Maryland Out of School Time



Trump this!

Why is it that the squeaky wheel gets all the grease? Is it because it 's loud and annoying, is it because it may fall off and injure someone; I don 't think so. It gets the oil because it is absolutely noticeable and calls to our sense of being and peace of mind. It is that same squeaky wheel that blast the pages and airwaves daily with the message of those terrible youth, those not willing to apply themselves, those committing crimes, not willing to complete school, as the data shows, on average more than 25% of U.S1. students are dropping out of high school. That is a sad statement, that nearly 7000 students a day drop out of high school. And what are they doing? Exceling to be a headline.


It is time to flip the switch, change the message and bring a new noise. One calming to the spirit that edifies achievement and success that sounds like a well-orchestrated Mozart Symphony #40.


There are many composers in the world of youth development having tremendous impact with those unyielding young people. In Baltimore there is a group of Emerging Leaders, silencing the squeaky wheel. Each one comes with the heart, mind and wherewithal to come together with core values of Community, Collaboration and Compassion. Two of these Emerging Leaders were victims of the violence that plagues the streets of Baltimore and survived gun shoots to the chest and head, respectively.


Damion Cooper's passion to tell the world that not all black boys are aspiring criminals but individuals that want to be loved and affirmed, led him to develop Project Pneuma. He is having great impact changing the mindset of naysayers that think bringing young men of color together with City police officers is a fruitless attempt at change. As a shooting victim of the streets of Baltimore, Damion believes change comes with learning how to forgive, trust and grow. Project Pneuma embraces the concept of soul and spirit fostering change through the practice of yoga, mindfulness and martial arts. For Damion, change also comes through exposing the young boys to new surroundings and stretching them beyond their comfort zone. The young men learn that not all officers are bad, racist or biased and the officers learn the dynamics of urban communities and that all black boys are not aspiring criminals; refuting the myth that police do not care and black boys are victims. Others are beginning to believe like Damion and have requested Project Pneuma in areas beyond Baltimore, into Chicago.


DeJuan Patterson, also a shooting victim, made the decision to bring change to the community. Dejuan states, I want to be the person I needed when I was a youth. He comes with a strong desire to capture his greater purpose to lead and guide the community, which he embrace as his family. It is his goal to leave a legacy that inspires his family to continually grow. His healing and saving grace from a gunshot wound to the head was the realization that a change of environment was needed for survival and personal growth. In returning to Baltimore, DeJuan wants to share with other youth that a change in environment and support results in success and respect from others. His focus as an Emerging Leader is to change the systemic message of individuals being diagnosed with mental issues and misdiagnosed due to environmental trauma. Many Faces, which are film projects developed by youth as an outlet of constructive feedback of expression is Mr. Patterson 's project of change. His focus is creating Experiences, Expressions, and Entrepreneurship. There is one delivering program, in the midst of the civil unrest, where teenagers are mentors to the young ones and a community of caring for each other is evident.


If you ask anyone on the West Side, they can tell you, It 's a Ericka thing. Ericka Alston has taken the Kids Safe Zone from the rubbles of the riot to a community of caring. Yes, the zone was reactionary to the uprising in Baltimore but it has developed into so much more. It has grown from the space of a 1000 square feet laundromat to a 5000 square feet renovated new space for learning, caring and development. It is a community of learning for young and old. It is also a community still in need of reaching families. It is still a community in need of resources. It is still a community in need of individuals willing to give their hearts and show that the world is love. Through Ericka 's effort on crowd sourcing, she raised thousands of dollars, gained support from celebrities, national news and the governor 's support. But there is still a need. Although the dust has settled, the fires are out and the news crews have packed up; there are still young lives battling the haters of the world. Yes, there is still a need. A genuine caring society present for the long haul, prepared to give, support and encourage the young lives of the Kids Safe Zone. In a society where girls are encouraged to “drop it low” to gain respect, there are two Emerging Leaders focused on lifting girls up to become woman with a strong voice and true understanding of the power of the female intellect and their societal importance.


Saran Fossett established AZIZ/PE&CE Youth Programming as her purpose driven life-passion to show her daughter that there is value in womanhood. She has taken that passion and resolve to ensure her daughter excels in life to other young ladies. AZIZA brings to light the precious flower of growing into womanhood through expressions of dance, fashion, art and music. Young ladies embrace their free spirit to develop an understanding of social, cultural and emotional well-being. It is about understanding how to be your true self while applying the very practical skills of critical thinking and action. Saran hopes to have global impact by sharing her passion with young ladies around the world.


Feyisayo Odukoya is building Project Beautify You to reach girls twelve to eighteen by building their self-worth, confidence and purpose. Project Beautify You has been able to build confident and ambitious young ladies that had issue with their concept of self. These young ladies are setting the example for others by excelling in their belief in self and acquiring full scholarships at their university of choice.


Tonee Lawson and Candace Chance are two Emerging Leaders that realize there is strong need to grasp an awareness to exposure and collaboration. Tonee 's organization, The Be was developed out of the realization that you can develop girls into professional and compassionate woman but they need access and exposure to reach their goals. The Be. Organization provides networking opportunities that creates organic interactions in venues that are thought provoking, innovative and leads to the development of productive mentoring relationships. Candace got her wakeup call while working with middle grade students and discovered there is a need to build a culture of expectations, respect and building relationships. After gaining perspective from school educators of what it is really like to work with youth, she designed a curriculum to develop collaborative efforts between students and administrators. When youth are given the power to create and lead, they rise above expectations; then positive change begins and grow.


LaDamien Myers left his field as a practicing medical professional to let the world know there are many youths of color with the potential to excel to the level of a practicing physician. As the CEO of the Academy of Future Health Professional and now the CEO of MERIT, his passion is introducing middle and high school students to clinical medicine and public health. Damien sentiments speaks to all Emerging Leaders everywhere- I will live forever. My body will age and eventually turn to dust, but the lessons, knowledge and principles I taught to young people will live on through them and their children. It is time to trump that bad Breaking News headline with a new headline of the success happening deep down in communities all over this United States. Do we really want to change our communities? Do we honestly want to change our economy? Do we really care?


As humans we rise to call of the loudest voice, that squeaky wheel. Let 's change the message and blast the headlines with the impact those like Baltimore 's Emerging Leaders are having with our youth. If we change the message, we change the outcome.

Recent Posts

Meet the 2018-2019 MOST VISTAs!

Meet MOST's 2017-2018 VISTAs

Introducing MOST's 2016-17 VISTAS!

ICYMI: Foundations of Youth Development Webinar

SummerREADS Library Dispatch



Achievement Gap








Youth Development