Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?
I started volunteering as a tutor for 6th grade students at the old school on Calvert Street in the former Loyola High School building in the late 1990s; there were no elevators with 4 floors to walk up, and no air conditioning. I was a tutor, 2 times a week, for about 6 years with my wife. Sometime in the early 2000s, they asked me to join the board. I then began to realize the extent of the potential this tiny school had to change the lives of these children who had virtually no chance of escaping the madness into which they had been born. Between the years of 2004 and 2012, we raised enough money to lease a new facility for the school from the Archdiocese – the organization entered into a 99-year lease of the Catholic Middle School of South Baltimore in Federal Hill South. It cost $5.5 Mil to lease and renovate it. I rotated off of the board in 2012 and was asked to rejoin the board when a client of the firm became the chairman a few years later and asked me to come back.
Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?
St. Ignatius educates boys who would otherwise not be educated; they are the poorest of the poor, they cannot be admitted if they come from a family that lives above the poverty line. It is an 11-month program, where the students start at 7am and go until 7pm, so it is a serious commitment. It’s not all school work (there are sports, like basketball, soccer, and lacrosse – they play with mostly private schools from the area). They are getting pretty good!
The School is looking for boys who want to be there, and who have a guardian who wants them to be there. The start applying in 3rd grade, and it takes 2 years to get into the school—they apply, are interviewed, their parents have to take courses to show that they will commit fully to the program—from the smallest thing like making sure the boys get to school on time to overseeing their homework completion.. The state does not provide buses because it’s considered a private school. Transportation costs are often an issue. I have been working with the legislative arm (Maryland Catholic Conference) to get the bus situation rectified. We are also trying to get legislation that would set up a commission to grant tax credits for qualified 501(c)3 groups that would collect funds from taxpayers and then they will dole out the money to impoverished children in schools like Saint Ignatius.
We take boys who at the time they come to us in 5th grade, statistics show, that only 46% of them would graduate from high school. We graduate close to 100% from HS and have a 90% college attendance rate and better than an 80% graduation rate. They receive scholarships to almost every private school in the area. Students have graduated from the program and have become teachers, professionals, and Board members. Many community members sponsor students for 4 years, often setting up LLCs and sharing the sponsorships. Sponsors attend many of the programs at the school. The science programs offered have become increasingly complex and our students are really enjoying the challenges. The community changes for the better when our graduates come home and pay forward what they have received. This is the Ignatian concept of becoming “Men for others”.
What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?
There was a student who is on the board now who I once tutored; I helped him with some writing assignments. He was shy in 6th grade, and now has his Ph.D. from Stanford. I remember his grandmother used to come pick him up. I was interviewing him during his 2nd year teaching at American University, and we met with him at Marie Louis on Charles Street; when our meeting was done I offered him a ride to the train station. He said I can’t go back to DC yet because my grandmother knows my every move and if I don’t go see her she will chase me down. It is that kind of parenting that makes for the most successful students.
If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?
I would try to make it a priority to obtain more funding to follow the graduates when they leave. They run into trouble when they get admitted to the Gilmans, Loyolas etc.– but then the school will say they can only give 3 half scholarships but the family can’t afford the other half. Sometimes they end up in a far less challenging school. If we had the support funds we could at least continue their development.