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UMB-led Promise Heights Initiative Reaches Children Through Reading

Dr. Seuss wrote all the books that were put to use by students, faculty, and staff members of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) on March 1 during Read Across America Day. The UMB contingent, led by the School of Social Work, (SSW) played a significant role in festivities at The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (HSCT) Elementary School.

It was a special day, but the University's presence is an everyday occurrence at HSCT. The public school is a partner in Promise Heights, a comprehensive effort to improve the lives of West Baltimore families by offering services to children from cradle to college or career. The University has been involved with HSCT for nearly two years - helping to obtain support for a playground, remodeling of the lower level, and other advances. The SSW-led initiative is now partially funded by a 2012 Promise Neighborhoods planning grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

On Read America Day, HSCT helped two foundations launch a book drive and celebrated their plans for an improved library. An impressive roster of guest readers included Anthony Brown, JD, Maryland lieutenant governor; Sonja Brookins Santelises, EdD, chief academic officer, Baltimore City Public Schools; Bernard "Jack" Young, president of the Baltimore City Council; Gregg Bernstein, JD '81, Baltimore State's Attorney, Judge David Young, JD '77; and Jayne Miller, reporter, television station WBAL.

Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, assistant dean and executive director of Promise Heights, and SSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, each treated a class to a Seuss selection.

The loudest call-and-response of the day no doubt took place in the kindergarten class that heard Rachel Donegan, JD, shown in the photo above. Donegan, SSW clinical instructor and programs coordinator of Promise Heights, read the Seuss title, Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

Several Schools at the University are among Promise Heights' public and private partners, in keeping with an interprofessional goal. The School of Nursing (SON) assigns students to work with HSCT youngsters each week under the supervision of clinical faculty member Kate Scott, MPH, RN. As one of the guest readers, Scott shared the Seuss tale, Hunches in Bunches.

HSCT is likely to get some new copies of all those Seuss books through a book drive being conducted by The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation together with the Heart of America Foundation. Principal Harold Barber, EdD, brought teachers and students into an assembly, where foundation officials unveiled plans for a new library to replace one currently housed in a multi-purpose room. The goal of the Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project is to expand access to reading.

HSCT is located north of the University campus and west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the neighborhoods of Upton and Druid Heights, where about half of the families live in poverty, data show.

Through partnerships beyond the University, Promise Heights offers other services to public schools in the neighborhood. At HSCT, Brenda Conway LGSW, is the Community Resource School site coordinator, and Claire Meringolo DLCSW-C, is the mental health consultant and social worker for the Judy Center, part of the Judith P. Hoyer Program in the Maryland State Department of Education. HSCT gained the center last fall, becoming the second public school in the target neighborhoods to offer parents early child care and family education.

Gillian Gregory, MSW, is the Community Resource School coordinator around the corner at Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy, where Stacy Stephans, MSW, coordinates the West Baltimore branch of the B'More for Healthy Babies program, and Barth is on the charter school's advisory board.

On Read Across America Day, Conway, Meringolo, and SSW student Liz Buchanan all had a turn reading aloud and, like the others, read Dr. Seuss. If he were alive, he would almost certainly have approved. It was the author's birthday.

Posting Date: 03/08/2013
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu