Urban League leadership program prepares students for college

Andrea Blackstone | 5/22/2015, 6 a.m.
Wesley Read, 18, will graduate from City Neighbors High School later this month. The senior remarked that the Greater Baltimore ...
Greater Baltimore Urban League (GBUL) officials, Saturday Leadership Program (SLP) volunteers and Saturday Leadership Fellows celebrate at the closing ceremony of the (GBUL) Saturday Leadership Program on April 18, 2015 at The Forum Caterers in Baltimore City. SLP Fellows Anthony Gary, Wesley Read, Daekwan Jacobs and Davayonn Tyler completed the program and will graduate from high school in late May. They will all attend college in the fall. (Left to right) Sharnice Barnett, AmeriCorps VISTA SLP Program Coordinator; Howard Henderson; president and CEO, GBUL; Carol Jefferson, volunteer curriculum developer; J. Jackie Cast, AmeriCorps VISTA SLP Resource Developer; Anthony Gary, SLP fellow; Wesley Read, SLP fellow; Daekwan Jacobs, SLP fellow; Davayonn Tyler, SLP fellow; and Estelle Young, volunteer director of new initiatives. (Photo: William Carson)

— Wesley Read, 18, will graduate from City Neighbors High School later this month. The senior remarked that the Greater Baltimore Urban League’s (GBUL) Saturday Leadership Program provided valuable college exposure. After attending each session for a year, participating in the program helped Read to understand what to expect during his future journey. While Read prepares to officially make his transition from high school to college, he reflected on visits made to numerous area colleges, and the advice that was offered by GBUL’s young professionals who conducted leadership development sessions.

“In a way it has pushed me toward college. I have always wanted to go,” Read said.

When asked what advice he would offer younger students, Read said, “I would tell them that right now it seems like the worst thing in the world is to go to school and to get your education, but in the long run, it’s really going to help you out when you get there.”

Anthony Gary, Daekwan Jacobs and Davayonn Tyler are three other Baltimore residents who completed GBUL’s Saturday Leadership Program. Saturday Leadership Fellows from Baltimore convened monthly for six and a half hours on Saturdays to develop their leadership potential and provide exposure to college and careers. Sessions for Leadership Fellows were held at UMBC, Loyola University, Johns Hopkins University, Stevenson University, Coppin State University, Goucher College, Notre Dame and the University of Baltimore. Host universities took participants on campus tours. The free program was launched in 2013 for eighth to twelfth grade h grade students.

J. Howard Henderson, president of GBUL, created the program to bring youth together from across Baltimore City. In addition, Henderson aspired to fill a gap for youth who are not a part of the Talented Tenth, but who have not gone astray either. There is no GPA requirement to participate. Instead, the focus is on determining who would benefit from the program and attend sessions. All programming is conducted on college campuses accessible using the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) bus line. Doctors, lawyers, IT professionals, managers, principals and a range of professional volunteers facilitate sessions.

“We believe that what can do really, really well is [provide] exposure to college, exposure to a wide variety of development topics through the workshops, exposure to Baltimoreans who have gotten their college degree, and then went on to do great things for their community, and then expose [students] to facilitators who are both college-educated and black,” Estelle Young, director of New Initiatives for GBUL said.

Eighteen-year-old Anthony Gary will attend Frostburg State University. The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute student is already interested in computer science.

“Personally, I have always wanted to go to college. It’s been something that’s been a goal of mine,” Gary said.

Having an opportunity to visit a variety of colleges allowed him to determine which one may be a good fit.

Young is a full-time volunteer with GBUL, which administers the Saturday Leadership program. Although consistent student attendance can be challenging, investing in developing leadership potential, and promoting career readiness, can contribute to the long-term success of students like Gary and the other high school graduates.