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UMBC, Northrop Grumman to invest $1.6 million in South Baltimore school

UMBC, defense contractor to build new learning center at city school

Two of Maryland's leading science and technology institutions are joining forces to invest $1.6 million in manpower and resources to enhance learning at a Southwest Baltimore school.

The University of Maryland Baltimore County and Northrop Grumman will build a state-of-the-art center focused on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, a so-called STEAM education grouping, at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School.

The center will provide "robust" curriculum-based resources and professional development for teachers, according to the funders. It will also offer adult education services for residents of surrounding communities.

The center is scheduled for completion in January 2018 and will replace a vacant recreation center at the school. It will have science labs, multipurpose spaces, and a digital video and sound studio. It also will offer parent resource rooms and meeting spaces.

A host of political, community and business leaders gathered at Lakeland on Thursday to announce the partnership between Northrop, an aerospace and defense company that employs 10,000 at its Maryland location, and UMBC. Both institutions have separately teamed with Lakeland — for example Northrop sponsors its food pantry, and UMBC staff and professors have worked with student programs for three years. Organizers said the joint effort is unique because it will create a pipeline to college and a career.

"These children are going to one day be at UMBC, and then they're going to be at Northrop Grumman," said Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC.

Hrabowski said the partnership would help ensure that students from Lakeland, where one-third of the school's 800 students are learning English as a second language, will be able to compete for college admissions and jobs at the two institutions. The best-prepared students at UMBC are foreign-born, or have foreign parents, he said,

Hrabowski said the goal is to "take children from any background, and make them the best in the world."

"And what does it take? It takes a village. It takes our understanding of hard work," he said.

Gloria Flach, chief operating officer of Northrop Grumman, said the company chose Lakeland because it was evident the school has a strong leader, backed by an enthusiastic community.

"We are intentional about the programs we select because we want to make impact," Flach said.

Political leaders held up the partnership as an example of how American students can become more globally competitive.

"It's so important that we identify younger children who have the aptitude to do what we're doing here today," said Rep. C..A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "We've got to stop the talking, get in the community, get to these kids and give opportunity."

As part of the initiative, the UMBC Choice program at Lakeland, which helps students overcome personal problems at school, will be expanded to Francis M. Wood Excel Academy and Benjamin Franklin High School, which many Lakeland students go on to attend. It provides "wraparound services" such as home visits, transportation, classroom coaching and other services that eliminate barriers to education.

During the event Jamal Karim, a Lakeland seventh-grader, showcased an audio story he produced using a recorder and an editing program called Audacity.

He was excited about the possibility of doing more advanced projects in the new STEAM center.

"I caught on to this real fast," he said. "Now I can show other people what I did, and do better things."

Syrai Hearns, a fifth-grader, said she liked seeing so many influential people help her school.

"I think it's nice because people are spending their time to come to our school and give us stuff," she said. "I think it's cool to get new stuff for our school so we don't run out."

Lakeland Principal Najib Jammal said the school has made great strides in recent years and the new partnership would further the school's success.

"We realize we are nowhere near where we want to be," Jammal said. "It takes more. It takes coming together as a community. Today symbolizes a milestone for us."

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