the Neighborhood Design Center

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August 11, 2020

First-hand Perspective: JHU intern explores intersection between housing & schooling in Ellwood Park and Baltimore Highlands

Read through a reflection from Yvette Bailey-Emberson, who joined us in June and July this summer from the Community Impact Internship Program at Johns Hopkins University.

My first week at the Neighborhood Design Center definitely challenged me. My role is more technical than I am used to with analyzing data and graphs, but these skills are essential to accompany the discussions of social issues and their implications. My project focuses on the intersection of housing and schooling outcomes in two neighborhoods: Ellwood Park and Baltimore Highlands. This week I was tasked with looking at the demographic data of both neighborhoods and researching of how neighborhoods may affect one’s schooling outcomes to lay the baseline for our development plan. I have taken classes that focus on this intersection but doing the research myself highlights the disparities in ways that reading about it cannot.

As I pull the data, the patterns are ever present. In Ellwood Park for example, there is a significant amount of vacancies, it is predominantly African-American/Black, majority of residents only completed high school, and over 50% of children in the neighborhood live in poverty. Studies show that neighborhoods are significant in school outcomes as outside stresses like homelessness, poverty, exposure to crime, etc. affect performance, and the income levels of an area affect the funding of a school. Thus, it is no coincidence that these schools are also very low-performing with a significant amount of students failing to “meet expectations” in standardized tests. Obviously, standardized tests do not accurately measure one’s intellect, but they are significant nonetheless. Making these connections myself for the specific neighborhoods and creating the graphs that show these disparities takes these ideas from theory in a textbook to real life that influence the city in such deep ways.

It is frustrating to know that these disparities in education and housing stability exist throughout Baltimore in ways that I never had to experience. It is extremely disheartening to think about the vast difference in life outcomes a student my age has just a few miles away because of the neighborhood they were born in. However, doing this research and work with the NDC reassures that this is the path I am supposed to be on and my knowledge and work can make a difference. I am eager to continue to learn and see how our research and community plans can help change the outcomes of a neighborhood for the better.