Living Classrooms has invested our three decades of experience and success into a long-term strategic initiative, the Baltimore Target Investment Zone (TIZ). This comprehensive community development strategy, launched in 2007, was created to address the economic divide that exists in communities of color in Baltimore and reduce the interrelated issues of poverty, high crime, low educational levels, and poor health that can be directly traced to deeply embedded racial inequities in education, social services, and even basic human rights. The goal of the TIZ initiative is to bridge this opportunity gap and help the city become safer, stronger, healthier, and more equitable. The TIZ serves a 2.5 square mile area in East Baltimore where Living Classrooms can concentrate our holistic services to make the biggest impact, including the Fayette Street corridor and Pleasant View Gardens; Perkins, Douglass, and Latrobe Homes; Oldtown/Middle East; McElderry Park; and neighborhoods around Hopkins Medical Campus and Patterson Park.
Within the TIZ, Living Classrooms is achieving success with a pipeline of multigenerational services that spans early childhood education all the way to senior citizen programming. Our comprehensive effort targets three key areas: Education, Workforce Development, and Health and Wellness, and Community Safety, through which we provide evidence-based programming that helps youth and families remove barriers to success and build a bridge to a secure future. Because the issues of poverty, low education, crime, and poor health are so interconnected, we take a holistic approach to our programs to develop appropriate strategies to combat these issues together and build a stronger community. Our programs are an effective intervention to empower these communities and help create systemic solutions to effect much-needed change in East Baltimore.
Programs and services in the TIZ are designed and implemented based on needs identified by the community, and in the last decade we have established Community Hubs in East Baltimore including the UA House at Fayette, the POWER House, the Patterson Park House, and two Early Childhood Centers. We also operate a successful public Title I charter middle school, The Crossroads School, that prepares TIZ youth for entrance into high performing Baltimore City public and private schools. Living Classrooms has successfully worked with the community to create, renovate, and manage these inviting and accessible neighborhood facilities that provide meaningful education, workforce training, and health and wellness services with proven outcomes to residents of all ages. Our evidence-based programs prepare children, youth, and adults with the necessary knowledge and skills to thrive in school and/or work.
Living Classrooms Foundation’s multigenerational approach engages multiple members of a family with targeted services or programming based on the specific needs of the family–for instance, recruiting parents or older siblings of children in our Crossroads School to our GED classes or workforce training programs, or providing early childhood education services to the children of workforce development participants. Our Safe Streets violence prevention initiative in the McElderry Park and Belair-Edison neighborhoods engage teens and young adults who could become involved in or victims of criminal activity and provide referrals to our job training programs; Safe Streets also conducts workshops with children in our out-of-school time programs to promote community safety and discuss healthy alternatives to gangs and drugs.
Within the Target Investment Zone, Living Classrooms implements a wide variety of programming in each of our three major competencies:
Education is the cornerstone to an individual’s success in life. We are using our decades of experience providing evidence-based educational experiences to create a pathway for TIZ youth that begins in early childhood, continues with afterschool and in-school enrichment programming and The Crossroads School, and extends through high school and beyond with programs like our teen program that promotes graduation and college/career exploration. Our education programs also incorporate fitness and wellness, and strategies to avoid involvement with gangs and drugs, especially as youth reach the challenging middle school years during which peer pressure intensifies.
In order to provide a truly comprehensive range of services to help youth and families succeed in education and the workplace, it is also necessary to focus on helping participants achieve good physical and mental health. Therefore, Living Classrooms Foundation provides a wide range of physical fitness, mindfulness, and nutrition programming at our Community Hubs. Our diverse programs provide kids with safe and productive activities that challenge them in healthy ways. In addition, in partnership with the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, we believe that violence prevention is a public safety and health issue, which we address through our Safe Streets initiative and components of our after-school and summer programs.
We believe that by providing people with the tools to develop the academic, social, and vocational skills that lead to success in school and work, by promoting safer, cleaner neighborhoods, and by increasing the health and wellness of children, we will also see conclusive positive changes in overall neighborhood health. The Target Investment Zone initiative has gained significant support from both public and private sectors and our community partners and is poised to expand to serve the community even more comprehensively now and in the years to come.
Contact: Chas Ackley
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