In 2012, through partnership with the Open Society Institute and Baltimore City schools, The Choice Program at UMBC launched an initiative designed to interrupt the school to prison pipeline by offering daily, on-site, intensive support to identified students in Baltimore City. Additionally, in the 2016-2017 school year, Choice expanded its intervention to Prince George’s County with a focus on youth with chronic absenteeism.
The Choice Education model offers school and community-based interventions to reduce suspensions, expulsions, in-school arrests, absences, and barriers that contribute to truancy. A team of AmeriCorps Community Service Learning Fellows are based within each partner school in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. AmeriCorps members provide responsive and supportive programming that builds youth competence in multiple areas, develops youth confidence, and links youth to people and institutions in their community.
The AmeriCorps members serve youth through:
- Short-term academic-focused out-of-class sessions within the school
- In-classroom coaching around behavior
- After school or weekend enrichment and vocational activities
- Daily attendance checks
- Attendance and advocacy at school meetings, such as behavior or IEP meetings
- Home visits to engage families and develop educational goals
- Case management and referral services to community partners, such as therapy, community service, emergency food or housing