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Baltimore Program Offers Low-Income Teens More Tools for Success

Baltimore’s Middle Grades Partnership students have a three-year retention rate of 78%. (Middle Grades Partnership)
Baltimore’s Middle Grades Partnership students have a three-year retention rate of 78%. (Middle Grades Partnership)
September 30, 2019

BALTIMORE – More low-income middle school students in Baltimore are getting into academically rigorous high schools, and they credit the city's Middle Grades Partnership learning program.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the Middle Grades Partnership crosses economic and racial lines by pairing private and public school students to work on multidisciplinary projects during summers and into the school year, according to Wendy Samet, the program's executive director.

"Citywide, only 26% of students got into the top academic high schools in the city, and 94% of our students did,” she points out. “So, we are really changing the trajectory of students' lives."

One goal is to help students who live in poverty be part of projects they wouldn't ordinarily be exposed to, including designing and launching their own rockets and producing TED talks lectures.

This year, Samet says, attendance rates for the program top 90%.

One of the most popular Middle Grade Partnership projects is teaching storytelling techniques, Samet adds.

Partnering with Baltimore's City Stage, African-American and Latinx middle schoolers spent months learning how to write and present stories about their lives, culminating in a performance at the theater.

"They were about everything and anything that you can imagine,” Samet relates. “They also created artwork that was projected behind them for their stories – so, it was really a terrific experience."

This year, more than 500 teens are participating in the three-year program. Funded by the Baltimore Community Foundation, the Middle Grades Partnership has served more than 4,000 students since 2005.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD