McDaniel welcomes inner-city youths

‘Transform a Future’ program inspires students to think about their futures

By Geoff Peckham, News Co-Editor

The dreams of the students of West Baltimore Middle School run high. Thirteen-year-old Diamond Brock wants to be either a CEO or an actress. Eleven-year-old Terray Quickley wants to be a lawyer, at least if his NBA career doesn’t pan out. Twelve-year-olds Tori Haskins and Jennifer Fox want to be veterinarians, and 13-year-old Maurissa Cromwell wants to be an electrical engineer.

These were among the inner-city youths who were welcomed by McDaniel students and faculty on February 27 for a program called ‘Transform a Future,’ which was organized in hopes of inspiring these students think about their future in a way they may not have otherwise. The 22 students arrived on campus that morning for a day of activities sponsored by the Departments of Foreign Language, Music, Sociology, and the Office of Multicultural Services. They ‘sat in’ on a class and listened to representatives from the school’s cheerleaders, football, basketball, and soccer teams, as well as from the Black Student Union. The day also included lunch in Englar Dining Hall and a brief tour of the campus, including the library, the gym, the athletic fields, and even North Village.

“I always felt that it is our responsibility as adults to hold high expectations for our youth,” said Erika Hall, one of the teachers from West Baltimore Middle and a member of Western Maryland College’s class of 1999. “I wanted them to get the college experience at a young age.”

Hall decided McDaniel would be natural fit for this project, so she contacted her former Sociology professor, Dr. Lauren Dundes. Dundes in turn contacted junior Genai Moore, who is from the inner-city, and was excited to be involved. She coordinated with Hall to organize the entire day.

Students who came were selected based on their open-mindedness, academics, behavior, and potential. Hall says that the students chosen “had a special quality and [needed] to be encouraged to do something with their talents.”

“I was really pleased with the kids,” said Dr. Robin Armstrong, who teaches the African-American music class the students sat in on. “They were on task and thoughtful. I think it’s a great kind of activity for both these students and college students to improve their communication skills.”

Dundes emphasized that the day was not just a fun day away from school, but a chance to experience something they may not have otherwise. She said it was exciting to see young people looking at the college with “fresh eyes” and that she was quite sure that for at least a few of the kids, it would make them want to attend college.

Hall, who teaches 7th grade algebra at West Baltimore Middle School, said she saw excitement in the students even before they went, especially knowing that she had graduated from there. The opportunity seemed to motivate them, especially after they were informed that they were specially selected.

The excitement after their day at McDaniel was even more visible for all involved. Dundes said she saw a real sincerity in the way they thanked the students who took the time to talk to them. “The wonderment and awe were really heartwarming,” she said. “This is exactly what McDaniel is supposed to be about.”

The students received McDaniel T-shirts and goodie bags courtesy of ROTC upon leaving, and gave the McDaniel students and faculty thank you cards in return.

“I would encourage people to give back to their communities,” Moore said, who hopes to continue this sort of work after she graduates. She and Hall expressed their gratitude to all who helped make the day possible, from both McDaniel and West Baltimore Middle.

“This trip has ignited an interest,” Hall said, adding that that many have expressed they want to attend McDaniel or another college in the future. “This is just the beginning.”