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Baltimore is a city rich with history and culture but also plagued by social strife. In the junior year elective, The City in Literature: Baltimore, students explore the complex ecosystem of the people and traditions that are Baltimore. Through literature, film, television, art, music, and other forms of expression, they delve into both the beauty and the daunting social problems of the City.
While art is a powerful lens through which to view Baltimore, English teacher Dana Lotito supplements this study with a series of guest speakers who provide students with first-hand accounts of their experiences with the City. This year, students have heard from the poet Lady Brion, educator Rose Hamm, business leaders and community organizers Michelle Geiss, Sam Novak, Joanna Bartholomew, and Bree Jones, and author Wes Moore.
Having the opportunity to interact with these speakers provided the juniors in the elective class with an understanding of the many complex issues facing Baltimore City that they could not have gleaned solely from their texts. One student put it best when he said that Rose Hamm spoke to the heart of their studies while Wes Moore spoke to the mind. Real-world, first-hand experience is a powerful teaching tool and an important part of a LifeReady education. Lotito looks forward to connecting her students with more Baltimore voices in the future.
Learn more about the guest speakers:
Born and raised in Baltimore, Lady Brion is an international spoken word artist who has earned titles at the Baltimore Grand Slam, the National Poetry Slam, and the Individual World Poetry Slam. In addition to being a renowned artist, Lady Brion is also an activist, organizer, and educator who speaks about poetry and creative writing with students throughout the Baltimore area. She shared insight with the McDonogh students into the Black female experience noting how Black women are powerful changemakers in the City. She also spoke with them about her organization, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, which seeks to engage the community through youth leadership development, political advocacy, and autonomous intellectual innovation.
Educator Rose Hamm spent her career working with students who were facing some of the most difficult circumstances in Baltimore City. As the principal of Francis M. Woods School, Hamm’s work was chronicled in David Simon's book, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, which the class is reading. Despite being retired, Hamm still has a passion and zest for education, which students found infectious. She shared stories about children she has helped, how she still interacts with people on the corner, and her own life, growing up during segregation in Baltimore.
Michelle Geiss is the founder of ImpactHub Baltimore, which seeks to support and connect a community of Baltimore changemakers by providing an inspiring workspace and innovative programming to scale and sustain their social impact. Samantha Novak works with Impact Hub as a Community Manager. Joanna Bartholomew, the founder and CEO of O’Hara Development Partners, took her experience as a social worker and combined it with her skill and passion for financial services to build a company that focuses on community development that betters the lives of Baltimore residents. Likewise, Bree Jones founded Parity, LLC to partner with communities to help revitalize neighborhoods. Together, these four women spoke to students about their efforts to rebuild, reinvest, and help build community wealth without displacing residents in West Baltimore.
Wes Moore is the author of New York Times Bestsellers The Other Wes Moore and The Work. He is also the founder and CEO of BridgeEdU, which is dedicated to helping students "on-ramp" to higher education during their freshman year of college, and the CEO of the poverty-fighting nonprofit the Robin Hood Foundation. After giving students an understanding of his process as an author, Moore also spoke about where he believes Baltimore is headed.