Digital Harbor High School student creates ‘Back to School’ logo for BCPS

The Baltimore City Public School system does not always receive the most positive feedback due to a lack of programming to productively foster educational growth for the city’s students.

Digital Harbor High School Senior Tyjay Jenkins as he prepared to DJ the senior prom.

Digital Harbor High School Senior Tyjay Jenkins as he prepared to DJ the senior prom.

Oftentimes, youth experience distractions that may lure them from the importance of furthering their education. However, despite the odds, many of the city’s youth are defying those odds and are headed for brighter futures.

Tyjay Jenkins, an honors student at Digital Harbor High School is breaking barriers and recently created a logo for Baltimore City Public Schools for the upcoming 2016 – 2017 school year.

Born and raised in West Baltimore to loving parents Tasha and Jerome Jenkins, Tyjay grew up in a very nurturing environment, which often protected him from distractions that would deter his focus.

“I feel as though Baltimore City Public Schools are structured in a way to help you succeed [but] you just have to be willing to maintain your focus. Going through middle school and high school, I felt everything that was offered to me [has] prepared me for the next level,” Tyjay said.

Although Jenkins has had a good experience with the city’s school system, he believes that changes could be made to help more students succeed academically.

“I feel there could be more academic structure in the classrooms. Sometimes, I feel in some of my classes there could be more interactions from the teachers with students [who are] having a hard time understanding that particular subject,” said Tiyon, Tyjay’s younger brother. Tiyon will attend Douglas High School as a freshman this year.

Tyjay has excelled at Digital Harbor High School. He has earned various certificates in computer programs, including: Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Creative Cloud. He was the only student at Digital Harbor to receive two Adobe certifications.

Digital Harbor High School has also allowed Tyjay to present his creative talents as the school’s premiere DJ. He has mixed for the junior and senior prom, as well as annual homecoming festivities. This experience has inspired Jenkins to pursue a career in music production and graphic design professionally.

“There were only a few students who joined the club, but mostly myself and another student, Austin attended regularly. Mr. Gavin, our former English teacher at the school, managed the club and made sure we had the proper equipment to perform at events,” Tyvan said.

It is programs like the ‘DJ Club’ that not only keeps students active creatively, but also lends a hand in cultivating the careers of future leaders.

Tyjay, a senior, recently completed a summer job assignment with “YouthWorks” as a media producer for the Leadership in Media Production Program. The goal is for students to learn, develop and produce projects such as public service announcements, news reports and promotional spots for Baltimore City Public Schools on Educational Channel 77.

Under the leadership of Jim Mahjou- bian, the video production coordinator, students created advertisements and promotional “Back to School” content for the upcoming 2016-17 school year. The logo created by Jenkins is featured on Baltimore City Public School’s website homepage and Facebook page.

“I believe if students continue to strive for the best, opportunities will present [themselves]. Nothing ever comes to a person unless they make it known that they can persevere through any challenge that comes their way. Regardless of the circumstances, never let anything stop you.”

Baltimore native goes from extra to successful actor

Growing up in West Baltimore, Jerome Ro Brooks always dreamed of seeing his name in bright lights, however, it wasn’t until leaving his hometown that the trajectory of his career changed.

Born Jerome Curtis Brooks Jr., the actor was always encouraged at a young age by family members to utilize his musical and acting gifts. As a result, the leading man soon encountered early success when he got together with a group of friends and formed the rap and dance group “Twice As Nice.” The group performed regularly, which eventually led to an opportunity to showcase their talents at the famed Apollo Theater. As Brooks continued to set his sights on higher goals, acting inevitably became his destiny.

With over 20 years experience in the entertainment industry, Brooks was compelled to write, “How to Go from Extra to Actor,” a pocket guide for aspiring actors. Released in December 2014, Brooks said, “When I first started out in this business I felt there were limited resources for me to get the guidance and information I needed as an aspiring actor. So I always told myself, once I got to a certain level of success that I would share what I learned along my journey as well as answer some of the questions that I had starting out in this industry.”

The book provides information about headshots, how to become eligible to join the actors union, as well as tips for auditioning.

