The Greater Baltimore Urban League’s Saturday Leadership Program.
With a goal of developing minority youngsters into successful community leaders and college graduates, The Greater Baltimore Urban League (GBUL) held the second session of its Saturday Leadership Program (SLP) last month.
Through SLP, the Urban League expects to establish a citywide program that brings together underrepresented students every month from all over Baltimore to learn essential skills necessary to thrive in higher education and in their communities. The program addresses an urgent need to bring struggling children from low-income families the literacy training, academic support and self-esteem cultivation necessary to succeed academically.
Launched in September, SLP offers an evidence-based curriculum that covers a range of subjects, such as social awareness, civic engagement, anger management, health literacy and college preparedness.
Program participants range from eighth-graders to high school seniors who are privy to workshops facilitated by the Greater Baltimore Leadership Association (GBLA), the Young Professionals auxiliary of GBUL. The GBLA Young Professionals also take the participants on college tours and introduce them to potential role models. Some of the nine universities in Maryland that partnered with the program include Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Towson University and Goucher College, which is also where many of the subsequent SLP sessions will be held.
“The Saturday Leadership Program is the Greater Baltimore Urban League’s answer to the question many Baltimoreans have been asking for years: ‘What about the children?’” explains Jerome R. Alexander, the newly appointed GBLA Director of Youth Development. “Through this program, we have the unique ability as young professionals to reach back and guide our younger population to leadership, encourage positivity, and to embrace a better life.”
The president and CEO of GBUL, J. Howard Henderson, shared Alexander’s enthusiasm for the program.
“The mission of the Greater Baltimore Urban League is to enable African Americans, other minorities and the disadvantaged to enter and succeed in the economic and social mainstream of American society,” said Henderson. “We bring like-minded institutions from the public, for-profit and not-for-profit sectors together for a common purpose.”
Henderson also noted how the program carries on the GBUL legacy.
“The Saturday Leadership Program is an example of this strategy,” he said. “It is almost entirely in-kind and staffed exclusively by volunteers. We want to push the envelope, to see just how far we can go as a village to raise our own children. We believe our model to be both replicable and scalable as it is founded on a renewable resource—love.”
Sponsors of the Saturday Leadership Program include State Farm, the Verizon Foundation, Maryland Transit Administration, which transports participants, and Thompson Hospitality, which provides on-site meals. The Maryland-DC Campus Compact AmeriCorps Vista, a federal service program designated to fight poverty, also volunteers its services.
GBUL New Initiatives Director Estelle M. Young, Ph.D. believes there are plenty of positive influences that youth participants can look to for guidance and inspiration. “We know that caring adults foster resilience and fuel aspirations, so we try to over-expose them to precisely that, caring adults.”
Young also explained the significance of utilizing volunteers.
“Because we rely exclusively on volunteers, it is a resource we have in abundant supply,” she said. “We know our volunteers hold an unconditional belief in the limitless potential of each participant and express that belief in every encounter. The activities we conduct are grounded in a positive youth development framework, reinforcing spontaneous interactions with caring adults.”
The curriculum provided by the program, coupled with the volunteers, makes for continued success of SLP participants.
For more information about the Saturday Leadership Program and the Greater Baltimore Urban League, visit www.gbul.org.
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