Labors of love win recognition

Achievers

November 20, 2005

Conventional wisdom has it that we're all too busy to volunteer for anything these days. But some of us aren't.

A number of Baltimore residents with an instinct for helping others were recognized last week for their generous spirit and awarded $48,750 grants to work full-time for 18 months implementing plans to help disadvantaged Baltimore residents.

These Baltimore Community Fellowships came from the Open Society Institute in Baltimore, a private foundation established by billionaire financier George Soros. Since 1998, 78 fellows have been selected.

BARNARD FAYALL

Fayall, who worked as a welder in a Baltimore shipyard for more than 30 years, has spent much of his time recently volunteering to help young people at Garrison Middle School in West Baltimore.

Based in the school basement, the organization Fayall started provides a haven for pupils and seeks to find mentors to guide them outside their classrooms.

"I'm trying to deal with these kids who come at risk socially and academically and make them feel better about themselves, said Fayall, 51. "My goal is to connect them all with mentors and begin to deal with some of the problems they have."

MICHELLE BLUE

Blue has spent many hours in recent years working with teenagers and young adults in the Harwood community, where she grew up.

She will use her fellowship to nurture the Follow Your Dreams recording studio she set up in a small community center on Boone Street. Young people from the neighborhood can use the studio to record music and express their feelings about their lives and their community, which has been hard hit by violence and drugs.

"We're creating alternatives to getting involved in a life of negativity," said Blue, 33.

"And there's nothing that connects with them as much as music. It's their language. They eat and sleep their music, and we're tapping into that."

MICHELLE DEBRUIN

DeBruin, a teacher with an alternative high school program in Hampden, will take students out of the city on wilderness trips to West Virginia to develop leadership and independence.

She will also work with the students to develop public art projects such as mosaics and benches in Hampden and other areas of Baltimore.

Students at the Community Learning for Life Program, an alternative school that emphasizes independent learning and internships, also will be helped by DeBruin.

"My goals are for these students to take responsibility for themselves and ultimately become a positive influence in their community," said DeBruin, 25.

NAJIB JAMMAL

Jammal, 26, a Spanish teacher at Frederick Douglass High School, will work with five or six other teachers to develop an urban gardening and business training project that will allow students at his school, Baltimore Freedom Academy, Southside Academy and Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights Elementary School to address public health and nutrition issues in their school communities.

He said his project aims to empower young people to create change through a network of urban gardening organizations throughout the city.

PETER BABCOX

Babcox, a 68-year-old retired kindergarten teacher, is planning to work with the Remington-Guardian Angel Partnership to organize a variety of hands-on, creative, out-of-school projects for young children in the Remington community.

The idea, said Babcox, is to identify interests of young people and then work with them to develop their skills in these areas after school.

"We're hoping to spark their interests in something that is special to them," said Babcox, who has been working with young pupils who belong to a Tuesday homework club at the Guardian Angel Episcopal Church in Remington.

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