Brooks who started his acting career as an extra said, “Many of the world’s most famous actors started as background talent so I just wanted to put out there that starting as background talent is not a bad thing, [as] long as you have a plan. It is my hope that readers will utilize the advice in this book to avoid some of the pitfalls that many up and coming actors endure.”

The happily married husband considers his wife, children, other family and friends as his biggest support system but more importantly, Brooks acknowledges that his biggest strength lies in his relationship with God.

“Even when it gets difficult and I want to give up, I think about how far God has brought me so I have to keep pushing,” Brooks said. “My neighborhood where I grew up— Edmondson Avenue and Monroe Street— is also who I do this for. I am who I am because of my city and where I come from. That’s my hood.”

Besides publishing his book, Brooks is also enjoying success playing the role of “Michael” in the Tyler Perry series “The Haves and The Have Nots” on the OWN Network.

“Working with Tyler Perry was the highlight of booking this job. It was also a major highlight for my career as an actor. There are many actors in this business who desire to work with Mr. Perry so having this opportunity is a dream come true. The role as “Michael” helped solidify who Jerome Ro Brooks is. I’ve been blessed to have worked with other networks, but this show helped [to] establish my name.”

Jerome Ro Brooks’ natural talent and humble nature is the perfect recipe for a leading man in the entertainment industry today.

The book “How to Go from Extra to Actor” is available for purchase at or www.barnes Also, a PDF version is available at

Ben Carson Reading Rooms offer youth a haven to read books

— The impact of social media and video games has arguably deterred youth from focusing on traditional learning experiences. Fortunately, the Ben Carson Reading Project provides students opportunities to engage in imaginative thinking the old fashioned way by reading books.

Two young students reading in the Ben Carson Reading Room at John Eager Howard Elementary School in Baltimore.

(Courtesy Photo)

Two young students reading in the Ben Carson Reading Room at John Eager Howard Elementary School in Baltimore.

Launched in 2000, the Ben Carson Reading Project was developed to support early grade literacy by promoting leisure reading as a key to unlocking a child’s full learning potential. Progressively growing over the years, the number of reading rooms has increased to a total of 118 sites in 16 different states across the country. To date, 66 percent of the reading rooms are largely at elementary schools located in lower income, inner city communities. In Baltimore City, there are 29 reading rooms located in area schools. A Ben Carson Reading Room opened at Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis on December 13, 2013. The project was created through the Carson Scholars Fund, which also awards scholarships to students who have embraced high levels of academic excellence and community service.

Reading Room coordinator Tammy Blazenyak has witnessed countless testimonies of the positive result of having the reading rooms on site. She says, “Many times when we talk to young students we hear ‘I don’t like to read.’ In our experience, some students don’t like to read because they find the text too difficult or not of interest. Ben Carson Reading Rooms expose children to numerous books at varying reading levels. Frequently after the reading room opens, the same students will tell us how much they love to read. While all children enjoy visiting the Ben Carson Reading Room, reluctant and struggling readers benefit most from this literary source.”

Dr. Carson acknowledges that reading was very impactful throughout his childhood and was an activity, which was strongly encouraged by his mother at a young age. He also heavily credits reading as the catalyst for his success.

“Ben Carson Reading Rooms are a safe, enjoyable oasis for these students to engage in reading. I also believe this is a space for children’s imaginations to run free and they can be exactly who they are— children,” said Amy Warner, executive director for The Carson Scholar Fund who delights in the certainty of knowing that students can go the reading rooms to relax and enjoy quiet time while reading.

As co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, Dr. Carson’s wife Candy Carson shares his vision wholeheartedly and is very committed to the project as well. Without a doubt Dr. Caron’s vision has provided the gift of reading to children everywhere.

To learn more about the Carson Scholars Fund and other initiatives including the Ben Carson Reading Rooms, visit:

Songstress Ledisi to light up stage at Pier 6 Pavilion

With her fifth major studio album, “The Truth” and headlining a 30 city tour, it’s no surprise that eight time Grammy nominated singer Ledisi is shining like gold. Over the past year, the singer has embraced quite a few changes both professionally and personally that have added her already admirable career.

