Zeke is originally from Massachusetts and came to the Baltimore area to get his undergraduate degree at Goucher College. After college he became an 8th grade social studies teacher in the Baltimore City Schools. During his first year teaching in Sandtown-Winchester he took five of his students to New Orleans to rebuild houses that had been destroyed in the hurricane. One of his students was having a particularly tough time with his home life, which was causing him to act out during school. During this trip, Zeke’s student made a complete transformation; he took initiative with the project and became a leader. Zeke was inspired and determined to figure out what made this change in his student. He thought, “Baltimore City kids are often thought of as being part of the problem, but what if they are part of the solution?” This idea lead him to create the Baltimore Intersection, a non-profit that focuses on teaching Baltimore City youth skills to advocate, organize, lead, and engage in civic action. Zeke discussed how essential it is to set up goals when acting on an idea and creating a new organization, but also stressed that it is important to be flexible.
Ralph attended Johns Hopkins University and studied education. After college he began teaching social studies at the same high school that he attended when he was a teenager. Afterwards, he returned to Johns Hopkins University and worked in the Chaplain’s office. Now Ralph works for Living Classrooms in Baltimore. He works with ex-offenders at his current position and helps ease the transition out of incarceration. He tries to get them to be leaders by being more confident and learning how to advocate for themselves. He also helps by finding mentors for his clients so they can have someone to listen to, help, and advise them. Ralph is not a stranger to the troubles of finding a job, as he has had his own personal struggles with unemployment. He is very new to his job and is nervous, excited and “still has that untidy feeling.” He advised clients to “tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job,” as he found his position through a personal connection. He also said that you should not be embarrassed that you are searching for a job, and should not take it personally, and as being a reflection of lack of value.
Tonika moved to Baltimore after her she received her undergraduate degree. She originally wanted to be a math teacher, but during her college career she changed her major from math to Russian. Her father wanted her to become an interpreter, but she was more passionate about teaching, and ended up teaching elementary school students in Baltimore City. Tonika currently works in the adult education field and teaches adults who are working to get their GED. She is also a freelance photographer and told us to “focus on things that you really love because you never know what could happen!” For Tonika, photography was always a hobby and she never expected that she would do it professionally. She also said “to be proud of who you are, and be yourself.”