Abell Salutes: Educational Opportunity Program at Lake Clifton High School

February 1997 / Salutes / Education

“Soft hearts and hard data” are making a difference . . .

In the realm of urban public education, what works is hard to find. The problem lies partly in definition; what do we mean by “working”? Skeptics insist on seeing hard data before making the judgement that an intervention is indeed working.

These skeptics will like what they see when they examine the data that makes the case for the “Educational Opportunity Program” (EOP) operating in Baltimore City’s Lake Clifton-Eastern Senior High School. From
1986 through 1994, to take only one set of data, of 177 students enrolled in the program, 111 not only stayed in school through graduation but were accepted into college—this in a school where 70 percent of the students are entitled to free lunch; where historically less than 30 percent of its students graduate; and where the per capita income of the families is less than $15,000 a year. That is “working” by the strictest of definitions.

How does it work?

Baltimore’s EOP is modeled after the very successful “I Have A Dream” initiative, the brainchild of New York philanthropist Eugene Lang. The Baltimore version of the program provides a full-time counselor to support students beginning in the ninth grade and continuing through high school graduation. Figures suggest that the program is working well at Lake Clifton.

Typically encouraging stats are those of the EOP class that started in 1986, in the same Lake Clifton. Of 55 students enrolled in the program, 52 graduated (95 percent!) ; 51 were accepted to college (93 percent!) and as for those in the too-familiar category of “trouble with the law”—zero.

The linking chain . . .is the dedication . . . of these citizen leaders.

But student candidates need more than incentive to meet the criteria; they need emotional support and financial support, love, commitment and unflagging, round-the-clock concern and follow-through—all of which are supplied in generous measure by a loyal cadre of teachers and counselors, led by retired business executive Robert Bonnell, vice president of Sylvan Learning Systems Oscar Jobe, and Principal Stanley Holmes; facilitators Russell Williams and Nathaniel McFadden (now State Senator McFadden) and counselor Michele Thornton. “The linking chain…” according to a history of the program by Avon J. Bellamy, “appears to be the genuine love and dedication of these citizen-leaders of the program for these youngsters.”

The Abell Foundation salutes the soft hearts and hard data that make EOP happen.