During this summer of the Olympic Games, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves whether we, too, are willing to go the extra mile to achieve the goals that are important to us. Nowhere will our introspection have more lasting consequence than if it results in greater personal commitment to our public schools.
We know this insight to be true – both for the young people who are building the foundation for their future and also for the broader Baltimore Region as a whole. As a region, we will rise or fall based upon the educational achievements of our people.
As individuals, businesses and organizations, we invest our tax dollars in educating the next generation, as we should. Equally important, however, is the investment of our talents, time and other resources.
For all of these reasons, as we contemplate the beginning of another school year, each of us should be thinking about what we can do to help our local schools become the very best that they can be.
These thoughts reoccurred to me last May when I read about an investment in Paul Laurence Dunbar High School for Health Professionals by a major Baltimore company, Under Armour.
As the first recipient of Under Armour’s “Win Baltimore” grant program, Dunbar is receiving the funding for a new turf football field, complete with stadium lights and a wrap-around track.
Equally important, Under Armour is also providing Dunbar with two state-of-the-art computer labs and the engagement of Under Armour employees in Dunbar’s mentoring programs.
Nationally known for its championship athletic teams, and supported by a strong Advisory Group, Dunbar is now on course to become just as well known as a magnet preparatory school for talented young people who are interested in entering the biotechnology, emergency medicine, nursing and related health care fields.
For years, I have been applauding the volunteers from nearby Johns Hopkins who have participated in the long-standing Dunbar-Hopkins Incentive Mentoring Program. Now, thanks to Under Armour, Dunbar’s students – and their mentors – will have expanded computer resources to help them lift up our community.
At the center of many of these positive developments in East Baltimore are School System CEO Andres Alonzo and Dunbar Principal Kristina Kyles.
Principal Kyles is quick to applaud Under Armour and Johns Hopkins for their continuing commitment to working with students, both on and off the athletic fields. She also notes how the track surrounding the new football field will be a great gathering place for the neighborhood.
“This is positive not just for Dunbar but also for the entire community,” Principal Kyles observes, and I must agree.
At Dunbar – and at other city schools – companies, organizations and individuals are giving of themselves so that our young students – and our future – can prosper.
For example, I have been working for several years with dedicated volunteers from Baltimore’s maritime community to guide the development of our city’s Maritime Industries Academy High School. Organizations like the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore Charitable Legacy and the Cruise Lines International Association have stepped forward to help us in our work.
As a result, our city’s proud maritime tradition will be strengthened by the next well-educated generation – and all of us will benefit as a result.
A great education for their children in Baltimore’s public schools drew my parents to Baltimore from South Carolina. That education transformed my life for the better; and many, if not most, of my successful neighbors could say the same.
This is why I am encouraging each person who reads these words to follow the lead of Under Armour’s CEO, Kevin Plank. In giving back to the community and its schools that have given so much to us, we, too, can place our mark on history.
If an adult has time and talents to offer a student – or if an organization has funds in any amount to invest in our future – Baltimore’s public schools make it both easy and efficient to engage.
“We are not only willing, but eager, to assist in the development of these community-school partnerships,” Michael Sarbanes, executive director of the school system’s Office of Engagement has observed. “Those who are interested need only call us at 410–545-1870, and we will pave the way.”
I urge anyone who is committed to making our city’s public schools the best in the country to give Michael Sarbanes and his team a call. Nothing so determines and defines the quality of life in a community as the strength of its public schools.
All that is required is the will to go the extra mile. The challenge of supporting our students is a real-life Olympics in which each of us can win a gold medal this year.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.