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Baltimore mentor gives a PRAISE to area students

Johns Hopkins School of Education Building, site of PRAISE Program
Johns Hopkins School of Education Building, site of PRAISE Program
by V. M. Oliver-Lawson

PRAISE is an acronym for the Paul Robeson Academic International School of Excellence. The PRAISE College Readiness Program held a recruitment session in Baltimore Thursday, June 5, 2014 to attract the next cohort of male students, currently in Grades 7 and 8. The students must live in the Baltimore City area and be either African-American or Latino. Students must also have a desire to attend college. The recruitment session was held at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, located at 2800 North Charles Street.

The program started in 2006 by Dr. LaMarr Darnell Shields and David Miller with funding through the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The goal of the original program was to increase the number of males successfully transitioning from middle to high school. The program has since evolved into taking the males through the college experience. The School is free and in alignment with the My Brothers' Keeper program.

The program held its first commencement celebration on Thursday May 29, 2014 at which time 21 males graduated. This was the first graduating class of students who had matriculated from 6th grade through 12th grade.

PRAISE has several statistics of which it can boast. One hundred percent (100%) of the students graduated from high school, with 98% going to college. Two are joining the Navy and Army. The young men have been accepted at some very prestigious schools, including: Morehouse College, University of Maryland, University of Baltimore, Hampton, and NYU. There have been no students lost to the societal ills associated with large, urban areas such as deaths, teen pregnancies, substance abuse, expulsions or incarcerations.

Over the course of the years, the young men connected with PRAISE have traveled to Morehouse College, Paul Robeson's house, and internationally to Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ethiopia, Ghana and France.

One of the principals of the program, Dr. LaMarr Darnell Shields, is well known in the Baltimore area for his work with youth. He was a teacher for 6 years at the Baltimore City College High School, where he taught Spanish. He then co-founded the Urban Leadership Institute with friend, David Miller, where the goal/mission was to provide educators with quality professional development services, which has since evolved to become a nationwide initiative.

Shields' inspiration to work with youth came about as a result of the death of two childhood friends in Chicago. He did not see enough services or support being provided. Because of the memories of his friends and his need to become proactive, Shields became a teacher through the Teach for America program. He was the first core member to teach at a citywide school.

Shields is married to famed Comedienne Meshelle and is the father of three children.

The PRAISE College Readiness Program can be contacted via the website at or 855-226-2464.

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