July 12, 2021

Creating Partnerships in Unlikely Places

David Weeks

A blue backpack with the Living Classrooms logo sits on a desk.

After years of curriculum development and partnership coordination with Barclay, a Title I school in Baltimore City, the first Maryland Youth Partners in Change (MYPIC) cohort began in 2003 with each school selecting 12 students to the program. After the success of the first cohort, the program expanded to include 16 students from each school and eventually transitioned the GCS partnership from the Barclay School to the Booker T. Washington Middle School. 


Five standards and corresponding grade level benchmarks promoting personal development, community building, citizenship, academic learning, and career development guides the program. Thematically, students in sixth grade focus on discovering possibilities and making connections culminating in a project promoting animal habitat preservation.


Collaborating at the seventh grade level, MYPIC students embrace homelessness as their theme and learn from the homeless and professionals supporting them how best to promote their welfare in advocacy presentations to political leaders. Finally, in the eighth grade, students are oriented to responsible environmental stewardship and participated in leadership and service activities to foster a healthy environment.


Success in a multicultural world requires building relationships and communicating effectively with people from difference backgrounds. MYPIC is designed to build a cultural bridge between suburban private school students and urban public school students. It provides youth with opportunities to guide personal growth with the intent of developing adolescent leaders who have the knowledge and skills to be effective and positive change agents in their respective communities. By building a relationship of trust and respect in formative years with a culturally different person, MYPIC students’ perspectives are broadened and their educational experience empowers them to not fall prey to social prejudice or stereotyping. Service learning and leadership development activities forged with resilience enable students to become advocates for social issues and leaders in shaping a well-balanced and successful multicultural world.


Societal isolation resulting from the perilous emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020 proved to be its greatest challenge. It separated the established partnership between the 16 GCS middle school students and their counterparts from the Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore City. This empowering program dedicated to leadership development and service-learning lost its interschool connection but maintained its commitment to promote the good in society.


The separation of the schools also canceled a scheduled meeting with the Mayor of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Council to present their concerns and recommendations on homelessness based on their year-long research. Instead of visiting City Hall, students shared their research virtually to parents, teachers, and school administrators.


In April, a virtual workshop with the Living Classroom Foundation provided an orientation to a healthy environment and being a responsible steward of it. The following month, students engaged in an environmental clean-up of the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. This was followed by a celebration recognizing the completion of students’ three-year commitment. 


In the fall, a new three-year seventh grade cohort with science teacher Noah Konkus taking over from David Weeks, who has shepherded the last six cohorts. 

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