Focus on progress

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BELIEVING IN Baltimore is important to all of us. We are all stakeholders in Baltimore's future, which is bigger than any single issue or person. It is a shared hope and a shared responsibility for us all.

If we invest strategically in Baltimore's most vulnerable families and children, we have a real chance of solving some of the city's most costly and devastating problems. This is why the "Reason to Believe" campaign has gained the support of more than 80 leading citizens and organizations representing a cross section of Baltimore.

The campaign is not simply a moral imperative. The reason so many business, civic, philanthropic and faith leaders have come together is that they all understand the value of creating opportunities for families to thrive. These Baltimoreans are united behind this single issue because it is critical to the city's future.

The original "Believe" campaign brought to our attention some of the city's most pressing problems.

"Reason to Believe" is designed to highlight how strategic investments in promising programs are leading to real progress: third-grade reading scores have improved 50 percent since 1999; first-graders have scored above the national average for the first time in decades; fewer teen-agers are becoming pregnant; more children are entering school with the skills necessary for academic success; and the addition of more drug treatment facilities is contributing to fewer drug-related emergency room admissions.

The campaign seeks to show people that things are changing and that citizens have tangible reasons to believe, but we have a long way to go.

"Reason to Believe" is more than just an ad campaign - it's a call to action. We know what kinds of action will lead to improved conditions. For example, if children begin school without adequate preparation, they often fall behind and never catch up, costing taxpayers millions of dollars in special education, juvenile justice and social services.

We also know that by making sure young children are fully prepared to succeed in school and their families have the tools to support their development, we can avoid these predictable costs while improving children's lives.

We are confident about what works because we have seen the progress. "Reason to Believe" has identified five priorities:

Responding immediately and effectively to young families in crisis.

Ensuring that Baltimore's children enter school ready to learn and that they succeed there.

Connecting youths to safe places, supportive adults and economic opportunities during the out-of-school hours.

Providing private-sector jobs to recovering addicts with dependent children.

Protecting our neighborhoods by apprehending the most violent offenders and enabling citizens to go about their daily lives in safety.

"Reason to Believe" just completed a six-week television advertising campaign to communicate Baltimore's progress and inspire action on behalf of children and families. The goal of the campaign was to encourage the citizens of Baltimore to make a commitment to the future of our city.

Each of us can make a difference for Baltimore's children and families.

Additional funding is needed, and we are also asking community members to offer their time, talent and voices to support the campaign. We invite everyone - all of us who care about Baltimore - to become actively engaged in supporting this effort.

Freeman A. Hrabowski III is president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Eddie C. Brown is president of Brown Capital Management, co-chair of "Reason to Believe" and a philanthropist in the Baltimore community.

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