Ledisi is preparing to give it her all on stage at Pier 6 Pavilion in downtown Baltimore on Sunday, May 4, 2014. Scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. the concert will also feature performances from Leela James and The Robert Glasper Experiment.

It is evident the talented singer’s newly found happiness radiates through her spirit and performances. “I am freer at my shows this time around because I love all the music from this album and the new changes I have added into my performances. I’m dancing more with great choreography, jumping around on stage and just having fun. It’s not that I move around at previous shows, but now I have this completeness and I’m in a different space.”

The energy is also felt by her fans who eagerly attend to catch the good vibes. “The fans can sense my happiness and feel the music with me. However, what is most important is that I’ve overcome so much throughout my journey and now I’m on the other side. This is my truth.”

Always humbled and loyal to her fans, Ledisi took a moment to take a picture after a concert in Memphis, Tennessee with a fan who waited patiently to capture a memorable moment with the star. Ledisi promises to bring the same liveliness to her stop in Baltimore.

“When I come to Baltimore I’m going to give all of me as I have done in every other city. When artists perform in Baltimore, they have to bring their A game— so Baltimore I’m bring you my all.”

For more information about Ledisi and her tour dates, visit: You may also follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @ledisi.

Baltimore’s own Stanley Alston: Singing around the world

— Baltimore City is widely known for being home to some of today’s hottest stars, including actress Jada Pinkett-Smith and comedian/actress Monique who both speak proudly of their “charm city” roots.

However, there are less known but equally talented people from the area including Baltimore’s own Stanley Earl Alston.

Born and raised in Edmondson Village, Alston traces his love of music and performing back to his childhood. “I got my start in music at Fulton Street Baptist Church and from there I joined a theater program at the age of eight. I realized early that people could hear my loud voice and enjoyed my sound.”

At 12, Alston started singing with a local band in the basement of his parent’s home, which later led to performing at local venues around Baltimore City. The group soon began performing across Maryland and along the East Coast. The hard work paid off landing the group as a opening act for the popular R&B singing soul group “The Manhattans.”

The journey continued to evolve for Alston as he later formed his own band “Opus Nuevo” opening for other musical greats such as Al Greene and Phyllis Hyman. Despite their good luck, Alston confesses the group still could not find their break through hit song to capture the attention of the mainstream music industry.

Eventually Alston embarked on a solo career and has since performed for Off-Broadway Shows in New York City, touring internationally as well as recording six albums over his impressive career. Alston is currently performing with Cuba Gooding Sr. with a buzz worthy musical group, The Main Ingredient.

When he is not on performing, Alston contributes his time working with youth. “I enjoy talking and listening to our young people. Some of the kids ask me to sign their autograph and tell me I’m a star, but I tell them they are the real stars, which is why I’m here.”

Alston recently released an album titled “Unveiled,” which yet again proves why the talented singer has remained consistent throughout his career. To learn more about tour dates and performances visit:

Author reflects on his journey in ‘Lessons of Redemption’

— No matter what circumstances one endures in life, there is always an opportunity make the best out of any situation. Author Kevin Shird is a testament to how through determination and growth we can all strive for a better life.

In his book, “Lessons of Redemption” Shird shares issues that plagued him throughout his life including a twelve year jail sentence as well as growing up with a father who battled chronic alcoholic addiction.

Shird started to write the book five years ago, but held out on publishing the book until he was recently encouraged to do so. He believes through his own story his new book will offer inspiration to men and boys that you can turn your life around.

“We have a generation of men whom we’ve lost to incarceration, violence and crime. I am a survivor of the drug war and I am a person who has not always made the best decisions. However, despite it all I am aware that my story can help someone else because who I was, is not who am I am today.”

The Baltimore native is also president and co-founder of the Mario Do Right Foundation, a 501 (C) 3 organization whose mission is to mentor and support children of substance abusing parents.

Debra Rubino, director of strategic communications at Open Society Institute-Baltimore met Shird through his work with the Do Right Foundation. “It’s an incredible story and I feel he makes a very creditable role model for young people. He had the misfortune of being in a pretty violent world growing up, but you would never know by meeting him today what he endured and the tribulations that he went through.”

“Lessons of Redemption” is available for purchase at

Makeup Artist Danielle Lewis: Living her dream

— From the budding “fashionista” to the working mom, beauty editor and makeup artist Danielle Lewis offer tips for women to look and feel their best. Born and raised in West Baltimore near Coppin State University, Lewis’ fascination with makeup started when she was a teenager and later blossomed into a career.

After graduating from Baltimore City College, Lewis furthered her education at Frostburg State University where she began to do her friends’ makeup for parties and events. In 2007, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Frostburg with concentrations in marketing and advertising.

After college Lewis continued to master her craft while attending the Bennett Career Institute in Washington, D.C. where she earned certification in makeup artistry. Lewis said her humble beginnings helped her to become successful. “For me it was important to do makeup for and on everybody whether it was for my girlfriends, weddings or photo shoots,” she said. “Wherever I felt my talents were useful I was there, even accepting work that was unpaid. Ultimately, I knew what my goals were, but I also understood that I had to start somewhere.”

In 2011, Lewis launched a lip gloss line called Lip Lustre that was featured in Sister 2 Sister Magazine on various occasions, and in 2013 the product was featured on

Lewis’ passion and drive are evident in everything she does. She appears regularly on WBFF Fox 45 as beauty contributor and recently accepted a role as the beauty editor for Radio-One station 92Q offering tips and advice to women seeking to enhance their looks with makeup.

Lewis serves as a role model and inspiration to others who aspire to pursue a career in the beauty industry. “My advice to anyone who is interested in working in this field is just jump out there and go for it. However, it is important to network and build a dream team with individuals who share and understand your passions.”

One of the members of Lewis’ dream team is her husband of five years, “[He] has hands down been my strongest supporter and I feel none of this would be possible if it was not for his loving support and encouragement,” she said. “At times when I have to travel for work, it is comforting to know that my husband is handling home and taking care of our beautiful daughter. In everything that I’ve been blessed to be a part of, I have to credit my husband for his support and other family members who stand behind me as well.”

In addition to her regular appearances on media platforms, Lewis is the senior editor-in-chief for her blog, “That Beauty Blog” where she doles out beauty advice on trends and products.

Lewis will host The Danielle Lewis Beauty “Real Women, Real Beauty” Workshop on Sunday, March 30 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Harris-Marcus Center located at 1947 Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore City. Registration is required to attend. For more information or to register to attend the “Real Women, Real Beauty” workshop, visit:

Winter Gala supports Refugee Youth Project

The Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project (RYP) sponsored a night of international cuisine, live performances and commemoration of the rich life and culture of Baltimore’s refugee community, Friday, February 21, 2014 at Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church in Baltimore.

The event, “Culture Clash: A Celebration of International Fusion” featured live jazz, classical and world music put on by Musicians of Mercy, a collective of over 70 independent musicians and artists from the Baltimore metropolitan area committed to restoring hope and unity by partnering with local and international charities. The collective was formed in January 2010 after the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Founded in 2003, the Refugee Youth Project is an after-school program for refugee youth from pre-K through the twelfth grade, which offers an environment for children from other countries an opportunity to enhance their literacy skills and knowledge of American culture.

RYP is a joint program of Baltimore City Community College and the International Rescue Committee. To date the program has served over 300 children with five site locations throughout Baltimore, including Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church where the gala was held.

Kursten Pickup, coordinator at RYP for six years is committed to the mission of the program. “I’m most passionate about bridging the cultural divide as well as meeting and building a relationship with the families,” she said. “The relationships I have built are life changing because I feel I’ve learned more from them perhaps they have learned from me.”

Students who participate in this program have left their native countries with family members in hopes of seeking a better life in the United States. Often times, families in these circumstances left their countries due to dangerous political, religious or social issues. RYP serves students from more than 17 different countries, including: Bhutan, Burma, The Congo, Eritrea and Iraq.

Kibret Bahre, a senior at Lansdowne High School is very thankful for the program that helped her family adapt to American culture. “I like how they teach us about this country and people of other cultures. The volunteers are very helpful with teaching us how to communicate better with others.” Kibret came to the United States three years ago with her mother and two brothers from Eritrea, a country in East Africa.

