Two and a half weeks ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I joined a group of Y volunteers and associates on a Mission in Action tour, one of our quarterly explorations of various aspects of our mission. This tour visited the Weinberg Y in Waverly, our preschool there and the nearby Baltimore IT Academy, one of 10 Y Community Schools and, in this case, one that also offers a Y after school enrichment program.
It was a memorable outing for all of us in attendance.
Take the tour with us:
Tour stop one: The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Y in Waverly
After introductions of all the participants, the Y’s Executive Director of Volunteerism and Civic Engagement (and former head of operations for the Weinberg and Druid Hill Ys) provided an overview and some of the history of this Y, which opened in 2004. Built on the hallowed grounds of the former Memorial Stadium, Eric explained that the Weinberg Y now serves over 10,000 people in this wonderfully diverse community with a wide range of programming.
Tour stop two: The Weinberg Y Preschool
Guests were warmly welcomed by Director Jennifer Woodard, who informed us that the Weinberg Y Preschool recently received full accreditation through NECPA (National Early Childhood Program Association). NECPA is an accreditation program dedicated to encouraging quality and recognizing excellence in early childhood programs throughout the United States and other countries.
Jennifer also proudly noted that in 2014 and 2015 the Weinberg Preschool was recognized by a Maryland Family Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Preschool in Baltimore City.”
Knowing the outstanding work that our preschool team does there and throughout the region (with consistently high school readiness outcomes), I am not in the least bit surprised that both parent and industry experts alike recognize the wonderful work being done there.
When you consider that 30% of the kids currently attending our preschools come from families at the bottom of the economic scale and can only attend due to the generous support of our funders and donors (with more kids on the wait list for assistance), it is even more amazing to contemplate the depth of our impact.
During our visit, the kids were at tables working on crafts: spring flowers, St. Patty’s day worksheets and collages, and were eager to share their creations! There were great interactions with guests, lots of laughing and “oohing and ahhing.”
As we were leaving one tour participant said “I wish I had a preschool like this when I was growing up. I wish all kids did.”
Tour stop three: Baltimore IT Academy Middle School: A Y Community School and After School Enrichment Site
After a short bus ride, courtesy of volunteer driver Frank Holden, we were welcomed by our excellent partner, Principal Sandy Mason and the Y’s Community School Director, Devonne Franklin.
Devonne was her usual amazing self. Guests could feel her enthusiasm and passion for her work and responded to it in kind. She touched our hearts and stimulated our thinking.
We learned that community schools, funded by the Family League of Baltimore and Baltimore City Schools, support the facilitation of a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. As I mentioned, the Y is the lead agency in 10 Community Schools in Baltimore where a full time Y associate is placed in the school to work with the principal to coalesce student and family support resources that focus on academic support, youth development, family support, health and social services and community development.
At Baltimore IT Academy, we are also the after school enrichment provider, an arrangement which enables a holistic approach to student support.
Our after school enrichment program focuses on academic intervention (helping kids catch up), reducing truancy and improving attendance and easing the difficult transition kids often have when they move from elementary school to middle school.
We saw a room dedicated to Yoga to help kids ease anxieties. Devonne pointed out how the school is also a resource for families. There is a special classroom for parents/caregivers to go to for support, resources and internet access.
We visited the school’s food pantry, part of our Community School initiative which is run and staffed entirely by adult and student volunteers. The food pantry serves over 100 neighborhood families each year. We saw students and adults unpacking boxes of donations and containers full of green beans, cereal and other sundries. It was an affirming experience just to see it all in action.
Several of our guests commented on how impressed they were by all they saw and heard; how they had developed a new level of awareness and understanding of the Y as a charitable organization; how they hadn’t realized the scope of our work with youth in the community; the large scale, meaningful impact the Y is having on the lives of at-risk kids and families; how the tour opened their eyes.
What an amazing experience all around! Even for me, nearly ten years into this journey, I am repeatedly humbled and impressed by the outstanding work our Y associates do every single day in so many ways and places, seen and unseen, which enrich and improve lives.
Postscript: The tour so impressed Y associate Nicol Clark from the Greater Annapolis Y that she has organized her Y colleagues to spend some time volunteering with students at Baltimore IT! Those who wish to volunteer at any of myriad Y programs should contact Eric Somervile at email@example.com.
If you are interested in attending the July 13th Mission in Action tour (which starts at the Druid Hill Y and is from 8:30 to 10:30 am), please contact Leslie Tinati at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO