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Renewing our Vowels

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Renewing Our Vowels:  A study of life goals.


Truth can be a trickster, revealing itself in unexpected moments.

It snuck up on me at a Hope and Help Festival at Lafayette Park in Baltimore. 

Leaned up against the wall, was a line of boards with lines of sentences, each starting with  

“Before I Die I want to” followed by a line, waiting for a chalked in answer.

One of those answers made me smile, “Renew my marriage vowels.”IMG_9566f2 by .



Had someone misspelled “vows?” 

Was this a licensing requirement for a scrabble player? 

Or was this a deeper message about the purpose of our lives and relationships? 

Should we live focused on the I, our personal wants and goals, or centered on the U, helping others?

The answers were chalked in across the board, in a landslide victory for U.

Here is a sampling of the responses:

“Save as many lives as I can”

“See peace for all races!!!!”

“Cure all diseases”

“Heal Baltimore”

“Help the Poor”

“Buy a house for my mother”

“See my children be good people”

“Find Nemo”

“Save a life”

“Help people live a happy life and healthy life”

“Help people”

“World peace”

“Change the world”

“Create change in my community”

“Help more people love others”

“Health, library, recovery services, housing, etc. for Baltimore City.”

“Let people know they are loved.”

Those who view our society as based on acquiring material goods should note that no one wrote that they wanted a better car, more jewelry, or a bigger house for themselves.   

In fact, there only a few responses which even listed personal goals:

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“Skydive/deep sea diving”

“See Paris”

“Run a marathon”

“Be happy”


I’m saving a photo of this wish wall onto my desktop to remind me of the real news in our world.

That people are good and they are hoping to help others.


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Ideas, Quotes and Ah Ha’s! from the Baltimore Word Camp

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What is your thinking and decision making style?

Learning events are bright and wonderful–I find myself running about like a child with a butterfly net, trying to capture new ideas and brilliant insights.

Here are a few that I’ve caught for you at the Baltimore WordCamp:


Design is not making 1,000 ideas, design is making 1,000 ideas 1 idea.

 –Joe Stewart, Work and Company. 

   There is a great short video by Stewart at this link:




Designers are dealers of empathy.

–Joseph Carter-Brown

   Carter-Brown argued that designers were tasked with understanding the users of the product, and creating an experience which  helps them.


My dog has a twitter account


I didn’t ask whether this person wanted everyone to know this, so she and her dog will remain unnamed, but let’s just say that her dog tweets out messages when the formatting of the message is not certain. 


It was the worst thing that happened, until it was the best thing that happened.

     A reflection on how flunking out of school taught a presenter the lessons she needed to be successful in college and life.              Her advice for those starting their own companies?  “Embrace the failures.”


The definition of an entrepreneur? 

Someone who works 80 hours a week so they don’t have to work 40 hours a week.



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Baltimore WordPress Camp

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Baltimore WordPress Camp


It is a joy to see people teaching and learning together. 

The recent Baltimore WordPress Camp in Baltimore, Maryland was a great example of shared learning.   

My favorite part was the happiness bar–a table where you could ask experts your questions in one-on-one sessions. 

WordPress has a tremendous community of people driven to help each other maximize the power of the internet in sharing ideas and information.   The next local WordPress event is a meetup in Washington DC on Tuesday, October 17th at CHIEF.



Here are some images from the two day WordPress Camp in Baltimore. 

You can view additional images  by clicking on the following link:
Gallery Link
To download your images for your personal use, enter this password: WordCamp17Saturday

Students Test Their Schools

Students Test their Schools

Students at Patterson High School and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute are about to get new science and environmental health laboratories: their schools.

Johns Hopkins and Cool Green Schools are partnering on a community research grant to provide three classes of high school students with mentors, testing equipment, and funding so they can study and improve the health and learning conditions in their school environments. 

Students will work with Keith Madigan, a building engineer, to collect data on environmental conditions which affect their health and learning. They will monitor several conditions including: temperature, humidity, acoustics, lighting, asthma triggers, VOC’s, 2.5ppm and Co2.

Two public health students from Johns Hopkins, Arshdeep Kaur and Madison Dutson, will introduce students to environmental health research, demonstrate an environmental health study, and mentor students.

The high school students will propose and conduct their own research projects.  The grant provides students with testing equipment, $4,000 dollars to study and improve their school environments, and $1,000 dollars to communicate their findings.

This student research project will offer innovative STEM learning opportunities for students, but school facility staff, researchers and educators may learn important lessons from this project as well.  

Stay tuned, we will post updates on this project as it evolves.


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American Dreams

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    I know of a high school student who didn’t go to the hospital when his leg was broken, because he feared that his family would be deported.

    I know of a farmer who would call immigration to deport his workers so he wouldn’t have to pay their summer wages.


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     I’ve shivered in the predawn chill with migrant workers waiting to pick strawberries for a few dollars and a plywood bunk bed.


    It is time for our laws to become just to those who have fed us while struggling to feed themselves. 

    It is time to end this  nightmare for the dreamers.  –  Shan

Threading Baltimore Together

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Sarah Hemminger is out to save Baltimore the hard way–with the love and care of strangers. 

Since founding Thread in 2004 with her husband, Ryan, the program has been surrounding failing students with mentors to support them through their high school and college years.   

Selecting their students from the bottom 25 percent of their freshman class, few would expect these students to succeed.  But they do. 

