December 20, 2019
Westley F. is a single father who grew up in West Baltimore. He moved to the Pleasant View Gardens community in 2009 and enrolled his two children, London and Micah, in City Springs Elementary-Middle School. Working full-time, Westley sought out an after-school program to send his kids to while he finished his work day. With few options in the area, it was his neighbors who suggested Living Classrooms’ community center, then known as the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center.
What Westley found at the center was a safe environment where the staff instilled positive and consistent values in his children, similar to what they were learning at home, and who cared about their success. The staff treated his children with care and respect, and coupled with a fun environment his children have never complained about having to spend time there.
While London, now in high school, has aged out of the current elementary-middle school program, eighth grade student Micah was fortunate to witness the center’s reinvention during the summer of 2016. The center re-opened in the fall after a significant investment from Kevin Plank and Under Armour to renovate the facility and reimagine community programming. Now named UA House at Fayette, Living Classrooms has partnered with several organizations and city and state agencies to develop a multi-generational approach to deliver services to the neighboring East Baltimore community.
When Micah and his fellow classmates returned to UA House at Fayette this school year, they walked into a first-of-its-kind community hub that offers students more than just sports and recreation. The center now features 10,000 square feet of additional space that features a revitalized tutoring center, a dance and yoga studio, a state-of-the-art music production and recording studio, a STEM classroom, a neighborhood kitchen, and an indoor turf field.
Micah plays percussion in the center’s after-school music club and has big ambitions for someone his age, with plans to attend high school at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Micah wants to study coding and one day own his own animation studio and gaming company. For now, Micah is content with knowing that UA House at Fayette offers him a safe space to nurture his interests beyond sports in an environment where he feels like he is “part of a family.” Next year, he will explore the center’s new POWER Teens program and continue to engage with the friends he’s made there.
For Westley’s part, he is grateful that Living Classrooms has created a safe place for youth to spend those critical out-of-school hours when they might otherwise engage in negative behavior and instead introduces them to new experiences. He has been actively involved in the center’s parent advisory board and believes that continued engagement with the adults in the neighborhood will foster more involved parents and a more successful community center.
With changing market demands leaning more and more towards technological fields, Westley would like to see additional tech and coding programming added to the center’s offering and believes that Living Classrooms could be helping to breed the next scientist, or doctor, or community leader who will replicate this model of community center.
“Living Classrooms really instills the desire within kids to succeed and be the best,” said Westley. “And that is worth investing in.”