The new BAAM Athletic Center, which opens on December 14 at 31 Jowite Street in Easton, has two purposes – to attract middle and high school students to stay engaged in the program and to engage their families in the program. BAAM, which stands for Building African American Minds, was founded in 2005 by Derick Daly, Executive Director of BAAM, and his wife Dina Daly. The program’s mission is to identify first grade African American males at risk for failure due to socioeconomic barriers that inhibit their ability to learn effectively and to provide academic enrichment in a safe, caring, and structured environment after school. The Elementary School program was initially offered three days a week for one and a half hours a day to 10 boys. Today, the Elementary School Program has grown to include over 70 boys in grades first through fifth grades and is now offered four days a week for two hours each day.
Deborah Short, Program Director who oversees BAAM’s Elementary School Program, comments, “When I was asked to become a part of the BAAM program over 14 years ago, I knew there was a great need, but the vision has surpassed even what I had expected. It started out as a leap of faith and has grown into my calling.”
The challenge that faced the program as it grew was how to continue to engage the students as they aged into middle and high school. Today, BAAM’s Middle School Program has approximately 20 children enrolled in six through eighth grades.
According to Kendrick Daly, Athletic Director of BAAM, “We have seen ‘slippage’ in our kids during the middle school years. It is important that we keep in close contact with them, building on the foundation of elementary school BAAM.”
In 2016, in an effort to begin to address this growing need, BAAM purchased the Jowite Building and parking lot so that it could expand its community offerings and services, including housing its middle school program on the site. It soon became clear that the Jowite Building could not continue to meet the needs of the program and plans were developed to construct a new building called the Athletic Center which could provide the necessary space and configuration to address the needs of the older teens. BAAM broke ground on the new Athletic Center on May 30, 2018.
Kendrick adds, “The efforts in our new Athletic Center will be directed to help students develop as adults and to learn where we can assist them.”
Tyesha “Ty” Greene is Assistant Athletic Director and has been with BAAM for 10 years as a tutor in the after-school program, a bus driver, and as a leader in BAAM’s Summer Program. Ty explains that BAAM students were losing interest in the program in their middle school years. She states, “We didn’t have the activities they wanted and they also wanted more independence.”
The new Athletic Center will have more open space for the older students to engage in different activities. The educational component will still be there, but the program will build in a greater variety of activities for students. The Athletic Center will also be used to further expand BAAM’s summer program and summer basketball leagues at the Athletic Center for middle and high school BAAM students. The Elementary School Program will continue to meet at Easton Elementary School, except for play and special programming in the new Athletic Center. Dinner is offered Monday through Thursday for both elementary and middle school students so that they can eat together at the Elementary School. The Athletic Center will also be open, at certain times, to older members of the community.
Ty, who grew up in the neighborhood, adds, “I am in awe of the new facility. We didn’t have this when I was growing up. We played baseball, basketball, and kickball in the field behind the BAAM building on Jowite Street. It means the world to have a safe place for the kids who live here that is walkable.”
The new BAAM Athletic Center will be a multipurpose facility for both youth and the community. It has a gymnasium, community room, kitchen, two locker rooms, bathrooms, utility room with washer and dryer, and office. BAAM plans to partner with Chesapeake College to offer classes for the community on such topics and finances and nutrition. Fitness Rx is planning to offer group fitness classes at a reasonable cost. BAAM also hopes to offer other programming such as sports clinics, charity tournaments, concerts, cooking classes, seminars, talent shows, dance parties, and movie nights.
Kendrick adds, “We want to occupy their time in a positive environment. Also, we can serve the BAAM kids best by serving their families. Through this new facility, we are expanding our focus to the whole community.”
“I love that this is in my community, helping my kids. We hope families will use the center as a resource. Services will be free,” states Ty.
Although BAAM serves boys, the new Athletic Center will offer its gym and community rooms to girls in the community. Kendrick comments, “It’s a better use of our resources to partner with organizations who are already serving girls in our community, like Foundation of Hope. We are approaching this creatively, not limiting ourselves.”
BAAM will continue partnering with organizations like YMCA of the Chesapeake for swimming, tennis lessons and transportation and Freedom Rowers for its rowing program, as well as Talbot Mentors and Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center. The organization is in the planning phase for an Academic Center that will be built in the footprint of the original BAAM building on Jowite Street. The Academic Center will focus on learning and will include classrooms, a computer lab and separate areas for the middle school and elementary school students. The solar panels on the new Athletic Center will provide electricity for both buildings.
Kendrick comments, “The addition of the Academic Center will create a campus for BAAM so that all of our students, in grades one through 12, will be in one location.”
Local company Willow Construction has served as general contractor on the project and Lane Engineering has provided site work. The architect on the project is Gaudreau Architects, Inc. of Baltimore.
A Grand Opening for the public will be held on Saturday, December 14, 2019, from 2 to 5 p.m. at 31 Jowite Street in Easton. The celebration includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a guest speaker. BAAM boys and staff will be on hand to give tours of the facility, an overview of current programs, and future plans. Light refreshments will be served. To donate to BAAM, visit baamboys.com or call Deborah Short at 410-714-3838.
Athletic Center Wish List:
Basketballs, volleyballs, indoor soccer balls
Bundles of scrimmage jerseys
Canned and packaged foods