Renaissance Academy, the beleaguered high school housed in a decrepit, rodent-infested building in West Baltimore near the epicenter of the April 2015 uprising, was almost shuttered for good by city schools administrators earlier this year. But the violence-plagued school has been given an injection of hope, in the form of $1.5 million from the Baltimore Ravens.

Renaissance Academy in West Baltimore. (Courtesy Photo)

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has not spoken publicly about the money the team is giving to the school, but allegedly learned about the plight of Renaissance through various media reports. Renaissance has lost at least four young men to violence since 2015.

According to Nakkia Rowe, the school’s principal, Bisciotti told members of his inner circle, “This school can’t close.”

“I actually learned from Dick Cass that this donation was going to be made,” said Rowe, who was officially notified of the team’s desire to make what she calls an “investment” in the school in March of 2017.

The source of the money was to remain anonymous, until the Ravens revealed this week that they made a donation to Baltimore City Public Schools specifically for the much-needed renovation of Renaissance.

The school is located in the Druid Heights/Upton community, which has been ravaged by violence, homicide and poverty for decades.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that the Ravens chose to invest in West Baltimore, invest in the children of West Baltimore,” Rowe said. “It is something to be said about the emotional intelligence of the Ravens owner.”

The Ravens organization isn’t simply giving the funds to Renaissance, According to Rowe, Bisciotti’s companies will provide the architects and the contractors who will physically reinvigorate the building at 1301 McCulloh Street, which also houses Booker T. Washington Middle School.

“They (Ravens management) took over all aspects of the construction and improvements,” said Rowe, who added the money will also provide much-needed help with programming at the school.

“It’s an awesome testament because it is in West Baltimore,” she said. “In the aftermath of Freddie Gray and the unrest, it didn’t feel like a lot was changing.”

However, the indefatigable principal credited the passionate advocacy of many of the students at Renaissance with making this vital investment in the school a reality.

“It was the children that closed the deal, that secured this for us,” Rowe said. “The school community, the larger community, we have to insure there is a positive return on this investment.”

 

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor