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

VISTA Spotlight: Ashley Wallace

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.

We'll be featuring several VISTA stories in the coming weeks to raise awareness of national service.

Want to know more? Visit our website!

Submitted by Ashley Wallace

I want to share my experience this year as an AmeriCorps*VISTA because I believe stories like mine help support and promote national service programs as central to the professional development of young Americans.

In May 2009, in what is now being called the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning. I wanted to diversify my professional planning experience and leave my humble Midwestern roots behind for a more progressive and challenging urban environment. I focused my job search on the Mid-Atlantic region — having lived in Wisconsin for seven years, I was ready for milder winters.  A few professors encouraged me to consider Baltimore for its extraordinary revitalization efforts.

My job opportunities soon began to seem very limited. The job openings I did find required more qualifications and years of experience than I had. I was competing with thousands of applicants who had resorted to applying to jobs they were overqualified for. My connections on the East Coast were few, so I began to broaden my search. I knew I wanted to work at the local level, and I already had a strong background in volunteering and a passion for community service, so I started to consider AmeriCorps*VISTA. It seemed like a great way to reach my goal of relocating to the Mid-Atlantic and working with a grassroots organization.

Keeping that goal in mind, I limited my search to VISTA positions with a connection to urban or neighborhood planning and revitalization.  I came across a position with the Central Baltimore Partnership (CBP) that focused on neighborhood and economic revitalization in four neighborhoods adjacent to the Penn Station. My educational and professional background in planning and community service drew me in, and when I was offered the position in the second round of phone interviews I accepted it on the spot.

I had concerns that although CBP focused on locally based revitalization, my skill set as a planner wouldn’t necessarily be utilized. Ultimately, however, I knew I would gain valuable exposure. Even if I would not gain urban planning experience in Baltimore, I knew it could open doors for me in the future.

I was right. The Executive Director of CBP, Joe McNeely, is a nationally recognized community organizer and he encouraged me to utilize my planning skills by reorganizing and redefining my role to fit my skill set and interests. I took on the responsibilities of community planning: integrating land-use and transportation planning with community-based engagement to improve the built, economic and social environments of communities. I have filled a gap that the CBP needed filled and I have learned a lot about Baltimore and its potential.  I have also fallen in love with its historic architecture.

About 8 months into my VISTA year I expressed interest in staying on with CBP at the end of my service. Soon after, conversations began about a salaried position for a community planner at CBP. I was officially offered a position a month later, securing my chance to stay in Baltimore and establish myself here professionally.

My VISTA year has been more than just a year of service. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to relocate to a major city, certain of my job security for the upcoming year, and experience a new and different place. I have learned about urban poverty, the challenges of community organizing, and the importance of community-based planning and economic revitalization.

VISTA has given me an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with a progressive local nonprofit that is leading in the field of neighborhood revitalization. My experience as a national service volunteer has solidified my professional commitment to both public service and work in the nonprofit sector. What more could I have asked of my country during this year of service?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stories From VISTA Alums: Patrick McMahon

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.

We'll be featuring several VISTA stories in the coming weeks to raise awareness of national service.

Want to know more? Visit our website!

Submitted by Patrick McMahon

After getting my undergraduate degree in Political Science at Colorado College, I moved to Providence, RI with my girlfriend (now wife) and worked for a year managing a campaign office for the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs).  There were rewarding aspects to working on environmental and consumer advocacy.  However, much of the position focused on door-to-door canvassing, and after a year I desperately wanted to be involved in something concrete and local rather than having a minor influence on national issues.

Having spent a lot of time thinking about housing policy and neighborhood transformation while walking door-to-door, I took a position as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  At that point I was one of two full-time staff members (both of us VISTA members).  Eventually I became the sole staff member, and the position gave me the opportunity to take on nearly every aspect of running the day-to-day operations of a non-profit organization. I supervised interns, recruited and scheduled groups of volunteers, and brainstormed and implemented fundraising outreach and special events. I also worked with City staff around permitting and inspections, and sometimes I even went out to the construction sites to manage volunteer labor.

