“Living Classrooms” participants at the DC Fresh Tech Competition.
“This past year, ‘Living Classrooms’ touched the lives of 35,000 children and young adults who are struggling to succeed against terrible odds,” said Potomac native Thara Taylor, vice president of development for the Living Classrooms Foundation. “We dedicate ourselves to transforming lives through experiential learning — learning by doing. What began with one program Baltimore has grown into dozens of programs in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.”
Founded 31 years ago in Baltimore, the Living Classrooms Foundation educations, inspires and prepares young adults and families for better lives through community development, workforce preparation and life-skills training. Youngsters engage in hands-on learning through educational programs, environmental, health and wellness experiences. There is a special emphasis on serving students who live in high-risk environments by giving them the tools and inspiration to be successful in today’s world. The 350-person staff is supported by almost 9,000 volunteers.
To support the DC Living Classroom initiatives, a one-of-a-kind fundraiser will be held on Oct. 14. Held on the D.C. waterfront near the National’s stadium, the “Night at the Yards” will feature music by Squaring the Circle and Friends, a quartet that will deliver a tribute to Stevie Wonder, Psycho Killers with their interpretation of punk, funk, and rock legends and world–acclaimed saxophonist Ron Holloway will get the party started. One of the highlights of the evening will be a performance by the Living Classrooms’ Queen Beez — a program which inspires girls to express themselves through song and dance.
In addition to Living Classrooms’ ongoing operational needs, “Night at the Yards” will also help to raise capital funds to complete an educational campus located in The Yards on the Anacostia waterfront. The new building will house a workforce development center, a STEM environmental education center, a computer technology center, and job-training culinary center and a workshop for the Fresh Start Program.
The “Night at the Yards” will feature food from more than 30 restaurants as well as wine and beer. Local businessmen Adam Greenberg and David Trone are supporting the fundraiser with food from Potomac Pizza and wine and beer from Total Wine & More. The evening will also include a silent auction and the ambiance of a night under the stars.
“After I learned about Living Classrooms, I was completely bowled over by the passion of each person involved with it,” Potomac’s Bridgit Fried said. “When I learned all they do to support children and families — and to change their lives for the better, I wanted to become involved with this amazing organization. Now I’m fortunate to be working with Living Classrooms and learning more about the amazing talents and dedication of the staff — as well as the determination of the children and young adults they support. It is truly inspiring.”
Living Classrooms was the brainstorm of two teachers who felt that students learn best by doing. Their first project was the building of the Lady Maryland, a ship designed to take underprivileged students from Baltimore out to experience the Chesapeake Bay. Many of the students had never been on a boat and their only experience with the Bay was looking at it. Building the Lady Maryland taught the students practical skills, teamwork, the environment, ecology and leadership skills.
In 2002, Living Classrooms opened The Crossroads, a charter middle-school serving 150 students from 5th through 8th grades in inner-city Baltimore. Living Classrooms began managing the Commodore John Rodgers pre-K-8th grade school in 2010 and three years later; this school was named one of the nation's top five turnaround schools.
In the D.C. area, Living Classrooms provides enrichment, after-school and summer programs. Kingman and Heritage Islands in the Anacostia River have been transformed into recreational areas for people of all ages to learn about the environment.
Living Classroom’s newest site is Camp Fraser, which offers students from all over the region hands-on educational programs, summer camps, and adventure programming. All 5th graders from D.C. now have the opportunity for outdoor education at Camp Fraser. Living Classrooms has also established Park Outreach programs in which 150 students per day participate in a variety of hands-on, interactive learning stations based in science, history, English, and the arts.
Another program, Fresh Start, is a 40-week job skills training program that serves out-of-school youth, ages 16-19, most of whom are referred by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.
To learn more about the Living Classrooms mission, programs and events, go to www.livingclassrooms.org.