The Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health and Open Society Institute partnered with YouthWorks to fund the 5-week Summer Youth Leadership Institute for Baltimore City Public School students. Eighty students participated in the program across five BCPS high schools served as host sites: Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE), Achievement Academy, Forest Park High School, Frederick Douglass High School, and Patterson High School. Through the Summer Youth Leadership Institute students examined school climate data, held community conversations about school climate, and participated in enrichment workshops.

Following the Institute, a rising senior at ACCE, Jasmine Carter, is empowered to speak out. “What really stuck out to me the most is [learning] about our voice.” Aram Boykins, high school program manager for the Baltimore Debate League, shared valuable advice to the students. “He told us we have a voice, use it. ... So if you want something done you have to use your voice,” Carter explained.  Carter continued, “I want to make a big difference because it’s my last year. I’m going to use my voice as much as I can to improve our school. I’m going to think about what I learned in the program. It’s going to motivate me to do better in school and focus on what I got to do outside of school as well,” Carter, along with each of the groups, will present their findings and recommendations to their school’s principal and School-Family Council as well as the City Schools’ CEO during the 2017-18 school year.

The summer wasn’t all school climate for the students.  They also attended workshops on financial literacy, public speaking, and workforce readiness skills. ACCE student Deondrae Witherspoon liked the variety of the program. “We learned about banking, how to be a leader, how to be professional, and how to speak up for yourself,” he said. Partners from across Baltimore City provided enrichment programs, for the students such as spoken word, music, intensive mentoring, dance and mindfulness.

Katrina Brooks, CAH’s community relations director said, “It gave them the opportunity to test out their public speaking, so they felt confident through spoken word, music, and theatre. They were able to use their voice and practice in a safe space amongst their peers.” Enrichment partners included Baltimore-based organizations such as DewMore Baltimore, New Vision Youth Services, Equal Medium Mentorship Program, and Holistic Life Foundation. Brooks said, “Because the enrichment was focused on areas young people like or had some experience with, it was a good draw to the program. It was a great networking opportunity for schools and students that they could benefit from beyond the summer.”

The Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health thanks its partners in helping to make the Summer Institute a success and looks forward to empowering students in future sessions.

Written by: Lauren Burns