Serving in some ways as an Executive Director just one year out of college seemed a little overwhelming, but it also was a crash course in skills that I’ve used throughout my career. Additionally, I was able to see close-up all the challenges of non-profit management and organizational development. I quickly learned the importance of having a diverse board of directors, defining a clear strategic plan, and coordinating with other non-profits and public agencies.  None of those were things my Habitat affiliate did well at that point, but my role helped the agency recognize some of its gaps and move toward a more strategic way of governing itself and using its resources.

Additionally, working on ad-hoc housing development led me to explore and eventually find my own career path in urban planning.  Once I had identified an interest in City & Regional Planning and taken a summer urban design seminar at Harvard to rule out architecture as a potential career path, AmeriCorps*VISTA provided me with another unique opportunity. I was able to start working in the field of planning while I was assembling graduate school applications and making school choices. I spent the next year working in a small non-profit think tank of sorts developing the Master Plan for an urban greenway project along a river not unlike the Gwynns or Jones Falls, neglected and surrounding by decaying industrial properties but with the potential to provide transportation connections and open space opportunities to the low- and moderate-income neighborhoods through which it travelled.

By the time I arrived at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of City & Regional Planning the experience I had working on affordable housing development, GIS mapping, site plans for parks along the greenway, and other tasks provided incredibly helpful context for the coursework.  It also set me apart from a number of students that had come directly out of undergrad or whose work hadn’t been directly connected to planning issues. Additionally, while the pay as a VISTA member was a pittance, when I was done I had two education awards that trimmed the cost of my grad school education by nearly $10,000, far more than I would have likely saved if I had been earning more and actively saving for my education.

I spent part of my time in grad school working as a recruiter for AmeriCorps, speaking with undergraduate and grad students about my experiences as a VISTA and the varied ways in which the different forms of national community service could provide hands-on experience, money for school, and the opportunity to help transform a neighborhood, public program, or school. As a former VISTA I can look back on my own experiences during the early years of AmeriCorps and connect it back to the long history of the VISTA program (founded in 1965).

The skills that I learned as a VISTA are still relevant in my work today, as is the commitment to address the root causes of poverty and build capacity in low-income communities. My AmeriCorps*VISTA t-shirt is still one of my favorites and I’m still connected with the non-profits for whom I served years ago.

Since moving to Baltimore more than a decade ago I’ve had a chance to observe the VISTA members working through GHCC, and it’s great to see the same sort of opportunities and transformation (both personal and in the areas they’re working) that I experienced.

Patrick McMahon now works part-time out of a spare desk at GHCC for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, advocating for policy changes that would increase the potential for students to safely walk and bike to school in Maryland. He can be contacted about that work at

Monday, April 19, 2010

VISTA Spotlight: Sarah Lesperance

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.  

We'll be featuring several VISTA stories in the coming weeks to raise awareness of national service.

Want to know more? Visit our website!
Submitted by Sarah Lesperance.

Growing up in the small town of Meredith, New Hampshire, I was not exposed to a lot of diversity.  Moving to Worcester, Massachusetts for my undergraduate studies opened my eyes to a new kind of culture and different ways of living.  I was heavily involved in volunteering, and it soon grew to become a passion.  I knew right away that I needed to continue advocating and assisting those who were less fortunate.  After seeing so many fellow volunteers go on to serve, I knew for years that AmeriCorps would be my next step in life.

Being accepted as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member at GHCC has proved to be the path I was meant to take for many reasons. Moving to Baltimore immediately felt like home to me.  Everyone was so welcoming and willing to help in all ways.

On a daily basis, my primary responsibility is getting parents more involved in the school by notifying them about what is happening in the school and when. Currently I am helping our new softball club get started by helping with the practices. I also apply for grants, such as a Parks and People Foundation grant we were awarded recently for our annual Earth Day Celebration. I also keep in constant contact with Medfield Heights Elementary's community partners and let them know about important meetings and events. My work varies day to day, but with the ultimate goal of bringing in new resources and people to improve the school's well-being and success.

When I got to Baltimore, I was not accustomed to how a city public school system operates. Back in Meredith, we had three towns attend our one public school, and even then I only graduated with a class of 99 students.  But with the help of staff at GHCC and Medfield Heights Elementary School, I was quickly able to catch on.

