Partnerships are an integral part of how Promise Heights, an initiative led by the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW), improves the lives of Baltimore children. That was demonstrated once again when the Rite Aid Foundation donated $10,000 to a Promise Heights’ Community School upon reopening a riot-damaged pharmacy on Oct. 20.
Fire had destroyed the Rite Aid store at 300 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., late last April during the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray. Since May, the store had operated out of a trailer. Company officials chose the occasion of its celebratory reopening to make a gift to a nearby public school: The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School (HSCT).
Principal Bettye M. Adams accepted a large replica of the check from Rite Aid officials. Bryan Everett, Rite Aid executive vice president for operations, and Susan Henderson, senior vice president and chief communications officer, participated along with local elected officials. Adams noted that HSCT is historic in that it was established to educate African-American children.
In preparing to make the gift, Rite Aid had approached officials at Baltimore City Public Schools, who suggested HSCT. The grant application for equipment to be used for intramural sports for boys and girls was prepared by Promise Heights program director Rachel Donegan, JD, and HSCT Community School coordinator Henriette Taylor, MSW, LGSW, both of the SSW.
“These funds given so generously will allow HSCT to purchase athletic equipment, which will be used during the traditional school day as well as extracurricular activities after school,” said Taylor. “Evidence supports that children who are engaged in sports have better academic outcomes and are healthier in their social, emotional, and physical lives. With strong partners such as Rite Aid and Promise Heights working in collaboration at HSCT, our children are able to grow and thrive in otherwise challenging environments.”
HSCT currently serves 407 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade from the neighborhood of Upton/Druid Heights, an impoverished area less than a mile from the rebuilt Rite Aid pharmacy. The store is located across the boulevard from the campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, whose professional schools are among Promise Heights’ partners.
“Last spring’s uprising brought national attention to issues and concerns that many of us who have lived and worked in the community already knew: challenging poverty, lack of available resources, and intimidating environments,” said Taylor. While these affect many in the community, she noted that “sadly, some of the most vulnerable populations include our most precious resources, our children.”
Progress depends on collaborative support, she said. “It is with the assistance of partners such as Rite Aid who recognize these obstacles within our community and then provide critical resources supporting the positive work being done in our neighborhoods.”