Interviewed By Whitney Blomquist
Meet Megan Lally, Director of Development at Learning Inc., a non-profit organization for troubled youth in Baltimore, MD.
How does Learning Inc. work and what is the overall mission of the organization?
Learning Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is:
…To re-engage Baltimore City at-risk adolescents in the process of education and to provide them with academic and life skills so that they may grow into caring and responsible adults with economic opportunity.
All our programs are designed to increase opportunities for at-risk Baltimore City youth by improving their academic performance, helping them to change their destructive behaviors, developing their career skills, and instilling within them the belief that they – through their own actions – are capable of achieving meaningful and productive lives. We also strive to build cooperative networks across community boundaries and create new opportunities where none yet exist. Our students come from all over Baltimore City and have one thing in common; they are not succeeding in their public school. We do everything we can to get our students up to speed academically while addressing and supporting their emotional and behavioral needs.
Is there certain criterion a student must meet to be accepted into the Learning Inc. System?
Our students are ages 14-17 and as mentioned, have not been successful in their home, public school. They typically are behind 3-4 grade levels. We have a formal interview and admission process that each child has to go through which includes meeting the parents and also testing so we know where they fall academically. They meet with one of our counselors as well to discuss any mental health or behavioral issue. Most kids come to us with undiagnosed mental illnesses and we have determined after evaluation, that at least 95% have experienced post traumatic stress.
The criterion for being at Learning Inc. are:
- Students have been unsuccessful at school.
- We have to be able to help them (if they are 16 and reading at a 3rd grade level because of real cognitive problem, we’re not the right placement; if they are reading at a 3rd grade level because they have missed school for whatever reason, then we can help).
- We have to feel safe; we have to feel that the student will be safe.
How does Learning Inc. prepare kids for life after school and ensure they make better choices for themselves?
We not only take care of our kids’ academic needs, but also their emotional ones. We have on site counselors that work with our children to help them through the very traumatic life experiences that are part of their daily lives. Every day at Learning Inc. we are teaching these kids how (and why) to make better choices. We do job skill training and find the students summer employment through Baltimore City’s “Youth Works” program.
What inspired you to become a part of Learning Inc?
As soon as I walked in the doors of Learning Inc. I was inspired. After meeting the kids, it would be very difficult not to be. These are amazing, intelligent and sweet kids. They just have not been given the opportunity they deserve to succeed. After meeting and seeing the passion in Judy Friedman, the Executive Director, and the other staff and teachers, I knew this was somewhere I wanted to be and a mission I believed in. Knowing that we are all doing what we do to truly help these kids have a better life is what makes what I do so fulfilling.
Why is it so important for younger generations to get involved in important causes that they are passionate about?
It is important for the younger generation to get involved because- and I know this is cliche – they are our future. If they don’t take the torch passed down by the previous generation, then who will? I see a lot of passion and excitement from this generation to really make a difference and to CHANGE the injustices of the world. With their knowledge of social media and the Internet, it is easy for them to spread the word and get involved. I think this is an asset they can contribute to the future of philanthropy.
How can young adult make a difference to kids at Learning Inc. and similar schools/organizations?
Young adults can make a difference to our kids (and can help similar schools and organizations) by becoming involved. They can volunteer, be a good example, donate to our online campaign, join a committee or just help by spreading the word. “Liking” Learning Inc. on Facebook and helping us through social media is an easy way to contribute. Anything you can do to support our mission, we would greatly appreciate! Thank you!!!
Check out this video for more information about what Learning Inc. is doing: