Community Center Provides Critical Lifeline in Baltimore

Secretary Duncan enjoys one of the student's projects.

Secretary Duncan enjoys one of the student’s creations.

Secretary Duncan joined U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith in Baltimore Monday for a series of events focused on engaging the community. Their visit comes on the heels of recent unrest in the city and focused on ways communities can keep children safe, healthy and involved in continuous learning during the summer.

During their first stop at Liberty Elementary School, they witnessed firsthand how the school’s use of technology has accelerated student learning and praised the school’s commitment to staying connected with the community through the Liberty Rec and Tech Center.

Arne Duncan visits Liberty Elementary in BaltimoreSecretary Arne Duncan visited #Liberty64 Elementary School this week to celebrate the #WeekofMaking.Learn more →

Posted by U.S. Department of Education on Thursday, June 18, 2015

The center provides exercise activities, GED classes for adults and runs a food pantry for area families struggling to make ends meet. It almost closed in 2012 due to budget cuts, but thanks to the hard-fought efforts of principal Joe Manko and community activists, it is as vibrant as ever and serves as a critical lifeline for the surrounding community.

“This is the best of an American learning community, where everybody’s all in,” said Smith.

Liberty Elementary students show Arne Duncan and U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, their Adobe Voice projects

Liberty Elementary students show Arne Duncan and U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, their Adobe Voice projects

Following their tour, they participated in a roundtable discussion in conjunction with the National Week of Making to discuss the importance of STEM. The National Week of Making, which the White House and community members across the nation are celebrating from June 12 to 18, is focused on STEM and on fostering a culture of invention, innovation and imagination.

Duncan was determined to get back to Baltimore to see how students were doing following his visit last month to nearby Frederick Douglass High School in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. He came away impressed with how teachers encouraged students to process the events that engulfed the city through talking, drawing and writing about it.

“Our kids’ physical, social and emotional needs have to be met before we can even talk about going to college and making things and being the leaders of tomorrow,” he said. “You have amazing young people here and what you guys are doing to give them a real chance in life is extraordinary.”

Patrick Kerr is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach