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SEED School of Maryland names Baltimore campus for Ruth and Norman Rales

Andrea Blackstone | 5/27/2016, 6 a.m.
Maryland’s only public, college-preparatory boarding school, The Seed School of Maryland located at 200 Font Hill Avenue in Baltimore has ...
Maryland’s only public, college-preparatory boarding school, The Seed School of Maryland named the Baltimore Campus located at 200 Font Hill Avenue for late philanthropists Ruth and Norman Rales in a ceremony on April 22, 2016. In 2015, all of the students from SEED Maryland’s first graduating class were accepted into a four-year college. (Photo: Andrea Blackstone)

— Maryland’s only public, college-preparatory boarding school, The Seed School of Maryland located at 200 Font Hill Avenue in Baltimore has named its campus for late philanthropists Ruth and Norman Rales.

The couple began their lives under humble circumstances. However, Norman became a businessman who eventually established the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation. Three Rales brothers— Mitchell, Steven and Joshua— attended the ceremony with their families in Baltimore on April 22, 2016. After Mitchell provided generous gifts to both The SEED School of Washington, D.C. and to SEED Maryland, he elected to name both campuses after his late parents. The capital gift reportedly allowed for the renovation of SEED Maryland.

Jon Tucker, head of school at The SEED School of Maryland, remarked that Ruth and Norman began an amazing legacy of giving back to support young people and education. Their children continue to provide assistance and encouragement.

“They (The Rales’ children) just carried it on from the giving of their time and their resources, but also giving back just that same spirit in their words today, and their message to our kids about continuing to give back once they graduate and get their college degrees, Tucker said, after the program.

Attendees had an opportunity to hear firsthand accounts about the extensive efforts that were made by SEED School founders, Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota, to bring their educational model to fruition. SEED Maryland opened in 2008, welcoming its first class of sixth graders. Students from across the state are admitted to the five-day-a-week boarding school through a lottery process. SEED Maryland students must be from a family whose gross income is 200 percent below the federal poverty guidelines and meet designated at-risk criteria. The school’s leadership believes that every student who enrolls can earn a college degree and achieve at the highest levels, regardless of barriers he or she may face. Performance on standardized tests is not considered. In 2015, 100 percent of SEED Maryland’s graduating first class was accepted into a four-year college. The third SEED School campus is located in Miami, Florida.

Additionally, the ceremony also honored the commitment of other people who also believed in SEED Maryland’s students enough to help start the school. Guests who attended the ceremony included Senator Ben Cardin, Congressman John Sarbanes, Maryland Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, and Dr. Gregory E. Thornton, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. The effectiveness of SEED’s school model was exemplified by student emcee, Maia Fulton. The member of SEED Maryland’s first inaugural graduating class currently attends Towson State University.

“With the help and support from SEED and the College Transition & Success Team, I was able to overcome obstacles standing in my way of a college degree,” Fulton said.

Cheers and applause erupted after Afnan Laghei, the second student emcee, reminded the audience that Ruth and Norman believed that everyone, regardless of background, is entitled to an excellent education. Afnan added that naming SEED Maryland’s campus after them would serve as a reminder of their belief.

Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) was a close friend of Ruth and Norman. During his keynote address at SEED Maryland, he revealed the roots of their generosity.

“Norman Rales knew what it was like to grow up without the promise of opportunity. Raised in an orphanage, he began his adult life with nothing more than five dollars, a toothbrush, and the clothes on his back,” he said. “And his beloved Ruth was the daughter of immigrants who had survived the pogroms and came to this country with nothing but their dreams to build a better life for their daughter. Their difficult early experiences shaped their belief that personal success brings with it a responsibility to lift others up. ”

Hoyer encouraged the students who attend SEED Maryland to excel in their studies and challenged them to make the principle of repairing the world a part of their lives. While reminiscing about Norman and Ruth, he asked the students to act whenever witnessing injustice, need or despair.

“Just as others have planted seeds to help you grow, you have an opportunity and a responsibility to be seed-sowers yourselves,” Hoyer said