One morning earlier this week, drawn by the promise of a continental breakfast, I made my way to Baltimore International Academy. As a lover of fresh baked goods, I couldn’t resist the invitation to rise a bit earlier than usual. But that wasn’t the only reason went: I was also eager to give back to my city’s youth.
My journey to the school started with a phone call on Tuesday, February 7. My good friend Anthony Lynch had connected me with school counselor Helena Boothe-Sterrett, who formally invited me to share my experiences as a writer with a group of middle schoolers in their school community.
“It’s so important that students see people in their career tracks who look like us,” she said about the opportunity, for which I was invited alongside engineers, architects, firefighters, doctors and health researchers.
We remained in touch via email, counting down the days to the school’s College and Career Readiness Day. I first met Lynch, also known as “Mr. Lynch” within the school community, while working on a project for CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth. As a creative entrepreneur in Baltimore, Lynch was recommended to me by his sister for videography services. We worked together to uplift the literary arts organization’s story, as well as the release of “Homegrown: A Message to Baltimore by Baltimore,” through a video.
“Homegrown” is a collection of writing and artwork by Baltimore creators for Baltimore youth that aimed to reclaim our city’s narrative and answer the question: “Where did you find the beauty in Baltimore?” Contributors included B-360’s Brittany Young, Baltimore CeaseFire 365 (now Baltimore Peace Movement) cofounder Erricka Bridgeford and Baltimore City Councilmember Zeke Cohen; it was curated by Baltimore City youth.
In my past life (if we can call it that since I directly apply so much of what I learned in my varied roles to my current position), I learned the true power of connecting with the next generation. Being shoulder-to-shoulder with the right people at the right time can propel change in our communities at the speed of trust. Our youth are integral to that and my Baltimore community trusts me to show up — and I was eager to, even while acclimating to a new role as a fulltime journalist. Coming for Career Day was a worthwhile balance.
One of the things I value most in my journey has been my connection to Baltimore, including the relationships I build across generations. For instance: my new association with Deonte, an eighth grader who served as my student escort for the day. Our conversation about technology turned to ChatGPT, for which he had an especially poignant use case.
“I told [ChatGPT] to simulate a life using my name,” Deonte explained. “So I told her to simulate the life of a man named Deonte Harper. So it basically said that he grew up in a poor family. And he wanted a good education because he had a dream to become an entrepreneur, but he didn’t have money to get the proper college education. So he worked at a grocery store to eventually have enough money to pay his tuition for college. And then, after that, he ended up actually having a successful business selling soap and candles.”
Although he confirmed that he doesn’t aspire to sell soap or candles, Deonte does want to be an entrepreneur. We then walked into his English and language arts class, led by Dr. Susan Moore, and it seemed that past life of community engagement was right back in front of me. A class of mostly Black and brown students sat before me and I received permission to assign them some classwork, involving students responding to a prompt on loose-leaf paper. Inspired by my current role, which has already brought up so many questions about technology and entrepreneurship, I asked the eighth graders the following questions:
How might technology affect you as you prepare for college, your career and the rest of your life — whether it be positive or negative? How do you interact with technology now and how might you in the future?