Abell Salutes: STRIVE-Baltimore

January 2001 / Salutes / Criminal Justice and Addiction

It can provide a job and a new life, but only for those who survive its rigorous program.

A convicted rapist, a single mother, an armed robber, a heroin addict (among others in an assemblage of societal dropouts) — all seated in a spare and sparsely-furnished classroom in a modest building on Druid Park Drive in Lower Park Heights – in the heart of one of Baltimore’s City’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. An instructor who resembles a marine drill instructor barks commands.

— “Remember, the boss is always right!”
— “Wear only white shirts and only black slacks. Women business suits or blouses.”
— “Never, never be late.”
— “This is war. The enemy? Your attitude.”
— “Finally, you don’t like any of this? Leave!”

Welcome to STRIVE-Baltimore.

The program, modeled after the STRIVE program developed in East Harlem, is designed to talk to those who up until now would not listen, and who are here to try one more time get a job and get on with the business of working as a productive member of society.

And to help them make it, they entrust themselves to a disciplinary approach to learning and job preparation so harsh that out of an average class of 49, only 38 will show up on the second day.

And so the war begins. Three weeks of being hollered at, put down, corrected, scolded—a technique both students and teachers hope will work where no other has. Finally on graduation day, three weeks later, typically, there will be 25 students left.

But these are the ones who are now set to get the jobs and, who, thanks to STRIVE, will have turned their lives around. What happens to these 25 – and they will be observed for two years after leaving the STRIVE classroom — defines the role of STRIVE in the community.

Here Is A Report Card For STRIVE-Baltimore For The Year 2000:

  • 308 Baltimoreans completed the STRIVE-Baltimore Empowerment Program. The 308 program graduates is a 33% increase above the program’s 1999 accomplishments. It costs $1,743 to train each graduate, which would appear to be a wise investment given that of the 308 graduates for the year 2000 graduates, 146—nearly half—had felony or misdemeanor convictions, and 109, or one in three, had not received their high school diplomas or GED.
  • 80% of the 308 graduates were placed in employment. Of these 249 graduates placed in employment, 28 had been homeless.
  • STRIVE graduates who were placed in employment earned on average $7.73 per hour or $16,068 per year. This is a considerable accomplishment for the large majority of STRIVE graduates who were unemployed at the start of the program cycle.

The Abell Foundation salutes STRIVE-Baltimore, for its successful approach to rehabilitating broken down lives, and for showing the way to so many who had lost their way.