Ode to Baltimore

I grew up in Baltimore; my family and many friends still live there. These days much of the news coming out of my hometown–well, you probably know it isn’t the best. But that’s not the Baltimore I know. So, I made it my new year’s resolution to highlight the good work going on in the city and the good people doing it. 

Next Month: Algernon Campbell introduces us to BUGS! (Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students After School Program). Know someone who should be featured here? Give a holler.

Born and Bred, Protect and Serve

Shawn Harrison was born and raised in the city; she attended school at Coppin State and Johns Hopkins Universities and served on the Baltimore City Police Force for 26.5 years, starting in 1981.shawnsmaller

“It was an introduction to a life I had never seen having grown up in a middle class neighborhood. I was assigned to the eastern district which was one of the poorest districts in the city,” Harrison says. “I saw drugs and poverty and things I had never been exposed to so it was a culture shock. But in between there were very good people.”

Before 9/11, Harrison says there was more of an emphasis on community policing. “We worked together. Cleaned the neighborhood. I can remember officers in full uniform with brooms and mops. I had 11 Korean stores on my post in East Baltimore. Every day whatever shift, I checked on those folks, I stopped in the store and had a conversation.”

“My life is pretty much Baltimore,” Harrison says. “My family still lives in Baltimore, I worship in Baltimore, Baltimore is my home.

 Wrapping Their Arms Around Baltimore

At Project Jumpstart, Baltimore residents are building careers—and lives. Matt Stubbs, the program manager, says since opening in 2006, the pre-apprentice construction training program has trained over 800 city residents—many of whom are unemployed or underemployed—in plumbing, electrical work, carpentry and essential job safety skills. Seventy-five percent of the participants have been placed in jobs.


Photo Courtesy of JumpStart

And while construction skills are at the heart of the program, it only takes a few minutes before Stubbs starts talking about the “wrap-around services” Jumpstart provides. Many of the participants have faced barriers to employment because of previous incarceration or other challenges—Jumpstart aims to eliminate those barriers so there is nothing standing between a motivated graduate and a good job.

That means, in addition to the technical skills participants learn, they get an education on how to be an effective employee. Stubbs says “they have heard over and over and over again the importance being of on time, being dependable, being reliable.”

Students also get employment and financial counseling in learning how to save money, budget finances, and understand credit scores. The program pays for driver’s education so graduates can get to work and help students purchase used vehicles with a small loan.

And graduates get a starter tool kit when they get their first job. For someone just starting out, those might be just the tools they need to build a productive career.

You Can Take the Boy Out of Baltimore…

Baltimore native John Dryden does not have much use for numbers. As a radio writer, johndrydenphotocropproducer and announcer, words are the main tool of his craft. Even with today’s modern technology, he occasionally still sends letters to friends. But there is one statistic he ever forgets.

Ninety-seven percent.

That’s the number of students in his suburban Baltimore high school in the 1960s who were Jewish. Dryden was not Jewish—a member of the other three percent.

But instead of remaining on the outside, Dryden says met great people and developed lifelong friendships with his classmates some of whom he still hangs out with today. He picks up the story from here.