Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

The ALC’s Catherine Mahan awarded Volunteer of the Year by M.A.A.C.C.E.

The GHCC Blog Team recently caught up with the Adult Learning Center’s Catherine Mahan, who was recently awarded the 2015 Volunteer Award from the Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education.

Catherine Mahan

Catherine Mahan

Congratulations on receiving this award!  How did you first come to be a volunteer at the Adult Learning Center?
Well, for most of my working career I ran my own design firm.  It was work I enjoyed, but it did involve long hours and some travel away from home.  I also raised two children, and I was active in my professional society.  So I had very little time for service work.  It was my plan to be able to do something to “give back to the Baltimore Community” where I had made my career once I retired.  I had actually planned to retire by 2008 but the economy was so bad, it wasn’t a good time for me to leave my firm (I was president!). So I decided to go ahead and do some of the things that I hoped to do in retirement while I continued working. I came to the Adult Learning Center in 2008 and took the training to be a tutor.  I taught ESOL classes right out of college, and have always been interested in Adult Literacy, so this was a natural fit for me.

Wow, we are so glad you did not wait to retire to become a volunteer with us!  What do you do as an ALC volunteer?
It keeps growing and changing!  Initially I tutored one-on-one with a woman who was from Korea.  We met once a week, which was all either of us could manage as she worked full time also. We met for several years until my schedule no longer permitted it.  I later became involved with a program the ALC developed called “Get That Job”.  I developed a training piece on job interviewing which I gave a couple of times a year when the ALC was running the program.  Then in 2010 I joined the Advisory Board, and I have worked on the Board ever since.  I was co-chair of the Scrabble Fundraiser in 2013.  I also continually work wherever I am out and about to shine the light on the ALC and to solicit donations for the terrific work that goes on there.

Your enthusiasm really shines through!  Can you tell us what you like best about volunteering at the ALC?
I have always liked working with other people towards a common goal, be it developing a good design solution for an office project or working on people’s language and communication skills.  But probably the best thing for me personally, is that I find that Greater Homewood and the Adult Learning Center are places where I have learned a lot and grown a lot myself.  Not only do the people here have a good heart, but they run a smart organization, and I am continually learning from them.

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the growth of Adult Education in Baltimore?
There are a lot of barriers to accessing continuing education, and the ALC tries to address them when they can (getting bus tokens, providing notebooks or classroom materials, etc.)  As transportation is often an issue, bringing the classes into the community has been an important step, and the Center now has several “off site” classes.  The Adult Learning Center changed its name several years ago from the “Adult Literacy Center” when it became apparent that there were negative connotations to “literacy” and some learners didn’t want their employers to know that they were taking ‘literacy” classes.  The change to “learning” is a positive change.

What do you like to do in your time away from volunteering at the ALC?
I also volunteer at Cylburn Arboretum!  As I am a landscape architect, I greatly enjoy helping out with their projects and maintaining the two hundred acres of gardens and open space.  I also enjoy water color painting and printmaking.

Thank you, Catherine, for volunteering your time and energy to the Adult Learning Center.  And congratulations again on receiving the 2015 Volunteer Award!


Hands-On STEM Education at the 29th Street Community Center

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Over the past several months, a group of dedicated students at the 29th Street Community Center have been participating in Maryland Science Olympiad (MSO). MSO is an after-school STEM enrichment program which encourages students to tackle a variety of STEM-focused challenges in a fun, but competitive, environment.

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In the fall, students selected MSO competition events they found interesting. They met twice a week after-school to practice these events and prepare for the Baltimore City tournament. These hands-on activities range from tests, for which students have to study specific STEM subjects, to construction challenges that require students to design and build structures, vehicles, or rockets. With help from a Johns Hopkins University student mentor group, the Charm City Science League, our students excelled in their chosen activities.

This past month, our students’ and their mentors’ hard work paid off at the city-wide tournament, where they placed 4th overall and qualified to compete in the state championship, scheduled to take place next month! Our students placed top five in several individual events at the Baltimore City tournament, including: 1st: Bridge Building, Fossils; 2nd: Wheeled Vehicle; 3rd: Anatomy, Dynamic Planet; 4th: Water Bottle Rockets, Crime Busters; and 5th: Can’t Judge a Powder, Write It Do It.

We are very proud of our students’ accomplishments and we are excited to share their success with everyone!

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Register for Summer Camp! The 29th Street Community Center provides exciting summer camp opportunities for kids of different ages and interests. Click here for page 1 and here for page 2 of the summer camp flyer. Make sure to register soon because space is limited! If you have any questions, please contact Center Director, Hannah Gardi.


