Thirteen years ago, a conversation took place between William T. Hunter, A. James Clark and Derick W. Daly of Easton that asked the question, “What can be done to advance the educational opportunities for African American males in the community?”
Through the efforts of many interested individuals, an afterschool program Building African American Minds (BAAM) was formed in 2005 through a partnership with the Talbot County Public Schools, in particular Easton Elementary School. At a recent event celebrating BAAM’s new building expansion on Jowite Street in Easton, BAAM’s Assistant Coordinator and some of BAAM’s recent graduates spoke about their journeys with the program and what is ahead for each of them and for the program.
Xavier Rahim, of Easton, who graduated from Easton High School this year and started BAAM in first grade, recalls, “I remember the focus back then was on English and Math skills, with pressure on improving the African American scores on the MSA tests. Our scores improved, but the program did much more. It served as a backbone for students. My family encouraged me to stay in the program and I did.”
Xavier states that most of his peers didn’t feel comfortable asking for help about anything academic or social. He comments, “Through BAAM, I found a group of people like me who I could be around socially. It was a support system in school for me, too.”
In middle and high school, Xavier had the chance to give back and help elementary students in the BAAM Program at Easton Elementary School. By being a mentor to them, he has realized that he wants to be an English teacher. Xavier is one of three children in his family who have pursued higher education. He will be attending Chesapeake College in the fall, with scholarship support from BAAM, and is hoping to transfer to Liberty College in Lynchburg, Virginia.
He comments, “Knowledge is about opportunity. It’s like riding a bike. You have to first know how to do it in order to enjoy the ride. Without knowledge, there is no opportunity to get a career that exemplifies who you can become.”
He adds, “When I helped elementary school students, I saw how much they enjoyed being in BAAM. Realizing that made me realize how much the program is making a difference. I want to try and continue to help with BAAM.”
Another former member of BAAM, Jaelon Moaney, a 20-year old from Easton, is a rising junior at Williams College in Massachusetts. Jaelon, a graduate of Easton High School, started BAAM in middle school. His fondest BAAM memory is an experience he had after attending a BAAM middle school assembly. He recalls having to come back to his classroom and talk about the program. It made him feel empowered and appreciate how the program was at work in his life.
Jaelon comments, “I was amongst my peers and I had to recap the assembly. It was the first time I was comfortable in my own skin amongst my peers. I was proud of what I had to say. It was really a turning point for me. I am now confident speaking in front others.”
He adds that BAAM’s academic and social support has helped him tremendously, stating, “It’s choice rather than chance that will determine your destiny. I think for me, BAAM is a little of both. BAAM gave me choices as I started to mature. It invests in each student and the program teaches kids how to inwardly affirm their beliefs.”
BAAM has provided Jaelon with a four-year $4,000 book scholarship through the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. He is currently attending Williams College and is studying political science with a minor in African Studies. His personal dream is to come back to Maryland one day and run for political office.
He comments, “Because I was not from a nuclear family, I definitely believe in a village raising a child. When I got the book scholarship from BAAM, I understood about giving back. I am now running an afterschool literacy club in the public schools in Massachusetts.”
He adds, “Knowledge is power. The knowledge I gain is a force. BAAM has provided the curiosity giving me the acceleration to learn. My hope for students in the BAAM Program is that they assemble a network of people to support them and their dreams. Just imagine what it will be when kids feel it and internalize it and understand it.”
Kendrick Daly, BAAM’s Assistant Coordinator and an Easton High School graduate, got involved with BAAM after completing a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland at College Park. Kendrick was in high school when his parents Derick and Dina Daly founded BAAM. He never thought he would be back in Easton after college, involved with the program himself.
After college, Kendrick, 24, decided to focus on a patentable invention he was working on. At that time, his father asked if he could help out at BAAM for a couple of hours each day. After seeing the positive effect he had on the BAAM students, he decided that his real love was teaching. He then got a job teaching Computer Science at Easton and St. Michaels high schools.
He states, “I had been associated with a STEM afterschool program for the gifted and talented while in college and realized through that experience that I had more to offer. It was my decision to come back to Easton and teach here. I like the impact I am having on these kids.”
After his first full year with BAAM, Kendrick was tasked with revamping BAAM’s middle school program. That year, he had 12 middle school students. Unfortunately, attendance fell off because the middle school students had problems sharing space with the elementary school students. He says, “They need a place to go where they wouldn’t be bothered and could do what they want to do with their friends.”
In year three, BAAM got its new building on Jowite Street in Easton and the middle school students got their own space, while the elementary students continued meeting across the street at Easton Elementary School. Looking to the future, Kendrick is excited about BAAM’s plans for its new building to be built next door that will accommodate all students.
He reflects on Xavier and Jaelon’s public speaking at the recent BAAM celebration, commenting, “Public speaking is a large part of BAAM’s programming. Kids start out simply by telling how their day went in a circle. Pretty soon, they are sharing the quote of the day with the whole group and competing for the opportunity to do that. This eventually translates to confidence and their ability to speak publicly at events.”
He adds, “Through BAAM, you learn how to learn. Kids learn the problem-solving process and strategies they can apply to the rest of their lives, such as navigating roadblocks. BAAM teaches kids to navigate the world.”
Xavier states, “I am excited for the start of a big growth that is occurring for BAAM and the great opportunities ahead. The community is recognizing the impact of the program and I am excited to see how much further it can go.”
Plans are currently underway for BAAM to build a state-of-the-art facility on the parking lot located on Jowite Street adjacent to their current building at 31 Jowite Street. The new building will be a multipurpose building that will include classrooms, a gymnasium, meeting/conference space, a kitchen and office space to accommodate BAAM’s program staff.
According to Derick Daly, President of BAAM, “Our goal has always been to give our students and families access to services that have been lacking in the community, so that they can thrive and be successful in attaining a brighter future. This next step is to provide the students a place of their own. A place they can claim and be proud of. A place where they are safe and can be themselves. Through this new building, we will be able to continue to expand our services in the community.”
For further information about BAAM or about donating to BAAM’s current Building Campaign, contact Executive Director Debbi Short at 410-714-3838.