Every day, kids in Maryland are at risk. These are kids who slip through the cracks, kids who, if given appropriate and individualized support, can be successful. That problem is one that a team at UMBC is trying to address through the Choice Program. The program’s mission is two-fold: it strives to invoke change and inspiration into lives of Maryland’s at-risk youth, and it also helps recent UMBC graduates become agents of change in our community.
“Every child of any race needs that village, that community to support him or her,” says UMBC president Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. That village is what Choice tries to provide through initiatives like the Intensive Advocacy Program (IAP), which provides a cost-efficient and effective alternative to the incarceration of youth. Through this program Choice partners with the Department of Juvenile Services to provide services like around-the-clock crisis intervention, legal advocacy, curfew checks, and structural and educational activities. Additionally, the Choice Program strives to keep children out of foster care by preserving the family unit through intensive mediation and informal counseling.
Through a partnership with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, the program provides parental support; links to individual, group, and family counseling; and educational support services such as school visits, attendance monitoring, and school visits.
Another initiative is the Choice Jobs Program, which gives teens and young adults real-world work experience at the Choice Program’s Flying Fruit Fantasy stand in Camden Yards, kiosk in the Inner Harbor, and cafe at the University of Baltimore Law School. In addition to on-the-job learning, Choice staff also provide participants with individual and group readiness training by teaching time management, job search and interviewing skills, and much more.
At the same time that these programs are providing much-needed support for Maryland’s at-risk youth, they’re also offering unique opportunities for UMBC graduates through the Choice Service Learning Fellowship. The Fellowship provides young professionals a launching pad for their careers by way of a stipend, extensive training, and professional experience. Instead of a job, Fellows are given a chance to learn about the environment and lifestyles of Maryland youth and how to bridge the gap between community, education, and the corporate world.
“The Choice Program takes experiential learning to the next level,” says Choice Program director LaMar Davis. “Our Community Service Learning Fellows are effecting real and meaningful change to our communities, while learning and becoming the next change agents who will lead our state in the 21st Century.”
The Choice Program at UMBC is effecting real change in our community, and they need your help to continue their critical work. Whether you give of your time and talent as a volunteer, or make a monetary donation to the program, your support will make a real and lasting impact on Maryland’s youth.
-Samantha Hanssen ’15