Less than two months after a 17-year-old student was fatally stabbed inside West Baltimore's Renaissance Academy late last year, school officials had the task of selling the school to prospective students on Saturday.
They brought two of their most earnest students, senior Marvin Whitney and sophomore Jeremiah Caldwell, to talk to parents and teens about the school, which has a mentoring program called Seeds of Promise for some of its students, who are primarily male and at-risk.
"I'm telling them that our school is driven," said Whitney, 18, who is in Seeds of Promise. "We tell them that even though we had setbacks, we're still a school. Stuff happens everywhere; it could have been any school."
Thousands of families attended the annual Middle and High School Choice Fair, held at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, to learn more about different Baltimore City schools and programs that they can choose to attend. Little-known charter schools competed with more established schools such as Western High School and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.
Schools handed out candy and fliers, while others brought their mascots to draw attention. In one part of the room, a group of cheerleaders from Coppin Academy waved pompoms and shouted "Come to Coppin!" In another corner, a crowd gathered around a few robots in a pen on the floor, driving around and trying to pick up green balls. The robots were to advertise the VEX robotics program, which is in 19 middle and high schools.
Shannan Faulkner, 15, said he was interested in the VEX program because he wanted to study engineering in college. "I want to have my own company, building large machines," he said. "Stuff to help people, machines that go into the ocean, robots that help people around the home."
Dia Brandon and her daughter, Shaeniyah Robinson, 14, were in a long line to learn more about Green Street Academy, a public charter school with an environmental focus that includes a hoop house where students grow vegetables, a tilapia farm and a chicken coop.
Brandon said they weren't sure whether that school would be the one they chose, but they wanted to check it out because of Shaeniyah's interest in green living.
"She's always into recycling," said Brandon, imitating her daughter saying, "Don't throw that out!"
"She's just seeing what's out there, what feels right for her," Brandon said.