Sandi McFadden stresses Academics, athletics
When commencement speaker Sandi McFadden addresses the fifth-grade class of Dr. Rayner Browne Elementary School next month, she will stress the importance of integrating mind, body and spirit into one vital entity.
"All components must work together to bring wholeness and healing to the world," says Ms. McFadden, a Philadelphia native who has lived in Baltimore eight years.
As coordinator of the Baltimore Baseball League, a program developed by the city's Parks & People foundation to hone athletic and academic discipline, Ms. McFadden, 47, attends to myriad nitty-gritty details that keep the ambitious program running smoothly.
To remain on their league teams, participants -- fourth- and fifth-graders -- are required to maintain good citizenship and attendance, read 10 books (including five baseball-related works) and file book reports that are reviewed by volunteers.
For 10 weeks the coed teams practice at least twice a week and play each other. The league championship game takes place June 25 in Patterson Park.
The Baltimore Baseball League is run by a partnership among the Baltimore Orioles, the Junior League of Baltimore, the Abell Foundation, the Commissioner's office of Major League Baseball and the city departments of education and recreation and parks.
Nearly 1,000 students from 41 schools participate in the baseball league, now in its third year. Players are supplied with baseball gear and are allowed to keep the books.
A veteran of many youth programs, and a former school principal in Liberia and Swaziland, Ms. McFadden says, "I have never seen a program like this that is as big and as broad and so well designed." When Hannah Coates started working at Jessup's Maryland House of Correction 10 years ago, the warden fretted that her diminutive size would put her at a dangerous disadvantage in the all-male prison.
But this was a determined woman who, as a single parent, had raised her daughter and given up good jobs in industry in favor of a career in the helping professions. Still, even as the position of volunteer coordinator at the House of Correction seemed a perfect fit for a veteran of city and state programs aimed at assisting juveniles in trouble, it gave her pause.
"I never liked going into a prison," she says. "But I didn't have time to be afraid because everybody was afraid for me. And I found that if you are sincere about what you are trying to do, the prisoners see that."
For the past decade she has been responsible for the operation of more than a dozen self-help groups at the prison, from Narcotics Anonymous and the Writers Club -- both of which originated during her tenure -- to the prison newspaper, legal clinic and visual arts club.
"These thought-provoking programs give an individual an opportunity to re-evaluate himself," she says. "I try to make sure they . . . look into themselves and try to make positive changes."
She has been cited by the mayor and governor for her dedication and was awarded a Mother of the Year citation by the Sharon Baptist Church.
"I think my strength comes from God, and I have always felt I came here as a mission," she says.
Patrick A. McGuire