August 2020

A MESSAGE FROM DR. GIA GRIER MCGINNIS, UMB CURE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

August 05, 2020

Proud Baltimore native Gia Grier McGinnis, MS, is the new executive director of the UMB CURE Scholars Program.

I am writing this message as our community and our nation are fighting two great battles—one with a deadly virus that hides easily among us, and the other with racial injustices that can no longer live in the shadows. The past four months have been a challenging time for our scholars and their families, but I am so very proud of our team at the UMB CURE Scholars Program for keeping our community connected. 

We have quickly adapted our way of work.  We have been steadily making Chromebook and food deliveries.  Our CURE instructional team has been phenomenal in moving to online instruction and making well check calls, redefining what it means to be a CURE teacher.  Our mentors have become tutors, offering video sessions for individuals and groups of scholars.  We have pulled closer to our community partners, pooling resources and sharing connections with one another. We have held social justice listening sessions with scholars to help them unpack current events and have held virtual family townhalls to keep everyone up to date. We also launched an Emergency Fund for CURE families that will not only fund our current efforts with COVID-19 but also support families in crisis well beyond the pandemic. All in all, this has been both a challenging time, but also an inspiring one.

Despite recent challenges, our scholars continue to excel. Our scholars have applied to, and been invited to participate in, the following summer enrichment experiences:

  • University of Maryland Medical Center’s Summer YouthWorks Program
  • USDA AgDiscovery Program at Coppin State University
  • STEMcx’s Summer Coding Camp
  • The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Gains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS) Program
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Summer Enrichment Academy

In addition, we are welcoming back several UMB faculty and graduate students who will offer their usual in-person summer labs for middle school scholars in an online format.  They, along with our team, have worked hard to create summer supply kits for middle and high school programming. We have distributed over 60 kits to the homes of scholars.

CURE has also formed a new partnership with the Morehouse School of Medicine to offer a virtual Community Health Worker Certification Program for our high school scholars this summer.  Scholars will then be able to apply what they have learned in the community when we are back in-person.

Other new summer curricular partnerships include the adoption of the We Do it for the CultureTM social-emotional learning curriculum. We also have a globally themed opportunity for the scholars to create a book on values, courtesy of a workshop by the Planet Ética, Inc. The scholars will have a wonderful summer, albeit unconventional.

This spring we sadly said goodbye to CURE’s Social Worker, Emily Blatter. We are happy that she has stayed in the UMB family, taking a role at Family Connections in the UMB School of Social Work. Emily will be helpful in onboarding our new Social Worker, Simone Garrison, LMSW, who recently joined the team. Simone comes to us from Humanim, Inc., where she was a Program Manager and Clinical Social Worker there for over 4 years, overseeing a team of 5-7 case coordinators and 2 relief staff. Simone also has experience in youth and community organizing, having served as a Community Schools Director for the Y of Central Maryland and a Community Schools Coordinator for Child First. We are excited for Simone to meet our scholars and families!

We are also excited to announce the addition of a new Career/Success Counselor role for CURE.  This position will both support academic planning across the program and will also support our scholars in preparing for college and career programs. Ivan Lamas-Sanchez will assume the role August 3rd. He has held previous roles with the LA Promise Fund, The Women in Engineering Program at University of Maryland, College Park, and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. He most recently finished an assignment as an English Teaching Assistant at the Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil through the Fullbright Commission.

During this remarkable season, I have thought back to an important milestone in my life. Earlier this academic year, I graduated with my Doctorate in Public Health from Morgan State University's School of Community Health and Policy.  During my defense, my committee pressed me not just about the details of my research, but also about how I planned to use my training to benefit the community and why that mattered.  As I approach my one-year anniversary as CURE’S Executive Director, I have often reflected on their words, silently recommitting myself to putting the wellbeing of the scholars first and understanding the weight of that responsibility.

In this time of crisis, I want us to support one another as we struggle to achieve wholeness of mind, body, and spirit.  I always tell our families that we are all in this together, and I am grateful for the many individuals and partnerships that have surrounded our program with love and support during this difficult time.  

Yours in Service,
Gia Grier McGinnis, MS, DrPH


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