Selected Speeches

Community Engagement Center Ribbon-Cutting

April 16, 2016
UMB Community Engagement Center, Poppleton


I’m so happy to see all of you here this morning. I’ve waited so long for this day. Today is a celebration of the deep love and affection we have for one another and this special community we share.

There are many officials here with us who are part of this community or contribute to it, and I’d like to acknowledge them. First Lady Yumi Hogan has been instrumental in the community festival that we’ll hold directly after today’s ribbon-cutting. But more than that, we thank Mrs. Hogan for her commitment to making real change for children and families right here in Baltimore and across Maryland.

From the Maryland General Assembly, we have: Sen. Catherine Pugh, Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, Del. Antonio Hayes, Del. Barbara Robinson, Del. Pat Young. Representing Del. Charles Sydnor, we have Eugene Clark with us.

And from the Baltimore City Council, we have: Council Vice President Ed Reisinger, Councilman Pete Welch, Councilman Eric Costello, Councilwoman Helen Holton, and Councilwoman Rikki Spector. Representing Councilman Carl Stokes, we have David Brown with us.

From our partnering community school, we have the leader of James McHenry Elementary/Middle, Principal G. Travis Miller. And from our close clinical partner, the University of Maryland Medical Center, we have the director of community health, Dr. Anne Williams.

I thank all of you for sharing the day with us.

The UMB Community Engagement Center has been on the drawing board for some time, because we’ve long wanted a welcoming front door to our University. But all you have to do is look across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to see that—from here, anyway—we don’t look so welcoming.

Years ago, when we began talking to the community about how we might deepen our relationship with our neighbors, and have a bigger and better impact on their lives, we got the feedback we were looking for—and then some.

One thing we heard over and over again from neighbors was that they had very little access to us. They’d walk through campus on the way to Downtown, or to Lexington Market, or to the hospital. But there was nowhere for them to stop—there was no way to get to know us, and take advantage of programs and people who could help them out.

That’s why we built this center—right here, in the neighborhood. To cross this boulevard that divides us like a moat. To make this—right here—the front door of UMB.

But, of course, this center is just a building. It has no value other than the programs and services you put in it.

You’re building this center from the ground up. Everything we’ve put in this space so far has come from conversations with residents, neighborhood leaders, our Community Advisory Council: workforce training and jobs programs, financial counseling, workshops in community organizing, the computer lab, the monthly lunches, the playgroups, the fitness classes, the organic market.

None of this would’ve happened without you—without you telling us, candidly, what this community wants and needs and where we can fill gaps. This is partnership. This is community. And it’s been incredible for me—for me, personally—to be a part of it.

I thank Ashley Valis, who runs our community engagement program, for the 18 months of hard, hard work that she and her team have put into this beautiful center.

Ashley’s hope is the same as mine: that this center is so successful and so well used that we outgrow this space and put down even bigger roots in the neighborhood. This is our home as well as yours. We’re here for you—and we’re here for good.

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