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Good schools make good communities

Good public schools and housing and jobs are what it takes to make good communities everywhere.

As Baltimore seeks to recover from the tragic events of last spring, reasons for the city's children to feel optimistic seem scarce. But as they returned to school last month, new investment was arriving in underserved neighborhoods.

Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill, in partnership with the Family League of Maryland — which promotes data-driven, collaborative initiatives and leverages resources from different sources to support success in school — has received a significant federal grant to help take its campus forward.

The U.S. Department of Education's prestigious 21st Century Community Learning grant, of which the Cherry Hill campus is a beneficiary, will support academic enrichment in non-school hours for students. It also will engage families and the wider community by offering literacy support and other educational services.

The $75,000 involved is not the only investment in the future of our city that will benefit young scholars in historically neglected areas. The U.S. federal GEAR UP program, which is designed to increase the number of students from low-income families to be accepted to, and graduate from, post-secondary education has been awarded to Friendship Prep at Calverton.

The GEAR UP program also has helped students make site visits to dozens of college campuses — important learning trips that would not have taken place without this funding. These activities can be as critical as mentoring or tutoring. They reinforce the idea that college can be part of a student's future. Getting students to think of themselves as college bound changes the way they approach their schoolwork, and increases their personal commitment. It also changes the family dynamic. Because students need family support to enter and complete college, significant resources are devoted to parental involvement.

Friendship Public Charter School, which manages the two campuses on behalf of Baltimore City Schools, also operates multiple public charter school campuses, educating youth from pre-K through the 12th grade, in Washington, D.C.

I know from experience what a difference a constructive, helping hand from the federal government can make. When I was named a Champion of Change by the White House, it gave our school a boost — not only in funds for excellent teachers, but also to student and staff morale.

Good public schools and housing and jobs are what it takes to make good communities everywhere. This new federal recognition, along with the expertise and resources Friendship has provided and the support of the city school system mark a new commitment to our young people — Baltimore's future.

Baltimore has been through many changes. While it is important to understand and deal with the past, what matters more are the young men and women who will graduate from our public schools. They need to go to college and also to build successful careers that are rewarding for themselves and society. As we take that next step, with the continued assistance and confidence of the U.S. Department of Education, let's keep in mind that the skill and talent that we put in now will reap rewards in Baltimore tomorrow as well as merely today.

Recently, the Obama administration sent out a call from the nation's capital to address injustices with which we all have lived with for too long. From the tragedy in Ferguson, Mo., to the drama that played out on our streets this year, we need to improve the public education that typically has been available — overwhelmingly to minority students — in urban America.

It is a long road from where we are today to where we want to be. By investing now, we can change tomorrow. Our young people cannot afford for us to wait.

Tanya Green is deputy chief of school excellence in Baltimore for Friendship Public Charter School. Her email is green@friendshipschools.org.

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