Two years ago, neighbors from across western Baltimore came together to celebrate the opening of a new community engagement center at 16 S. Poppleton St. After a long move, a complete renovation and a pandemic global, neighbors have come together again to finally open the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s new Center for Community Engagement (CEC) (UMB).
members of the West Baltimore community; UMB faculty, staff and students; and leaders from across the state of Maryland gathered on October 28 to celebrate this much-anticipated Grand Opening. The new CEC is the cornerstone of UMB’s community campus, a location and concept that demonstrates a deep commitment to strengthening West Baltimore together with the neighbors who live there.
Working hand in hand with community leaders and neighbors, UMB has reinvented the historic building into a 20,000 square foot space with breathtaking architecture, complete with a large event space, a studio dance and movement, private consultation rooms and a rugged computer lab. UMB’s CEC expansion and relocation follows over 45,000 recorded visits from men, women, adolescents and children who have engaged with its services and programming since the CEC opened original in 2015.
“This new center is a place that our community deserves,” said Ashley Valis, MSS, executive director of strategic initiatives and community engagement at UMB and resident of West Baltimore. “Together, we imagined, planned, reflected on and summoned many residents to create a new center that will be a fun, educational, relaxing, respectful and transformative space for our neighbors.”
In the lot in front of the new building, the UMB management organized an open-air ceremony to commemorate the opening and allow participants to experience “A day in the life” at the new CEC. The event started with a warm welcome from the President of the UMB Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS. It began with a quote from the late United States Representative Elijah Cummings, who attended the opening of the first CEC in 2015.
“I remember when [Cummings] was here to cut the first ribbon, on our first community engagement center across the street, ”Jarrell said. “Some of you may remember what he said at the opening. He said: “We may not see the full benefits of the things we do today. We may never be thanked for everything we have done, or for what all of you have done. But there will be children whose trajectories and fates have already been changed by what you are doing here today, and I want that to be a model for the nation. “
During the ceremony, attendees also heard from former UMB President and Chancellor of the Maryland University System, Jay A. Perman, MD. It was under the leadership of Perman that the UMB began working in tandem with the neighbors of West Baltimore to visualize and build a center of community engagement. He thanked the neighbors for their trust in UMB and for their help in making the center a reality.
“When I talk about the power of a university, its engagement with its community, I am talking about the center,” he said. “It is a moral obligation of our public institutions and universities to be anchored institutions in the communities they inhabit. When I talk about living a mission of service, partnership, fairness and opportunity, I’m talking about this corner of West Baltimore and everything we’ve done here together.
After Perman’s remarks, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott introduced Jarrell, Valis and CEC Director Tyrone Roper, MSW, with an official certificate of recognition from the city.
“It is right that we recognize the progress of this center, which has been made alongside our community leaders,” Scott said. “It’s a real demonstration of community involvement. We can see that so many members of our community are represented here today. It just proves that this project is not just in the community, but in the community.
Participants were invited after the ceremony to discover the many resources, programs and activities that the CEC has to offer at the tables set up around the field. This included a wellness table to learn about CEC health services, a Police Athletic / Activities League (PAL) program table to meet with PAL officers, a tax preparation table, a workforce development table, a CURE Scholars table, a virtual tour table, and a gift table where attendees could pick up information flyers and CEC loot.
A’rya Myers, 10, was very excited to discover the Maker’s Studio table, which had a 3D printer and 3D pens that community members could use to make their own t-shirts and tote bags. all.
“I love coming here and doing fun things with my friends,” A’rya said, adding the finishing touches to her homemade t-shirt. “I asked my mom if I could be part of the Youth Maker program so that I could come here after school all the time and learn how to make things.
A’rya was one of the many neighbors, of all ages, who enjoyed the activities and games at the opening. The sense of community and camaraderie was electric, and many neighbors expressed their enthusiasm for the new center to be officially open and operational.
“This center is everything for the neighborhood,” said Charlotte McGoines, a resident of Franklin Square. “We meet friends here, we develop relationships here, and it’s so nice. I have met so many nice and kind people, and I wouldn’t do anything other than come here if I could, because it is so much fun and there is so much to do and experience.
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