The skills and experiences that I have gained from my VISTA year so far have been invaluable. Being put into so many unfamiliar situations allowed me to grow as a person. I have realized that if you live within your comfort zone, you aren’t really living at all. I have met some fascinating individuals through my work as a VISTA member and just living in Baltimore. I have learned that it is important to make friends before you need them, work hard but always with a smile, and to listen to what everyone has to say around you because it’s a great way to learn.

I would definitely recommend a year of service with AmeriCorps*VISTA to others because it is a great chance to build new skills and experiences and meet new people. It is also a great way to give back to your country and community, which will have a lasting impact on the community as well as the individual.

Sarah completes her VISTA year in August 2010.  She is currently searching for non-profit job prospects and hopes to remain in Baltimore.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stories from VISTA Alums: John Bernet

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.  

We'll be featuring several VISTA stories in the coming weeks to raise awareness of national service.

Want to know more? Visit our website!
Submitted by John Bernet

Where do you come from?
This has always been an entertaining question for me, mainly because there have been a lot of stops along the way to where I am.  Born in Colorado, lived in Vermont and a few places in New Hampshire, went to high school in Massachusetts, and finally college at Goucher, in Towson, MD.  While all these things made me who I am, it was Goucher College that landed me in Baltimore, if only because I didn’t want to go home and didn’t have reason to go anywhere else. 

What made you decide to be a VISTA?
It happened accidentally, really.  I had made it three and a half years at Goucher without completing the internship necessary for graduation in my psychology major.  I wasn’t particularly interested in doing the standard psych hospital internship, so I wound up with Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story, a program one of my professors helped start.  The after-school program partners Goucher College students with students at Dallas F. Nicholas, Sr. Elementary School for afternoons of reading and ultimately writing books each semester.  I thought they would simply want me to participate, but as it turns out, they were badly in need of a director.  So, having never done anything akin to this, I filled the need.  The job entailed all of the planning, hands-on management, and general problem solving that made Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story tick (with a lot of help from the staff), but most importantly involved scheduling with the current GHCC VISTA placed at the school.  Through these interactions and some lengthy conversations, I got a much better idea of what VISTA actually was and meant.

Why did you choose Baltimore/GHCC?
As graduation approached I, like so many students in my year, was having difficulty finding a job with any meaning.  Conveniently, the VISTA position at Dallas Nicholas came open in August.  Having some experience with the school, its staff, and a few folks at GHCC, I wound up being chosen for the position.  It also fit my goals, as I was beginning to feel I had been doing too much self-service and needed to give back.  VISTA provided me an opportunity to do that, in a forum that I had some familiarity with, and in a city that had begun to feel as much like home as anywhere else. 

How has your experience influenced your life and work?
That year of VISTA has influenced my life an awful lot thus far.  Not only did I begin to develop an affection for the city of Baltimore (which, being a country boy until college, was a big step), I bought a house here and wound up working for GHCC following the end of my VISTA year.  Nowadays I can be found upstairs and to the left at GHCC’s 3503 N. Charles Street office, working to strengthen neighborhoods in north central Baltimore by building capacity in schools and communities.  If that isn’t VISTA influenced, I don’t know what is!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stories from VISTA Alums: Jaclyn Paul

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.

Want to know more? Visit our website!

Submitted by Jaclyn Paul.

A few years ago, I was preparing to graduate with a bachelor's degree in fine arts.  Despite having a lot of passion for what I did (especially music and photography), I just couldn't imagine moving to New York City to sell myself to gallery owners.  At the same time, I didn't want to just accept the highest job offer I got, either.  I had a tremendous desire to serve my fellow people.  I wanted work that really meant something.  Unfortunately, my college's career center was ill-equipped to handle someone like me, and I was stuck.

That's when a good friend recommended I look into AmeriCorps.  I'm writing this largely because I had never heard of AmeriCorps before that day.  When I did an online search for available VISTA positions, my eyes were opened to a whole new world, and I wanted in.

After I listed my skills and interests, the positions GHCC offered were far and away the most interesting and challenging I saw.  I put my best foot forward for a very lengthy phone interview, waited in suspense for several long days, and finally received a call during printmaking class telling me I'd gotten the position as a School-Community Partnership Coordinator at GHCC.

I was elated.  Of course, I got a lot of pushback from well-meaning family who thought not getting a "real job" after college meant I wasn't reaching my potential.  My choice was one I had to explain (and justify) over and over again.  Some people very much respected what I was doing, and some just didn't seem to get it.

