Saturday, September 26, 2020
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Stabbed in school, Baltimore teen dies

Ananias Jolley was stabbed in a classroom at Renaissance Academy in West Baltimore on November 24. He died at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center Sunday, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Police arrested Donte Crawford, 17, on the day Ananias died and charged him with attempted first-degree murder in connection with the stabbing.

“It’s a tragedy any time we have someone killed in an act of violence, even more so when it’s a child,” the Sun quoted TJ Smith, the police department’s chief spokesperson, as saying Sunday night, after Ananias had passed away. “The fact that it happened inside of a school is even more disturbing.”

The Renaissance Academy High School, in the Baltimore City Public School System, serves about 95 students, most of them male and most considered to be at risk. The school offers football, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, and track and field. No certified music or art teachers are listed on the high school’s faculty or staff rosters.

Several teachers, however, are listed as working in the “Seeds of Promise” program, which received a grant earlier this year from the Maryland State Department of Education to “support an extended day program aimed at improving the academic and social emotional development of African-American male students.”

That program was dubbed “Seeds of Promise: Transforming Black Boys into Men” and brings together groups of male students who have similar challenges and a supportive male cohort lead in a “12-by-12 mentoring and advocacy program.”

As part of the program, students receive eight hours of continuous support during the academic day, plus an additional four hours after the school day ends.

The paper quoted Principal Nikkia Rowe as saying, “We don’t need judgment as a school community; what we need is for more people who have a sense of urgency who are passionate about the next generation like my staff to not sit around and judge, but to positively contribute to change the outcome.”

And while I’m not qualified to judge this school community, I would be remiss as a journalist not to point out the absence of fine arts programming at the high school for these 95 students.

It was recently reported in the Baltimore Sun that Johns Hopkins University announced it will start a youth film-making program so urban teens and young adults can portray their community while gaining skills and experience that could land them jobs. Bringing the fine arts into the lives of young people, even those at risk, can help them in their lives, their careers, and in their associations and relationships with others.

UPDATE Feb. 29: The death of Daniel Jackson, 17, marked the third time in three months that a teenage boy who had attended Baltimore Renaissance Academy was killed, the Baltimore Sun reports. Jackson was enrolled at the high school until November, when he stopped showing up and was dropped from the rolls, school officials confirmed. “What these events show us is that living in a neighborhood affected by extreme poverty, affected by constant community violence, means we have to provide additional protections for the students in school, after school, during the summer,” the paper quoted Rachel Donegan, program director of Promise Heights, the school’s community partner at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, as saying.
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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  1. Good Evening, with correction, please note that Renaissance Academy uses a holistic approach to learning and healing. We are an arts integration school partnered with Arts Everyday; In addition, students are exposed to rotating arts courses, such as, fundamentals of art, drawing and painting. The school has also been partnered with a media production group, Griot’s Eye, and have offered this opportunity as part of their afterschool program. Recently, students collaborated on a film in conjunction with the Baltimore Sun and USC examining the social ills plagued in West Baltimore.

    [Editor’s Note: The school reflects a very close-knit community that is, unfortunately, in the middle of one of Baltimore’s extremely impoverished places. Life in the community is plagued with violence, and schools like Renaissance have their hands full, facing challenges that are unknown to schools in more affluent neighborhoods. That doesn’t mean they should give up, though, and rely on outside providers for arts education. But it is what it is: despite the violence, there are still no music teachers on certified staff at Renaissance. Itinerant teachers can’t establish the connections with an adult community for kids or instill in them the joy of going to school, of working hard to achieve something bigger than they are, and of having a good reason to go to school. These are the needs of all schoolchildren, including those who live in impoverished neighborhoods.]

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