School, prisons form partnership

St. Frances to provide parking, and corrections to offer security, patrols

April 15, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

The day after graduation last year, Patrick Lee walked around East Baltimore's Brentwood Village in his Salisbury State University cap and gown, hugging neighbors and posing for pictures.

With a degree in social work, Lee was returning to his neighborhood to thank residents for their support and tell them he was there to stay -- at least for the next three years. As community organizer for 260-student St. Frances Academy, Lee is building partnerships between the school and community to improve the neighborhood, bordered by Preston Street, Greenmount Avenue, the Fallsway and Madison Street.

"When they [St. Frances] asked me to come back and work as community organizer, I took it right away," said Lee, 26, a St. Frances graduate. "It's not every day that you get a chance to change your community."

To bolster the neighborhood's turnaround, Lee, with school and corrections officials, announced yesterday a new partnership between St. Frances on East Chase Street and neighboring prisons.

"We figured we could take the prison and make it part of the community," said Lee, who grew up in a now-boarded house in the 500 block of E. Eager St. before moving to the 300 block of E. Biddle St.

With the agreement, Maryland Penitentiary Warden Eugene M. Nuth said St. Frances will allow up to 20 corrections department vehicles to park in its lot and will alert guards of suspicious vehicles in the area. In turn, the department will provide lighting for the parking lot, increase its patrol area to include Chase Street and encourage staff to join mentoring and chaperoning activities.

"The juxtaposition of the schools and the prisons is perfect," Nuth said. "There are a lot of opportunities with this partnership."

School and prison officials will meet Wednesday to review the partnership and discuss other possibilities, including giving students from the corrections department's Occupational Skills Trade Center work experience by renovating area houses and helping in a neighborhood cleanup.

Sister John Francis Schilling, St. Frances principal, said the idea for the partnership developed from discussions in December with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend about designating the school community a HotSpot -- an area targeted for state funding to fight crime. Six Baltimore HotSpots will be named this summer.

Townsend recommended that the school look to its neighbors for help, Schilling said.

"We always looked at prisons in a negative light," she said. "But we began looking at them as a corporation and expected them to do something for the community, like other corporations."

Townsend, who will work as a catalyst in the partnership, praised St. Frances yesterday for its community outreach. Her father, the late Robert F. Kennedy, did the same on a visit in 1966.

Lee and sophomore Joseph Scott, 16, escorted Townsend through the school and neighborhood, highlighting problem areas and some of their work with youth.

"St. Frances exemplifies what my father knew was needed to revitalize the community," Townsend said.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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