As is so often the case in life, just when things in the world seem about as disquieting and disturbing as they could be, along comes a poignant reminder of the great well of good in the world. While the news only seems to be going from bad to worse, we all must fight the instinct to retreat, and push even further forward in the service of others and in the service of a better, more hopeful and sane world.
The letter below comes from Quawn Cummings and it is one such reminder. It is written to the terrific Y team at College Gardens, our youth development site situated in the College Gardens community in Southwest Baltimore City. This site is made possible by the generous support of the Macht Foundation and long time Y friend Amy Macht. It provides after-school and summer programming for elementary, middle and high school youth and is a safe haven for the kids of the College Gardens housing development it sits within. If you swing by at the right time, you’ll see kids streaming off their buses after school to run to the College Gardens Y site, where they receive snacks, academic and homework support, encouragement, participate in enrichment clubs and field trips, learn life skills and are reminded daily that they matter in the world and that caring, responsible adults have their backs. In the summer, you’ll see essentially the same thing, absent the school buses!
Quawn is an 18 year-old graduate of Centennial High School in Howard County. He has been coming to College Gardens for over 12 years, and has graduated from a program participant to working there as a summer group leader. He is currently applying to colleges, and ultimately wants to become a sports commentator.
My College Gardens Testimony
June 7th, 2016
When I enter the Y at College Gardens, I always feel welcomed and free. It is my second home and the place that I go to get advice and solutions to solve my problems. The staff at the center is always so supportive and cool. They always help me whenever I need it. If I want real advice, I know to go to them because they will always be honest with me and give me the best solution. They do not give us many rules but the main one that we focus on is respect. As long as we respect the staff and fellow peers then we have no worries. They also do not play about school. They make it a must that school comes before sports, girls, and other activities.
Coach Joe is the Batman of the center; he controls it all! He teaches us life skills and other skills that help to better our futures. He makes sure we know the ins and outs of becoming powerful adults in society. He also teaches us how to stay focused by keeping your eye on the prize so that we will have great careers that will make us big bucks. Coach Joe is pretty cool and very giving. He treats us to prizes and takes us on field trips that are not only fun and educational but they are meaningful and serve a purpose. For example, we have taken trips to Colleges for tours and to talk with the students so that we can get a real sense of what it feels like to get a secondary education. Coach Joe is like a father to everyone at the center and he makes it real by the way that he interacts with us. He is fun but he also teaches us that there is a time to play and a time to be serious. He gives us “men-in- training” sessions for us to talk about different things and to teach us how to become great Men. We discuss our goals and ways to achieve them. He gives us weekly homework just to keep us afloat with current events and how relevant they are to our future. His favorite saying is very helpful: “if you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late; and if you’re late, you’re left behind”. He uses this quote to make sure we are always focused and ready. He taught us the importance of arriving early for interviews so that the employer can see why we would be the best fit for that job. I did not know that before Coach Joe taught me and I am thankful that he did.
I couldn’t forget about Coach Joe’s partners in crime, Coach Keyona and Mrs. Blanche Bailey. Ms. Keyona helps a lot! She connects with the teens and helps us with a lot of situations. Although she works here, she also has fun with us. We always have talks about life and she even tells us stories of what to look out for and what to do to avoid problems. Ms. Keyona doesn’t treat us like teens; she treats us like young adults. She even gives us a voice and a role at the center. She allows us to help her set up trips that we like so that we can enjoy ourselves. Ms. Keyona is also an idol to the females at the center; they are inspired by her story. We love her at the center and we hope she never leaves us. Mrs. Bailey, a.k.a our Head Chef and the Big Mama of the center teaches us a lot as well. She is very creative with her crafts and the numerous meals that she teaches us how to prepare.
Ever since I have been going to the center, it has really been helpful. They have prepared me for the real world by teaching me ways to solve problems. I can call on them to help me out whenever I need it. They keep me focused. I even have access to the best coach when I want to work on my game in basketball and I have really improved.
This is my testimony. I would like to thank Coach Joe, Ms. Keyona, and Mrs. Bailey for teaching me lots of things and also preparing me for life. I love the Y at College Gardens. They have helped me to become a very well-mannered young man. When you come to the center you will be viewed as family, so have respect for everyone and we will show it back. Respect is the key to becoming a Warrior at the Y of College Gardens.”
Congratulations and a big THANK YOU to College Gardens’ longtime Site Director, “Coach” Joe Brown, Assistant Site Director, Keyona McNeil, Blanche Bailey, Quawn Cummings and all the young, promising and hopeful “Warriors at the Y of College Gardens!” I salute you and thank you for bringing so much hope and inspiration to us all.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland