President Obama visited Bladensburg High School, April 7, to discuss a $7 million grant being present to three Maryland schools by the U.S. departments of Labor and Education through the Youth Career Connect program.

The Youth Career Connect program was designed for high schools and their partners to develop innovative and creative programs that will help prepare students for success in post-secondary education and in a highly competitive global workforce.

The grant will be used to transform the high school experience for American students. It will change instruction to strengthen students through five areas: integrated academic and career-focused learning, work-based learning and exposure to the world of work, robust employer engagement, individualized career and academic counseling, and integration of post-secondary education and training.

There were only 24 recipients in the country to receive funding from the $107 million grant program. Bladensburg, along with Fairmount Heights and Potomac high schools are the recipients from Maryland. President Obama made the announcement at Bladensburg High School, one of schools in Prince George’s County where the program will be offered.

Joined by the school’s students and faculty in the audience were Gov. Martin O’Malley, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Prince George’s County CEO Kevin Maxwell, U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer.

Bladensburg senior Leah Woody, an honor student, introduced President Obama with a short speech. The president then entered to packed room to a thunderous standing ovation he had to cut short to start his remarks.

“Meeting young people like Leah just makes me inspired,” Obama said. “It is a good way to start the week. …

“I’m proud of your principal. I’m proud of your superintendent. I’m proud of everybody who got involved in making sure that you guys were already doing the right thing before you won this new grant, and I know it’s going to be well spent. Most of all, I’m proud of the students. …

“The main focus here is guaranteeing every young person has access to a world-class education. Every single student. Now, that starts before high school. We’ve got to start at the youngest ages by making sure we’ve got high-quality preschool and other early learning programs for every young child in America.

“As a country, we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure that every single young person here can have that ‘aha’ moment, that light bulb goes off and suddenly you’re not just studying because your parents tell you to or your teacher tells you to, you’re studying because you know you’ve got something to offer.”

Approximately 2,500 students will receive and obtain skills and knowledge over the next 54 months, to lead them in the right direction towards their futures careers, college educations, and/or receiving their industry recognized certifications in IT and healthcare.

The three high schools selected for this grant are located within County Executive Baker’s Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI), which has a goal of improving the quality of life of Prince George’s County’s most challenged communities. This grant will be facilitated through a partnership between the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Prince George’s Community College, Bowie State University, ASHLIN Urban Institute, Hillside Work Scholarship Connection, Latin American Youth Center, Lockheed Martin and Dimensions Healthcare System.

As he left the podium, Obama shouted “Go Mustangs,” receiving applause and cheers from the audience. 


Courtney Jacobs

AFRO Staff Writer