Member Profile- Glenelg Country School

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Glenelg Country School, a PK-12 independent school located in Ellicott City, Maryland, is committed to the notion of innovative education emphasizing academic excellence, healthy living and strong community relationships.  As part of this commitment, GCS has created a three year, service-learning, leadership partnership between its middle school students and the middle school students at the Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts in Baltimore City. Developing a strong relationship and collaborative accomplishments, the students from each school secure a firm foundation for success in a multicultural world.
With its mission to develop effective change agents in their respective communities, the Maryland Youth Partners in Change (MYPIC) program was launched with the support of the Baltimore based Goldsmith Foundation in 2003. Thirty-two students (sixteen coming from each school) participate in the monthly sessions from September to May. The curriculum consists of five standards in Personal Development, Community Building, Citizenship, Career and Academic Learning with corresponding grade level benchmarks for each. MYPIC effectively builds a cultural bridge between privileged, suburban, private school students and urban, challenged public school students.
Bridging communities through service learning and leadership development
Each MYPIC cohort forms in sixth grade when eight girls and eight boys from each school are brought together once a month for shared learning experiences.  Focused on building trust and relationships, the first year of MYPIC is spent on team building activities. In addition to these relationship strengthening exercises, the students also experience different venues in the Baltimore metropolitan area that introduce them to career possibilities and potential areas of further study such as marine science, historical preservation and medical research. The year ends with the students partnering in small groups to complete a service learning research project on an animal species and showcasing it to the public at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
Seeds of compassion are cultivated in seventh grade as the cohort focuses its attention on homelessness.  Hearing testimonials on life changing decisions made by recovering addicts at the Baltimore Station, a shelter for homeless men, exposes the students to the importance of decision making. The MYPIC students interact with the residents and gain a perspective on some of the causes of homelessness.  As a continuation of this study, groups of four students then study one of eight causes of homelessness: domestic violence, addiction, mental health, natural disaster, physical health, unemployment, unsupervised youth and unaffordable housing. Through research, site visits and interviews with professionals associated with the homeless, the students develop a deeper understanding of some of the situations that can cause homelessness. Armed with research and skills in interviewing and public speaking from Dale Carnegie experts, the students culminate the year by making a tri-fold display board on their cause of homelessness and present it to the Mayor and City Council President in the Rotunda of Baltimore City Hall.
In the eighth grade, the MYPIC students expand on their relationship building skills and their knowledge of community needs in a program oriented toward leadership and community service. The eighth graders attain fundamentals of leadership by learning from an IMAX movie on Shakleton's expedition to the Antarctic and engage in team building and communication activities at the Maryland Science Center. They then proceed to different sites in both Howard County and Baltimore City to practice their collaborative leadership with scavenger hunts and to contribute their perspective on exhibits to education staff members at venues experienced in the sixth grade. The MYPIC students also collaborate on community service projects such as helping to establish a playground in a low income neighborhood. This year will culminate with students working on an urban mural and landscaping an adjacent, vacant lot in Baltimore City.
A three-year experience with intentional outcomes
While the positive benefits of the MYPIC program are obvious, they are also intentional.  Using local and national standards for middle school students as well as collaborating with Roland Park Middle School, a progressive and model school in Baltimore City, David Weeks, Founder and Director of MYPIC, developed specific benchmarks for its program.  And as the program grows and progresses, these benchmarks are examined and redefined to accurately provide a framework for evaluating the success of this program. The structure of the program also complies with Maryland's best practices in service-learning. The Maryland Youth Partners in Change intends to help each cohort: 
  • Learn leadership skills and build self-esteem.
  • Become aware of valuable resources in the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan area.
  • Be exposed to career opportunities in a variety of fields of work.
  • Develop compassion for community issues and understand how to address community needs.
  • Apply critical thinking skills to meet real-world needs.
  • Become effective communicating and working with people of different perspectives.
  • Acquire workplace skills, especially in project management.
  • Engage in meaningful community service projects.
MYPIC Program Director
David Weeks 
Global Education and Community Service Program Director
David Weeks is the Global Education and Community Service Program Director at the Glenelg Country School in Howard County, Maryland. He is also a Service Learning Fellow for the Maryland State Department of Education since 2010. His community service work with students has been recognized by the Howard County Government's Martin Luther King Holiday Commission's Award in 2009 and by the Howard County Community Action Council's Humanitarian Award in 2011. As the founder and current shepherd of the MYPIC program, he has attained great satisfaction when MYPIC graduates continue to dedicate themselves to serving their respective communities in high school and beyond. He claims, "Cultivating a service ethic in the transformative years of middle school will foster an individual's community welfare caring in adulthood."

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