BAAM: Building a Future Generation of Successful Young Men

His smile is contagious. De’ Jon Stanford, of Easton, age 13, exudes confidence. Like many middle school boys, De’ Jon loves basketball. He started playing basketball regularly through the Building African American Minds (BAAM) Program, an after-school program at Easton Elementary School targeted at helping African American males at risk for under achievement. Today, he is tutoring younger elementary school students in BAAM to give back to the program that helped him develop into a successful student and citizen.

Suzy Warrington (left) was De’ Jon Stanford’s mentor in BAAM. Today, De’ Jon is tutoring younger elementary school students in BAAM to give back to the program that helped him develop into a successful student and citizen.

He recalls starting the BAAM Program in first grade. His older brother, Deondray, has been in the program so when the opportunity presented itself, De’ Jon decided to join as well. He recalls, “I really needed help with my homework. My mom was working after school and I needed to be able to get it done.”

Suzy Warrington, an instructional assistant in Special Education at Easton Middle School, was De’ Jon’s BAAM tutor. Suzy helped him with math and reading, utilizing flash card games and spelling bees to encourage learning. She describes De’ Jon as “a very sweet young man – a gentleman who is eager to learn.”

De’ Jon recalls special activities he did with BAAM, including road trips to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments; lectures on Martin Luther King at Chesapeake College; and going to a Washington Wizards basketball game – one of the highlights of his childhood.

In addition to the instructional and recreational aspects of BAAM, the program also taught De’ Jon some important life lessons. His mother, Danielle Little, comments, “I began to notice a change in his behavior and attitude once he got into the program. It has taught him to control his temper and to better understand what being part of a family means. He now understands that I have to work late hours in order to provide for the family.”

De’ Jon recognizes the growth in himself as well, stating, “BAAM has helped me to look at people differently and not judge them for how they look or act.” He adds, “BAAM is like a family. We all help each other when we need help.”

Deborah Short, BAAM’s executive director, comments, “When the boys join BAAM, their whole family becomes a part of the BAAM family. Both De’ Jon and his older brother Deondray stayed in BAAM throughout the elementary school years. We’ve seen them grow and mature in many ways. De’ Jon has come back with us to give back by volunteering his time and help to the program that has inspired him. And this year we’ve been blessed to have his little brother Cervantes join the BAAM family!”

De’ Jon’s mother recalls his desire to continue to work with BAAM when he went to middle school. She said that he took all the steps by himself to see if he could volunteer for BAAM to earn his required service learning hours. Today, he has completed his service learning hours but still wants to stay involved in the program.

Suzy Warrington comments, “I like to see the young men in BAAM come back and serve as tutors themselves. It makes an impression on the boys in the program.”

De’ Jon states, “I like helping the kids in the program. It feels nice to be looked up to and respected. It makes me understand how hard my tutors worked with me and the benefits of the program. The boys inspire me to come every week. They see me as their friend and I see them as my friends.”

Suzy adds, “It has been special to help the young men in this program. Every tutor in this program cares deeply about each and every child. BAAM inspires the boys to go the right way and helps them to see what they can be when they grow up.”

When asked about his future, De’ Jon quips, “I want to be a basketball player, but if I can’t be a basketball player, I might be a teacher. If not a teacher, then I might be a doctor. And if not a doctor, then I will be a comedian.”

Deborah Short adds, “When we see boys like De’ Jon develop, we’re grateful to know we’re doing the right thing. In the words of Frederick Douglass, ‘It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men!’ BAAM works!”

This past year, Building African American Minds (BAAM Inc.) observed its 10th anniversary. The nonprofit after-school program located in Talbot County exists to strengthen opportunities for school-aged African-American boys to become productive, successful and confident citizens through academic, social, emotional and spiritual experiences as children and young men. To date, the program has enabled 40 to 50 elementary school students to achieve greater academic success, while impressing upon them and their parents the importance of education. The program includes free tutoring for all African-American males in grades first through fifth at Easton Elementary School and provides parent mentoring to assist them in helping their child succeed. Students receive a nutritious dinner delivered by the Maryland Food Bank and participate in enrichment activities. For further information about BAAM, contact Debbi Short at 410-714-3838 or visit

~Originally printed April 2015
The Faces of Philanthropy column, written by Amelia Blades Steward, will visit the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of nonprofits on the Mid-Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amy has been a freelance writer in our community for more than 15 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid-Shore whom she has met along the way.
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