February 5, 2015
In 2015, we celebrate our 30th anniversary and our successes on behalf of youth and young adults in the Baltimore and Washington, DC communities. We have incorporated the traditional symbol for a 30th anniversary, the pearl, into our theme for this very special year: The World is Your Oyster.
The belief that an individual’s potential for achievement is unlimited has been a core value of Living Classrooms Foundation since the very beginning. We appreciate your support in helping us to reach over 40,000 youth every year with this message and the programming to give youth and adults real apportunities to realize their dreams.
Throughout the year, we will be sharing stories of our program participants who have succeeded in the face of adversity with the support made available to them through Living Classrooms’ programs. Our first story features a current Living Classrooms employee, John Jones, who began at the Foundation as a participant in Project SERVE and
the Adult Resource Center.
John grew up on the west side of Baltimore in a tough and economically depressed neighborhood. He was arrested at 17 years of age and ultimately sentenced to a prison term of life and five years. While in prison, John got his GED, went to college, made the Dean’s List during his four semesters, and graduated with honors – all while fighting his case. Throughout the years, he had four parole hearings and was denied parole each time. The fifth time, John’s case was sent to the Governor of Maryland and he was released at age 47. He spent 30 years and 26 days in prison.
Prior to his release, a representative from Living Classrooms’ Adult Resource Center met with John to explain our programs and help him create a solid plan for a successful transition back into the community. John was released to live at the Patrick Allison House and visited the Adult Resource Center the next day to put his plan into action. John said, “As soon as I walked in, I felt a difference. I felt like I belonged there.” John was fitted for a suit through our partnership with the Sharp Dressed Man project and two days later he went for an interview with our Project SERVE program where he received paid employment training and case management. John was matched with a mentor, our trustee Chip Olsen, with whom he really connected. The supportive relationship remains an important part of John’s life to this day.
Using the opportunities and resources provided by Living Classrooms, John says he was pushed to do better things. He was hired by the Foundation as a Member Support Coordinator for Project SERVE – the very program that helped him upon his release from prison. Of all of John’s successes, one of the most important to him is his role in founding a monthly support group for ex-offenders – the First Monday Empowerment Group. The group’s events, ranging from dinners to bowling, provide a forum for ex-offenders to support each other in their experiences of life after prison. John is adamant that his experience with Living Classrooms has changed his life and provided him with the opportunity to help others to change their lives. http://conta.cc/1v2inBR