Neighborhood Institute Workshop Preview: “Writing for Community Advocacy” by Claudia Diamond

If you are a local resident or nonprofit professional looking to improve the quality of your persuasive emails and letters, “Effective Writing for Community Leaders” by Claudia Diamond would be a great presentation for you. You can register for the Neighborhood Institute here.

Community leaders often find themselves needing to write letters and emails to promote change for their neighborhood. These documents can range from letters of support for community projects, to grant applications, to zoning appeals, and more. Oftentimes, these letters are directed at elected officials, bureaucrats, or large institutions, and attempt to influence policy decisions within a neighborhood. A poorly written or ineffective appeal might harm a neighborhood’s chances to improve its quality of life.

Claudia Diamond outside the Lyric (photo courtesy of University of Baltimore).

Claudia Diamond with law students outside of the Lyric. (photo courtesy of University of Baltimore)

Claudia is the Director of Academic Support at the University of Baltimore School of Law and is a veteran legal writing professor. In her workshop, Claudia will share skills taught in law school to help you write powerfully and convincingly. Tips and tricks will include common writing and grammar mistakes and ways to organize your writing to make the best possible case. After exploring these strategies, workshop participants will engage in a collaborative drafting exercise to work on specific appeals they might need to make.

GHCC’s annual Neighborhood Institute is on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at the Baltimore Design School (1500 Barclay Street). Register for the event by following this link. This year, the Institute will feature 36 workshops on a variety of topics relevant to community issues and city-wide opportunities. Check back here regularly for a preview of some of the workshops and presenters you can expect to see at this year’s Institute.

 


Bidding a fond farewell to Kim Bosworth

Kim Bosworth first came to GHCC’s Adult Learning Center (ALC) as an AmeriCorps*VISTA in 2003.  One year later, her commitment to Adult Education had earned her a spot as a teacher and full-time staff member.  Kim eventually became Assistant Director of the ALC, though she continued to teach reading to more than 200 adult learners each year.

photo 1“I’ve enjoyed seeing people become empowered to do things for themselves,” says Kim. “I’ll miss the teachers who have so much passion for what they do. I’ll miss the learners. They’re the reason why we’re here,” she said.

Kim remembers one of her students who had a multitude of health issues but struggled to read and fill out forms.  He would bring his wife with him to medical appointments because she could read and write. If he was alone, he’d pretend that he forgot his glasses and ask someone else to do the writing for him.  In response to this learner’s situation and others with similar challenges, Kim created a series of lessons that focused solely on filling out forms of all kinds.  One day, that learner came to class and told Kim, “I went to the doctor’s office alone and wrote what I needed to write.”

That sense of growth and accomplishment is not the only thing that motivated Kim during her time at the ALC; she also credits the teachers and staff.

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 “The learners who come to us haven’t been successful in other schools, they’ve failed all their lives and the fact that they still want to try at 60, 70 years old really speaks to the work we do here,” she says.  “They trust us enough and feel comfortable.  If they didn’t feel supported even when they’re frustrated, they wouldn’t come. We have a small staff, but we get stuff done and still have a good time.”

This mind-set remains embodied in the legacy Kim has left after over 10 years of service to the ALC.  Teachers, learners, volunteers, and staff alike will truly miss her and wish her the best.

“I don’t think of myself as accomplishing things alone; we all have a hand in the collective successes here,” says Kim. “I’ve always kept the focus on answering ‘What can we do to set up everyone who walks through our door for the greatest chance of success?’”

As Kim transitions to her new position at Anne Arundel Community College, she has some parting advice: “Be mindful of what you’re doing and no matter what happens keep a sense of humor.”

Good luck, Kim.


2700 Hampden Avenue gets a makeover

Last weekend, over 20 neighbors on the 2700 block of Hampden Avenue in Remington came together for a community work day. The objective? To enhance curb appeal and strengthen the block where they live.

2700 Hampden Block Project

In less than two hours, this block was transformed into a lush and vibrant space where parents feel more comfortable letting their children play. We planted nine trees and installed new porch lights on five houses. In addition, eight homeowners will receive new stained glass address plaques, courtesy of Wholly Terra in Hampden.

Earlier this year, GHCC met with residents to determine their vision for what this block could look like. Once the desired improvements were decided on, GHCC staff applied for and received a grant of $2,500 from Healthy Neighborhoods to help bring the project to fruition (2700 Hampden residents are contributing an average of $50 apiece of their own funds).

We invite you to come check out the new and improved 2700 block of Hampden Avenue. It’s a great example of the kind of collaborative efforts that strengthen neighborhoods block by block to enhance the overall quality of life in Baltimore.