Having grown up in foster care, 21-year-old Brandon Livingston is used to doing things on his own. He started working as soon as he was old enough, taking the bus wherever he needed to go in Baltimore, he said. He applied to Towson University, and was accepted in 2013. When it was time for him to look for his own apartment near campus, Livingston said he tried for months but had no luck.
He needed help, and the Towson office of New Pathways, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that provides support for foster children and other young adults, answered his call, he said.
Now, officials in the Towson office are hoping to assist more young people in a newly-renovated space that officials unveiled Tuesday.
In fall 2014, the organization, which has assisted 1,800 young people since its founding in 1977, opened a career development center in a building on Taylor Avenue that formerly housed a movie theater and a bowling alley. Located on the bottom floor of the building, the center was windowless, bland and uninviting. Young adults and their mentors made the drab center work, but New Pathways officials believed the space needed an overhaul. With funding from Baltimore County grants and private donations, officials redesigned the space to make it more inviting.
The former office was "cavernous, almost subterranean," said Claire Hartman, communications director for New Pathways.
On Tuesday afternoon, officials of New Pathways held an grand reopening of the renovated center to which they invited former graduates of the program and community members. Once plain, the walls are now bright shades of blue and yellow and the space features new, comfortable blue and orange couches.
Many graduates of the program, such as Livingston, can now find their photos on the walls matched with inspiring quotes such as, "Dream Big" and "You be You."
Nancy Strohminger, associate director of New Pathways, said the setting of the center is important, adding that the main goal of the upgrade was to help young adults feel happy to be in the center.
On Tuesday night, Livingston said the upgrades impressed him.
"It's not depressing anymore," he said. "I like it."
New Pathways, which offers such assistance as career services programs, life skills training and new motherhood classes for young adults between 16 and 24, helped Livingston find a place to call his own.
"I was hitting a whole bunch of dead ends, and wasted pretty much a whole summer," Livingston said. "They helped me, and within a month I was in my apartment."
Now, he is getting ready to place a down payment on his first car, and is a few years from graduating with an economics degree from Towson University.
Kyleata Orta, a 20-year-old former graduate of the New Pathways program, also said she appreciated the upgraded center.
"It feels a little bit more engaging than their last space," Orta said Tuesday. "Which is nice, especially for our youth."
Through the program's assistance, Orta has found her independence as a youth advocate in Baltimore County and a model, she said.
At the open house, Baltimore County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the sixth district, presented officials with a council resolution congratulating New Pathways on its reopening. Later in the evening, five graduates of the program, including Livingston, received certificates and a check for an undisclosed amount for their achievements. Livingston, who received applause for his accomplishments, thanked his mentors for helping him reach success.
"You guys stepped up to the plate and helped me out as much as you possibly could," Livingston said.