Ravens DT Michael Pierce Settling In At Training Camp

The Baltimore Ravens were without one of their key defensive players when training camp started. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce was held from practice during minicamp because of weight issues. He made it his mission to come back for training camp ready to go.

Pierce reportedly shed between 20 and 30 pounds before reporting to training camp. The 2019 season is a pivotal one for Pierce as he is entering a contract year after signing with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2016.

He passed the conditioning test and took part in the first Ravens practice of training camp. Getting to the point of being able to pass the test didn’t go unnoticed by head coach John Harbaugh.

“I’m very impressed with the progress Michael Pierce has made. He’s lost a lot of weight. He lost the bad weight, not the muscle,” Harbaugh said. “He passed the conditioning test, and I think that’s quite an accomplishment.”

There aren’t many big men who can squat 725 pounds and do a perfect cartwheel. That’s the kind of freakish athlete that Pierce is. With the minicamp and conditioning test ordeal behind him, Pierce can now go back to focusing using his rare blend of size, strength and athleticism to help Baltimore’s defense.

Normally a six-foot, 340-pound man would be hard to overlook. But since Pierce doesn’t fill up a box score, his impact tends to go unnoticed by casual observers of the game.

Pierce is a space-eating defensive tackle for the Ravens. He causes traffic jams at the line of scrimmage. The inside linebackers for the Ravens benefit from Pierce taking up blockers that would normally be an obstacle for them. They get clean, free shots at running backs allowing the linebackers to make plays on the ball.

The Ravens defense lost some of their leaders to free agency during the offseason. Pierce is in a position to be one of the new leaders on the defense. He is earning that title by being the first in line for drills.

Pierce apologized to his teammates for what happened in minicamp. Now he is letting his effort throughout practice speak for him and it shows he was sincere. Now, that’s a leader!

RFL Museum Hosts Author Of “Notes From A Young Black Chef,” In Celebration Of Baltimore’s Restaurant Week

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will host Chef Kwame Onwauchi for an author talk and book signing in honor of Baltimore Restaurant Week on Thursday, August 8, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.

Onwauchi is the author of “Notes from a Young Black Chef” and recently received the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Onwachi will share the story of his culinary coming-of-age as told in his inspiring memoir at the Lewis.

Kwame Onwuachi is the executive chef at Kith/Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington, D.C.

Onwuachi trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has opened five restaurants before turning thirty. A former Top Chef contestant, he has been named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs and a “30 Under 30” honoree by both Zagat and Forbes.

Notes From a Young Black Chef will be available for sale in the Museum Shop. This event is free to the public with museum admission. To RSVP, visit: lewismuseum.org.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is Maryland’s largest museum dedicated to the State’s African American experience. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum engages visitors through its permanent and special exhibitions, community events and family programming.

Volunteer Maryland “Class 31” Celebrates Graduation

— Volunteer Maryland announced the graduation of Volunteer Maryland Class 31 last week. This service year, the graduating class consisted of 24 AmeriCorps members, also known as Volunteer Coordinators, who worked to mobilize and manage more than 6,100 volunteers to serve 51,882 service hours in communities throughout Maryland. Among 6,100 volunteers more-than-half, were newly mobilized by the Class 31 during this service year.

“Since 1993, a diverse group of people have been coming together to serve Maryland through the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps with Volunteer Maryland. We are proud of the work that Volunteer Maryland Class 31 has accomplished in communities throughout Maryland,” said Nicki Fiocco, Director of Volunteer Maryland. “By helping our service sites to grow and expand through volunteer management, our members are leaving a lasting legacy at their site. Sites will continue to bear fruit for years to come, improving our communities and addressing issues important to Marylanders.”

Established in 1992, Volunteer Maryland places Volunteer Coordinators in partner organizations to increase the efficiency, development, and scope of volunteer programs. In 1993, Volunteer Maryland began utilizing funding from the Corporation for National Community Service to recruit AmeriCorps members to serve as Volunteer Coordinators.

Since its inception, Volunteer Maryland has built more than 350 partnerships with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and schools across Maryland. Volunteer Maryland places and trains more than 700 Volunteer Coordinators to bridge the gap between communities facing critical problems and citizens who want to volunteer to solve those problems.

Volunteer Maryland is currently accepting applications for the 2019-2020 service year. For more information on serving as a Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps member, visit: http://volunteer.maryland.gov/acm/.

What We Can Learn From Schools That Educate Military Children

It’s not uncommon for military programs to be adopted for use in civilian life. Schools in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that have some of the highest percentages of military children in the country, are doing an incredible job helping those students cope with the added stresses of having parents in the military. Other schools and communities can learn from Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

I recently spent a day with families and educators from Shelton Park Elementary School. About 70 percent of the students there were children with a parent in the military or a defense contractor. There is a large population of special forces personnel in Virginia Beach and at any moment, a parent can be called on for deployment to a warzone. Their families often do not know to where they are deployed, which compounds stress and anxiety.

A unique program in Virginia Beach public schools includes 28 Military Family Life Counselors, who work closely with schools’ staff and families to support students. One mother we spoke with, talked about the fears her five-year-old daughter had while her father was deployed. After a particularly bad night, the mother let the school staff and the assigned counselor know that her daughter was going through a very difficult time. However, mom was able to send her daughter to school knowing that the school community would play an active role in engaging with her to help her work through her fears. The Virginia Beach counselors, funded under a program by the U.S. Department of Defense, are licensed and specialize in child and youth behavioral issues.

It’s not just supporting students through the stress of having a parent deployed where Virginia Beach schools excel in supporting this population of students. A report from The Lexington Institute looks at how schools and districts with high percentages of military families are supporting students, who, on average, move every 2-3 years to far and distant places. Uprooting and moving so often is disruptive to a child’s educational progress, and it can stall their academic achievement.

However, moving is not the only thing that can disrupt educational progress. Low teacher retention, frequent absenteeism, and unsafe school environments are all factors that can also inhibit academic progress.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal education law, requires schools and districts to have a well-rounded curriculum. Too many schools have eliminated music, art, drama, and essential academic courses like social studies and science to give more instruction time to reading and math. Math and reading are critical, but these other subjects enrich the learning experience and help make a well-rounded, whole human being.

From the very beginning, students at Shelton Park Elementary School are exposed to art, music, leadership strategies. The well-rounded curriculum combined with support from the military counselors creates a school environment that can— and should— be modeled across the country.

As a lifetime educator, I am inspired to see how Virginia Beach Public Schools are supporting military children. They are truly a model to be emulated by any school, because every kid—military or not-deserves this kind of high-quality support and instruction.

Dr. Elizabeth Primas is the ESSA Program Manager for the National Newspapers Publishers Association.

Will Smith Chosen As New Executive Director Of Belair-Edison Neighborhoods

— Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. (BENI) Board of Directors announced that Will Smith is the organization’s new executive director. Beginning his tenure at BENI in 2013, Smith built upon his neighborhood revitalization experience while continuing to transform Belair-Edison into a healthy community where residents and local businesses can thrive.

“After an extensive search for a new executive director, we determined that the best candidate was already a member of the BENI family,” said Tanya R. Dorsey, president of the Board of Directors. “Will, has been a true asset to Belair-Edison, bringing a wealth of knowledge of both the organization and the community, building upon decades of successes throughout the neighborhood.”

Smith joined BENI as the Community Engagement Specialist and has grown throughout his tenure to also serve as Main Streets Director, Schools Liaison and most recently Community Development Manager.

Born and raised in Baltimore City, Smith brings 20 years of experience in the private and non-profit sectors to the organization. He has been a partner in several small business ventures, including a convenience store and a landscaping company. With his “Will-Talk” radio show on WOLB-AM, Smith gave a platform to budding entrepreneurs, business owners, community activists, and community-based organizations to help facilitate increased engagement throughout the city.

“I am honored to be selected to continue to build upon the long legacy of success of BENI,” said Will Smith, Executive Director, Belair-Edison Neighborhoods Inc. “We have created a great deal of positive momentum in the last several years along our Main Street corridors, with residents and our community art installations, creating homebuyer incentives and building stronger relationships in the real estate industry and I look forward to expanding this work.”

In 2017, Smith was awarded the Mayors Community Engagement Citation and the Community Champion Award from the Belair Edison Community Association, as well as many other City Citations.

Located in the heart of northeast Baltimore City, Belair-Edison features an abundance of accessible green-space with the adjacent 300-acre Herring Run and Clifton Parks – offering a diverse, welcoming and family-friendly neighborhood experience. With its picturesque front-porch rowhomes and premier location, just a 15-minute commute to downtown and minutes to major highways, Belair-Edison is a growing neighborhood of choice.

Smith will lead a staff of 11 people and oversee just under a $1M annual operating budget in a community of 18,000 residents. He has developed and grown several relationships with key stakeholders, as well as the community, and will continue to expand upon these critical partnerships.

A partnership with St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center began with combating block-busting and predatory lending in the community in the late 1980s. That work has translated into a highly successful program where over 200 homes have been acquired and renovated by St. Ambrose and sold to new homebuyers throughout the Belair-Edison neighborhood.

“The Belair-Edison neighborhood is vital to the overall health and future of our City,” said Gerard Joab, Executive Director, St Ambrose Housing Aid Center, “and we are proud to be part of the continued renaissance of this community and partner with BENI, delivering regional and national resources to support community development priorities.”

High-impact work through the community will continue under Smith’s leadership. BENI is acquiring a property on Belair Road that was heavily damaged by fire several years ago and has been an eyesore to the Main Street corridor since they will be working with a development partner on the much-needed renovations.

$86 Million In Scholarships Awarded For 2019-2020 Academic Year

— Governor Larry Hogan announced that the Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) awarded approximately 46,000 students more than $86 million to attend one of Maryland’s postsecondary institutions.

“These scholarships will provide thousands of Marylanders with access to affordable higher education, helping to keep our students prepared for the jobs of the 21st century,” said Governor Hogan. “Our administration remains committed to funding higher education opportunities so Marylanders can take advantage of all the opportunities our state has to offer.”

The money, which will be used by students in the 2019-2020 academic year, comes from the Howard P. Rawlings Educational Excellence Awards (EEA) Program, comprised of the Educational Assistance Grant and Guaranteed Access Grant programs.

“The EEA program is the state’s largest need-based aid program, providing financial assistance to Maryland students with the greatest financial need,” said Dr. James D. Fielder, the Maryland Higher Education Commission Secretary. “Governor Hogan continues to show his ongoing commitment to increasing student success with less debt by providing funding and offering innovative solutions that positively impact our students and graduates.”

Of the 46,000 awards, 2,800 received an award that covers 100 percent of their financial need, with a maximum award amount up to $19,100. Other grant and scholarship awards in other programs will be announced as they are awarded by OSFA during mid to late summer.

Each year, OSFA is responsible for granting awards to more than 60,000 students in state grant and scholarship programs, with this year’s expenditure totaling $136 million.