Reservoir Hill Resident Speaks Up For Schools at Youth Opportunities Rally

On the 14th of May, new Reservoir Hill resident and Housing & Development Team member, Richard May, delivered a powerful statement about the importance of schools to communities at the Youth Opportunities rally. His remarks are below. Richard May presentation – 14 May 2012 Youth Opportunities Rally Representing Reservoir Hill Improvement Council

Frederick Douglas said “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” You can also learn more about a society’s future from how they take care of their young than anything else. Our children are our seeds of the future and our schools are the soil to build strong minds. It’s a simple law of nature - bad soil produces bad growth, great soil produces great growth.

So why have we neglected the physical infrastructure of our City schools – the soil where our children are developed? Leaking roofs, leaking plumbing, crumbling buildings, decay for all to see. And we wonder why we see such bad outcomes.

Schools either help attract and retain great families or serve as a deterrent. Studies have shown that the local school is the most important factor in creating and maintaining a successful neighborhood. We can’t seriously say we’re going to revitalize neighborhoods and bring 10,000 families to the city with schools that are falling apart. I’m a perfect example of the choices thousands of families are making about Baltimore. Eighteen months ago, I moved my family into Baltimore City after purchasing an incredible brownstone in the Historic Reservoir Hill section of Baltimore – one of the greatest neighborhoods in Baltimore’s history. Despite finding our dream house at a dream price with incredible neighbors within walking or bike riding distance to many of the city’s best assets like Druid Hill Park, the Art & Entertainment District, and Johns Hopkins University,  it was still a difficult choice with three kids in school. Why? With one child already in private school, and another at City College High School, our concern was for my youngest Giovana, then a 4th grader and a straight A student. We were concerned about transferring Giovana to our local John Eager Elementary for her final year of elementary school  because of the state of the facilities. In fact, the majority of the new families who’ve moved into the city that I talked to were paying to send their kids to private schools. We ultimately decided to tough it out for a year and commute her to her suburban school until she finished 5th grade.

Great schools are the key to great neighborhoods and true community space. The good news is that Reservoir Hill’s community is very active in doing everything it can for John Eager Howard. We have volunteer teams devoted to greening, art, & advocacy. The school just finished a new playground for their youngest students. And the Department of Recreation & Parks constructed new basketball courts and a playground right next to the school. So instead of drug dealers using the former desolate space, now it’s a new source of pride for the entire community. Even, my own 16 year old daughter, Brionna, a basketball star at Baltimore City College High School, now uses the basketball courts regularly.  Do we want to create spaces for drug dealers or to attract children and their families’ with facilities of excellence for our community?

Well until we take our schools seriously, families will not take our City seriously. In fact, our children won’t take us seriously. Why? Because our City’s new Juvenile Detention facility looks better than any public school that I’ve seen in the City. What kind of message does that send about our priorities?

DO WE WANT MORE DETENTION CENTERS AND PRISON FACILITIES !?! NO!

DO WE DEMAND BETTER SCHOOL FACILITIES!?! YES!

So let’s ALL get involved in our local schools whether we have kids or not. We may not be able to repair roofs or plumbing but WE WILL MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD! Remember it’s EASIER to build strong children than repair broken men.