The East Baltimore Community School, Inc., the partnership educational institution operated jointly by Johns Hopkins and Morgan State Universities, is meant as a kind of flagship redevelopment project for the struggling Middle East community. As it ramps up for its move to a $42 million, 90,000 square foot campus in fall 2013, the school is assembling its forces. And as of this week, that includes neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who was named president of the board as of December 1.
Born in Detroit and raised by a single mother, Carson is in some ways uniquely suited to help guide the school. He had difficulties in elementary school, before becoming the kind of academic superstar whose resume I don’t recommend you read unless you want to spend the rest of the morning with a vague sense of inadequacy. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, he’s done a number of things that are, frankly, badass: the first successful separation of twins conjoined at the back of the head, for example. (He’s also a Seventh-Day Adventist who doesn’t believe in evolution.)
The school is the anchor of the Hopkins-inspired $1.8 billion revitalization of East Baltimore, and a testament to the university’s good intentions. Ideally, the school will provide a world-class education for students in one of Baltimore’s blighted neighborhoods — especially important at a time when schools are being shuttered citywide. Hopkins needs the school (and the overall development program) to prove that it’s not just parasitically gobbling up land and driving the area, once a working- and middle-class black neighborhood, deeper into poverty.
So far, the school remains more of a promise than an actuality, with a few hundred students (a chunk of which aren’t actually from the neighborhood). But with next year’s expansion, big changes are sure to be afoot — and Carson is excited to be a part of them: “I am excited to be a part of an endeavor like Henderson-Hopkins that can provide not only an example, but also a how-to manual for inner city schools, universities and corporate entities that want to work together to strengthen the fabric of our society,” he said in a press release. “The education of our children is not only the responsibility of teachers, but rather, of everyone who is impacted by stellar education or the lack thereof. That, of course, is all of us.”