Thread reports that 91 percent of the students in Thread for over five years graduated from high school, and 90 percent were accepted to college.

In a district where 30 percent of students fail to graduate, this success with students at the bottom quarter of their freshman class isn’t surprising.  It’s astounding. 

How do they create this success?

“It’s practicing change,” Hemminger states.

“We have found that the key to our young people turning into resilient self-motivated and responsible citizens is that the adults have to model that change.  Success is not just defined as your student succeeding–it’s as your own growth.  If we say we are going to take them to school, we have to show up and take them to school and be responsible ourselves.”

“If we want our students to not give up on themselves, we have to not give up on them.  And when we show up it’s not just about showing up.  It’s how we show up.  Are we vulnerable, do we actually share our challenges and our burdens with them?”

“Relationships are really hard,” Hemminger intones.  “They are not a quick fix, they’re messy, they take time, you have to pay attention to them and they don’t always feel great.”

But they work.

Edward Blackstone, a Thread student, said “When you walk in you have certain expectations.  The sooner you let go of those expectations and accept that person for what they are, and what they define as success, then you can walk out with a better relationship for both of you.” said Blackstone.

By the time his first mentor, a white straight A student, met him, Blackstone said he had dropped out of high school and then dropped out of college.  Blackstone challenged his mentor, wondering if her definition of success was more important than her love for him. It wasn’t.

 “The biggest thing that (she) did for me to grow as a person is that she said, “I will not force you to go to college.  If this is something that you want to do, I will help you along the way, but I will not do it for you.”

“That was the biggest motivating factor for me, because it made me get myself back in college.” Blackstone said.

The power of Thread, isn’t just academic success, but the personal and relational growth between the students and mentors as they redefine their own understandings and expectations through their care for each other.

We must remember, Hemminger says, “It is not just children living in poverty who need these deep interpersonal bonds.  We all do.” 

Can these supportive relationships bring together a city so long divided by race, religion and class?

We may soon find out.  With a goal of mentoring five percent of the students in Baltimore High Schools, Thread is putting their audacious success onto a fast track for more. 

Interested in joining? 

Get Involved

When School Budgets Don’t Add Up To Success

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A recent article in the Baltimore Sun, Small schools, high salaries behind district’s budget gap, pointed to higher costs of small schools and relatively higher costs of salaries for teachers in the district as the cause of the budget cuts and layoffs at Baltimore City Public Schools. This analysis demonstrates three major errors in how we develop school budgets.

First, we only calculate the cost side of the budget sheet.                                                                                                                                                                      In pointing out the slightly higher costs of small schools, the benefits of the close-knit school, high attendance rates and few suspensions are mentioned, but they are not assigned a value on the other side of the ledger.   If we don’t value high attendance and good school culture, what is it that we do value?  This cost-only accounting pervades our educational decisions, shuttering schools and programs that have real value for students and their success.

Second, comparing urban school district to suburban districts ignores the stark differences in their challenges.  This false comparison is invoked to justify giving urban districts fewer dollars than they need to help their students to succeed.  Can we sit every child in Maryland in a desk in a classroom for about the same price?  Sure.  But if we want our children in impoverished, highly segregated and unequal schools to achieve at levels we expect at suburban schools, we need different strategies and different budgets.

Third, we produce budgets that are unattached to goals.  A budget should be more than an apportionment of funds.  It should be an allocation of funds to achieve meaningful social goals. If we want to escape our legacy of failures in urban education, we have to invest in helping students escape the legacy of poverty and segregation.  We need to throw out the flawed accounting that perpetuates failure and invest in the education our children deserve. The waste in urban education is not small schools or teacher salaries. It’s that too many of our children are not prepared to reach their full potentials.

Students and teachers are working heroically to beat the odds against our streets. Is it too much to ask that we invest in them with the same eagerness that we invest in hotels, stadiums and development projects? This is the investment that will signal the comeback for Baltimore.


Science out of the Silos

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 The New Scientific Breakthroughs:

            How and Who


When we list our most important scientific breakthroughs, we usually note the discoveries of new evidence: ancient bones, DNA, black holes and medicines. 

But could our biggest recent breakthrough be not what have found, but how we collaborate in our research?

There is a new paradigm for scientific research that could change how we study, what we study, and whether our research is useful in solving the problems it identified. 

Community research grants offer communities and organizations a collaborative role in researching health and social problems, training in scientific investigations, and a shared communication of the results and implications of these studies. For communities, which have never been offered a role in research studies other than unpaid lab rats, this is a big deal.

These partnerships can help communities develop research and design interventions to improve the lives of their members and clients. For scientists, these partnerships offer keen insights into the social, economic and cultural factors which affect these issues and ongoing access to these programs for follow up research opportunities which can test the effect of interventions as they are implemented over time.

My favorite opportunity for these grants is at K-12 schools where students and college researchers could collaborate on issues which affect the health and learning of students, their families and communities.  These collaborations could help enrich the science curriculum, develop mentoring partnerships that create bridges to colleges, and help schools become a locus for building healthy communities.

I love science and scientists, but I will not miss the high holy research design where lab coats and equipment appeared and disappeared without a trace save for a mention in a scientific journal or conference. The job of science is to create better understanding and better outcomes. When it descends from the tower of science, it is a valuable tool of positive social change.

I’m excited to see what we will learn, when we are learning together.