The RYP is funded by a grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s School Impact Grant. In addition, RYP has received donations from the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as well as Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

To learn more about the Refugee Youth Project visit:

Arena Players: Historical landmark still standing

— Baltimore City is a town filled with invaluable landmarks including the legendary statue of the late jazz singer Billie Holiday, which sits on Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore.

Though the location of Holiday’s statue is known nationally, there is also another historic landmark nearby— The Arena Players Theatre located at 801 McCulloh Street. It is the oldest continuously operating African American theater in the United States.

Arena Players, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization was established in 1953 and has served as a venue for African American Theater.


Founding Artistic Director Sam Wilson was instrumental in the success of the performances as well as the popularity of the theater. Wilson’s legacy and presence is still felt by those who had the opportunity to work with him.

Today, as black actors have more opportunities to perform at various venues, the theater is working hard to keep its doors open. Managing Director Rodney Orange who has worked at the theater for over 25 years said, ”It’s important for people to know that we are open, still exist and we have shows as well as programs running throughout the year. Arena Players has been a part of Baltimore for over 60 years and we not only desire for the surrounding communities to support the productions, but for persons who visit this city and want to see a great performance at a historic landmark.”

The theater runs several productions throughout the year as well as jazz and comedy shows, which take place every other month. It also offers programs for both children and adults who wish to perform. The Youth Theatre for children between 4-18 years old, offers performing arts classes such as drama, music and dance as well as theater production. Arena Players also offers its Studio 801 Program, a training and community outreach program for adults who want to perform.

Artistic Director Donald Owens who has been with the theatre since 1976 says that the theater’s stage has been graced by a multitude of dedicated actors throughout the years. “We have seen so many talented individuals come through here that are passionate about their craft and interestingly there have been a number of casts who travel from other cities to perform at this theatre,” he said. “Everyone on board is dedicated with the mindset that no matter what, it can be done. The key, however, is to give them something they can believe in.”

The next production to take place at the Arena Players is “Black Diamonds,” which will run February 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23, 2014. The production is a showcase of dramatic presentations about heroic and noteworthy African Americans who should never be forgotten— a look at everyone from sports figures to scientists and great thinkers.

To purchase tickets, to make a donation, or to volunteer at Arena Players, visit

B.o.B. releases third album ‘Underground Luxury’

Hip hop artist/songwriter B.o.B. recently traveled to Baltimore on a promotional tour to discuss his new album “Underground Luxury,” as well as new acting roles on two popular television series.

The six-time Grammy nominated artist’s personable and witty demeanor energized the room and set the tone for the Q & A session “Writer’s Rap,” a media event held in Baltimore County on December 20. The event was hosted by social media journalist Hiphopcleopatra in connection with WPB Radio and Atlantic Records.


B.o.B. came on the scene in 2006 with the release of his mixtape “Cloud 9” which caught the attention of the music industry. B.o.B. has since evolved into a celebrated talent who has worked with artists such as T-Pain and 2 Chainz. He also collaborated with pop singer/songwriter Taylor Swift for the song “Both of Us.”

Recognized in the industry as a hip hop artist who has topped pop charts, B.o.B. is admired by his peers and aspiring artists. The “Underground Luxury” album features guest appearances from recording artists Future, T.I., and Juicy J as well as Chris Brown. The album was released on Grand Hustle Records/Atlantic Records/Rebel Rock Entertainment.

“Underground Luxury” which was officially released on December 17 again reveals B.o.B.’s ability to connect with listeners through his music and creative lyrical abilities. He said despite humble beginnings in North Carolina he always had ambition. “What has kept me centered was the fact that I always dreamed big and I didn’t limit my dreams based on my surroundings,” he said. “I set my mind on achieving goals outside of my comfort zone and limits. That’s what I push for and will continue to push for.”

In addition to his to new album, B.o.B. will appear on the BET Network series “The Game” as well as VH1 Network “Single Ladies” series.

To learn more about upcoming tours and appearances visit: