Bringing Bee Power to Baltimore Schools

Dual enrollment program bolstered by alumni instructors


student at crossroads

Since 2016, Baltimore high school students have had the opportunity to earn college credits at University System of Maryland schools through the B-Power Initiative—one of two Early College Initiatives designed to give young people a head start into a post-secondary education.

B-Power was pioneered at The University of Baltimore, and under the leadership of John Brenner, B.A. ’01, MBA ’16, and Philippia Richardson, B.A. ’98, M.A. ’01, the dual enrollment program has expanded its footprint from four schools to 27 in just seven years. Out of 2,500 total participating students, 72 percent earned credits from UBalt and 65 percent went on to attend a two- or four-year college their first semester after graduating high school. But the staff will be the first to admit, it’s the adjunct faculty making this growth possible.

Thanks to a roster of enthusiastic faculty, many of whom are UBalt alumni, B-Power course offerings have expanded from general requirements such as composition and algebra. The current catalog includes the kind of career-focused courses the University is known for, including psychology, forensics and accounting.

Olesegun “Segun” Aje, M.S. ’17, has taught with the program since its inception. His extensive experience with writing and entrepreneurship, as well as working with at-risk youth, makes him emblematic of the best the program has to offer. He credits Brenner and Johnson’s leadership with his longevity, but teaching has given him some of his life’s most meaningful experiences.

One such occurred in his Entrepreneurship 101 course this past spring at Eager Street Academy, the Baltimore City high school housed in a juvenile detention center.

All teachers have experienced asking a question to the class only to receive crickets in response. “But surprisingly enough,” said Aje. “I’ve never had that problem at Eager Street. The students in the detention center are by far the most curious and engaged.”

The semester culminated in a Shark Tank-style presentation, in which students pitched business plans to school employees, government officials and community members.

“ Something about coming to The University of Baltimore instills that sense that people still want to belong to it.”

“It was a packed house,” Aje remarked. “Everyone was so supportive of the students. Giving them that audience was such a powerful opportunity, and for the adults, too. Everyone saw their potential.”

Rebecca Drury, M.S. ’22, CERT ’23, finished teaching her very first B-Power class in May at Benjamin Franklin High in Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighborhood. She hopes to inspire young people to pursue mental health careers in Maryland. “There’s something like one provider for every 400 individuals in the state, said Drury. “I’d love to motivate at least one student per class!”

Exposing students to mental health care as both a career and a resource was the most meaningful aspect of the experience for Drury.

“They enjoyed seeing the professional side of what a client session might look like. But I also encouraged them to think about their own mental health and be open to the possibility of getting help,” she said. “This is a vulnerable population, and I want to equip them for what they’re going to encounter when they go off to college.”

And Drury isn’t alone. That’s the goal of everyone who believes in B-Power, including donors like Patricia and Mark K. Joseph of the Shelter Foundation, who awarded a new grant to the program totaling $301,500 over three years to continue growing its enrollment at no cost to students.

“The Dual Enrollment program has a proven record of success. Working with students from Baltimore city advance to graduation and college is inspiring. Patricia and I are proud of UBalt’s achievement and pleased to support it,” said Mark Joseph, Shelter’s president.

This type of student-focused funding also allows Brenner the flexibility to allocate other resources for professional development to help round out the experience for adjuncts. Brenner offers workshops on pedagogy, restorative practices and teaching young people. More than that, he sees teaching in the program as an opportunity for alumni to stay connected to UBalt while doing meaningful work.

“Something about coming to the University of Baltimore instills that sense that people still want to belong to it,” Brenner said of his many alumni instructors. “They always tell me they had a great time and want to give back to the community.

In addition to freelance writing, Tim Paggi works for Fusion Partnerships, Inc. in Baltimore and is a tour guide with Baltimore Ghost Tours.

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