The SEED Foundation
Public schools in urban areas cannot always provide the services and support needed by students from disadvantaged home environments. A large number of students in Baltimore City public schools are at risk for academic failure: approximately 60 percent of the city’s middle and high school students live with a single parent; and more than 90 percent come from families at or below the national poverty level.
The SEED Foundation was created to address this problem. Its goal is to establish public boarding schools in urban areas to prepare at-risk students for success in college and in the working world by providing high quality education in a safe and comfortable environment. The students live on campus; they are provided three nutritious meals a day, and enjoy a support system of parents, teachers, house parents, counselors, and community coordinators.
The SEED School of Washington opened in 1998 as a public charter school and is now in its tenth year. It serves as a model of how to creatively meet the educational and social needs of at-risk students throughout Maryland and, in particular, Baltimore City. The school currently serves 320 disadvantaged students in Washington, DC, in grades 7 through 12. While there is some attrition in the middle school years, 85 percent of SEED’s high school students graduate from high school (compared to an overall graduation rate of 59 percent in Baltimore City). Ninety-seven percent of students in the first three graduating classes (2004, 2005, and 2006) of SEED were accepted into college. They will be tracked by SEED through graduation.
In 2004, The SEED Foundation received a grant of $185,800 from The Abell Foundation to conduct a study on the feasibility of opening a similar school in Maryland to serve 400 at-risk middle school and high school students. The most formidable challenge was to develop a sustainable operating fund. SEED’s record and advocacy were among the factors that contributed to the passage of the Maryland Boarding Education Program (Senate Bill 714) in 2006, which creates a budget line item for the operation of a boarding school for at-risk youth in Maryland. This legislation provides for all of the school’s operating costs.
Following the success of the feasibility study phase, The Abell Foundation provided a $200,000 grant to The SEED Foundation toward a two-year pre-opening program. The objective was to open a public SEED residential boarding school for at-risk students in grades 6 through 12 (most likely in Baltimore City) by September 2008. In that time, SEED successfully created a board of directors; implemented a capital fund-raising campaign; secured financing; acquired the former Southwestern High School in Baltimore City; completed design and Phase 1 construction of a campus; hired school leadership and staff; and recruited students.
In summer 2008, SEED Maryland opened with 80 students entering 6th grade. These students will matriculate in the school and become the inaugural class of Maryland’s first public boarding school.