Baltimore Students and Community Leaders Gather for ROOTs Youth Empowerment Summit

Student Summit Fostered Leadership and Civic Engagement, Featured Keynote Addresses From Dr. Gregory Thornton and Ozzie Newsome


Baltimore, March 31, 2015—Hundreds of students, parents, and teachers from Baltimore city and county schools gathered Saturday, March 28, to participate in the ROOTs (Realizing Our Own Talent) Summit, a gathering created to empower and inspire students to become change agents in their communities. The summit was organized by Juno Simmons, manager of teacher leadership development for Teach For America–Baltimore, and featured keynote speakers Dr. Gregory Thornton, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, and Ozzie Newsome, general manager of the Baltimore Ravens and the first African American to hold that title in NFL history.  

The day-long ROOTs Summit was designed to give students in grades pre-K–12 the tools to take control of their educations and futures. Featured speakers and workshops demonstrated for students the different routes to success undertaken by leaders of color in their communities, and helped them in planning their own paths forward. The summit kicked off with a keynote address from Dr. Thornton and closed with a speech from Newsome. Both speakers shared stories of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to one’s dreams.

“The ROOTs Summit is about inspiration and aspiration, which is a message that all of our students need to hear and take to heart,” Dr. Thornton said. “Young people need to know that we all face challenges and experience setbacks. What matters is how we handle them. Success is about using leadership to create positive change, and that’s the ROOTs message.”

Workshops took place at the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus and included such topics as “The Key to Networking,” “Daybreak in Baltimore: Writing the Poetry of Renewal,” “Passport to College,” and “The Spoken Word: A Poetry and Hip Hop Workshop,” among others.

Summit organizer Juno Simmons commented, “ROOTs gives student the opportunity to be exposed to the college experience at a young age. Life is like a book and it’s essential that students have all the tools they need while writing each chapter. ROOTs gives students the opportunity to see themselves as the catalyst for change in Baltimore, as they continue to rewrite the narrative of our wonderful city.”

Teach For America has partnered with local public schools since 1992. The nonprofit organization serves as an additional source of effective teachers and helps to build long-term leadership capacity in the community. This year, nearly 300 Teach For America corps members are reaching more than 18,000 students in Baltimore’s traditional and charter public schools. Additionally, more than 725 alumni call Baltimore home and continue working across all sectors for educational excellence and equity. 

About Teach For America
Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational inequity. Today, 10,600 corps members are teaching in 50 urban and rural regions across the country while more than 37,000 alumni work across sectors to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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