However, no matter what anyone said, I was sure national service was the right choice for me.  Little did I know, it would be a crash course on both Baltimore City and the non-profit sector.  During my VISTA year I learned how to lead meetings, I confronted problems head-on, convened stakeholders, wrote a volunteer handbook, and dove headlong into the Baltimore City Public School System.  I learned what terms like "social capital" meant, and I would never again feel the same way when I heard people talk about poverty or urban public education.

One of the biggest challenges I faced as a VISTA was defining something I could call "success."  My previous employment—IT helpdesk, Staples Copy Center, carpentry shop assistant—had provided me with a ready sense of mastery.  I knew when I was doing a good job.  As a VISTA, life wasn't that easy.  No one changes an entire city—or even an entire school or neighborhood—in a year.  But this challenge was also the most important thing I learned all year: in the real world, there's no easy path to earning an 'A', no rush at the conclusion of a flawless performance, no rave reviews.  There's no magic formula, and we all have to make and define our own version of success, something that makes us feel good at the end of the day.

For those of us who come to GHCC purely by chance, the place has a certain magic to it.  Sometimes we find it awfully hard to leave.  When my service concluded I requested that I stay on for an extension so I could help plan the training for the next VISTA team.  I kept setting aside tasks for the VISTA Leader (yet to be identified), thinking "this person's going to have a lot on their plate...good thing it's not me!"  A month and some interesting events later, I stood in front of a brand-new VISTA team and introduced myself as their VISTA Leader.

My Leader year taught me even more.  I felt like I'd joined an elite (if not enviable) class of people who not only want to do a second year of service, they choose to remove themselves from the fray and dedicate their time and talents to providing an excellent service experience for others.  I was met with countless challenges, but I also learned that I actually prefer being a pillar of support to doing the direct service everyone sees on the outside.  This served me well when I joined GHCC's administrative staff later on.

So I finally got that "real job," but I wouldn't have gotten here without my VISTA experience.  It set me on a path to a challenging and ultimately very fulfilling career, one that I likely never would have discovered otherwise because it's off the beaten path.  I'm glad I made a somewhat unorthodox decision and found meaningful work, and I hope more young people will make that choice as they consider their post-college futures.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

3 Greater Homewood Neighborhoods Are "Hot 'Hoods"

We've known for a long time that Greater Homewood is a great corner of the world to live in, but this month Baltimore Magazine gave us some backup -- three of their ten "hot 'hoods" in the greater Baltimore region are in Greater Homewood!  Evergreen, Woodberry, and Station North were listed as key destinations to live and play in and around Baltimore City.  In fact, you'll recognize the cover photo below as Coldspring Lane in Evergreen.

Baltimore Magazine April 2010

We couldn't have said it better ourselves, so check out what Baltimore has to say about these great city neighborhoods -- you can read the article online or pick up a copy at newsstands.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Look Inside Remington Homework Club

GHCC believes in strong faith-based partnerships, meaningful opportunities for youth, and neighborhood residents committed to making a difference.  This is why we're happy to share with you a little bit about the Remington Homework Club, a tutoring program that meets at Church of the Guardian Angel in Remington.

Submitted  by Rebekah Lin

The Remington Homework Club (HWC) was founded several years ago by the Church of the Guardian Angel on 27th and Huntingdon in Remington. The idea was to provide children and youth in the neighborhood with a place to go for homework help. We are funded by a grant from the Episcopal diocese, and over the years we've built up a base of volunteers and others who participate in a variety of ways. Currently, HWC meets from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. every Monday at the church. On any given week, we have about 20 students and 15 tutors.

I have been involved with HWC since September 2007. I started as a tutor – I found a posting online calling for tutors, and the time and location worked well with my work schedule at the time. I had just graduated from JHU was working at a publishing company, but had a feeling I was more interested in working with kids/youth than I was in proofreading and correcting grammar. I have since switched jobs to a nonprofit that works with after-school programs. I don’t know if I have tangible reasons for staying so committed to HWC, but I know it gives me a chance to put into practice much of what I talk about at work, and a chance to see firsthand how volunteers from the community can truly have a positive impact on Baltimore’s youth (as corny as that may sound).

In January 2008, I became the Director, and have been ever since. My main responsibilities are to recruit tutors and to take care of the logistics of our Monday night meetings. Most of the tutors are young professionals who have heard about us in a variety of ways (mainly online or by word of mouth), but we also have a relationship with two student groups at Hopkins, which provides an additional five tutors. The logistics for our meetings include soliciting volunteers to donate dinner, setting up the space, purchasing needed supplies, setting the calendar, etc.

Most of the students at HWC come from within a few blocks of the church. The handful that don’t live within four or five blocks either used to, or have family that does. Our current grade range is second through tenth, so most of the students attend Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle. The older students attend high schools across the city, including Western, Digital Harbor, and Mergenthaler.
Remington Homework Club

Two HWC high school students with award certificates.  HWC holds an awards ceremony every December and May.

Since I started with HWC, our attendance has doubled. Beyond this growth, my biggest goal has been to stress the importance of coming every week – to both students and tutors. As we’ve been able to have more and more consistent tutor/student pairs, nearly everything – from attendance to behavior to my stress levels – has improved. The pairs that have been together since the beginning of this school year, if not last school year, are absolutely the most successful. The importance of these relationships is the root of HWC’s biggest successes and biggest challenges. It is incredible to see students get excited every week to see their tutors. It is rewarding to see the relationships develop. And it is trying to see students disappointed when their tutor doesn’t come, or tutors struggling to form a relationship with a different student every week, because the students don’t come back.

Remington Homework Club

Tutors and students help cook a snack at HWC.

Every week, at least one student tells me that HWC needs to meet every day, or at least more than once a week. This reminds me that the work we do matters and is appreciated, and also reminds me of the limits of our resources. Every week, I see more and more students becoming comfortable with their tutors as well as with me, more and more students getting older and more mature, and more and more tutors becoming invested in what HWC does.

HWC is always looking for additional volunteers as well as people willing to donate a dinner (we have a full dinner every week, from 6:00-6:30) or other needed supplies. To learn more, contact Rebekah at

Remington Homework Club

Friday, April 2, 2010

Experience Corps Opens Doors for Young and Old Alike

In 1998, GHCC founded the Experience Corps program in a small handful of Greater Homewood elementary schools.  Since then, the program has expanded to 19 schools citywide and almost 400 older adult volunteers.

Experience Corps places adults over 55 in K-3 classrooms  as mentors, a model that has increased test scores and improved school climate in Baltimore City schools where the program operates.  Here we hear from Experience Corps member Richard Przybyszewski, who volunteers at Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School #215 and was recently awarded an internship to teach in Poland this summer.

Submitted by Richard Przybyszewski

I spent over 20 years at Forbush High School at Sheppard Pratt Hospital, a Level 5 Special Education school.  I never thought I would be setting foot in another classroom -- let alone an elementary school classroom -- until Experience Corps came along. It has been nearly four years now since I joined Experience Corps.


In making a decision to apply for the grant to study in Poland, it was my experience in Experience Corps that gave me the confidence to apply and realize I could offer students in Poland what I was experiencing in the classroom in Baltimore. Nothing can ever duplicate the experience of the cultural diversity at 215, along with the different levels of the students and their learning skills. Students with special needs along with students above their grade level. Then toss into the mix the learning curve I have experienced by sharing and observing with the wonderful teachers.

It is my understanding that over 700 people applied for the internship program with just about 60 applicants including myself accepted.  My experience with Experience Corps became a large part of my final application.

My summer internship program is administered by the Koscziuszko Foundation, a Polish American philanthropic organization primarily for the advancement of Polish Americans and Polish culture. They have several exchange programs that last anywhere from several weeks a couple of years. Their programs range from medicine to the arts, politics, and education. I will be receiving college credit through a cooperative effort with Towson State University. My program lasts for a little over six weeks, starting in mid-July. 

I start out with four weeks in Warsaw, the Polish capital, where I will be teaching elementary school students. My final weeks will be spent in Krakow, the cultural capital of Poland, where I will be teaching English as a second language to Polish high school students. 

My trip to Poland will also enable me to visit relatives and do some sight seeing. The Foundation gives me a stipend along with living expenses supplied by the Polish government during my stay. I have been to Poland several times in the past, but all while it was under Communist rule. This will be my first time back to Poland as a Democracy.