Four schools in the heart of East Baltimore's redevelopment project will become centers for providing health, social and employment services to students and their families under a four-year, $12 million grant from Atlantic Philanthropies, a New York-based nonprofit.
Based on the idea that students will have a better chance of growing up healthy and remaining on track during their school years if they are provided a variety of services at their schools, the grant will fund a program called Elev8 Baltimore.
Students at the schools will be served up a host of after-school activities, involving the arts, dance, theater and several sports, on top of academic help if they need it.
In addition, the students will be able to have easy access at their schools or one nearby to medical services so they can get physical exams, immunizations, first aid, dental and vision services. Mental health and counseling services also will be available at their schools or at a nearby school.
"It is really about trying to change the relationship of the school to the community," said Donna Lawrence, director of the children and youth program for Atlantic Philanthropies.
The schools also will serve as centers to provide parents or guardians access to public benefits, including food and nutrition benefits, job training and financial literacy programs.
The four schools are a variety of public and charter. Collington Square School for the Arts and Dr. Rayner Browne Academy were regular public schools that were turned into charters and are now operated by the nonprofit Baltimore Curriculum Project. East Baltimore Community School was opened this year and is being operated by East Baltimore Development Inc., and Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School is a regular public school.
Baltimore competed with 35 communities across the nation for the Atlantic Philanthropies funding and was one of four to receive a grant for the nonprofit's Elev8. The others are Oakland, Calif., Chicago and New Mexico.
Nicole A. Johnson, director of Elev8 in Baltimore, said Atlantic Philanthropies chose the city because it was excited by the opportunity to put the program in a neighborhood that was undergoing redevelopment with the support of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, the city, the state, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Goldseker Foundation. Johnson said Baltimore also already had some strong school-based health clinics. "There were enough institutions to sustain the work," she said.
Elev8 concentrates on students in the middle grades, which are seen as a critical time when some students can lose interest in academics and get into trouble.