Outdoor Classrooms, Arts Opportunities Reach At-Risk Youth
By Keri Luise
Troubled times can often lead to great opportunities and that is exactly how Annapolis youth-organization Hood2Good began. In 2017, an Annapolis teenager named Terry Bosley was shot and killed in what police believe was a targeted attack in broad daylight. Jaime Artero, 20, Bosley’s friend, says the death had a “big impact on Annapolis” because Bosley was well-known by many in the community. After his friend’s death, Artero wanted to create something positive out of the tragedy. So he began a program in 2018 to curb violence within at-risk communities using a three-prong approach of community service events, community engagement and youth artistic showcases. And Hood2Good was born.
“I started the program [for] kids to know that this is not the way to live,” says Artero. “You’ve got kids out here getting their lives taken at a very young age and it’s just sad, it’s really sad.”
Hood2Good’s members range in age from 14 to 20. Members and their friends participate in free events and projects designed for community engagement, says program director Kenneth Starkes.
“Hood2Good is directly purposed to assist members as well as mentor them and connect them to resources in their particular fields,” says Starkes.
And now, amidst the pandemic, Hood2Good is working to reach young people through a partnership with Maryland Hall’s ArtReach program, working to help young artists pursue their goals and support their community.
Maryland Hall has placed an emphasis on outreach initiatives for much of its 40-year history. “Our general goal is to use the healing power of the arts to inspire and empower all members of our community,” says Laura Brino, Maryland Hall’s outreach coordinator.
The ArtReach program blended seamlessly with Hood2Good. ArtReach has the strong backbone structure and programming, and Hood2Good has the active members, Brino says.
Starkes has worked with Brino over the years and says their programs’ partnership “just made sense.”
“I think we will get more attention and our name out there to more creative children and spark creativity in a lot of other children to join the program,” says Hood2Good president Issac Colbert, 19. “It’s a new branch for us that I think will be great.”
Hood2Good encourages creative diversity with their artistic youth showcases, where young artists can express themselves through painting, rap, dance, singing, step team, or any other arts.
“We do target at-risk kids who live in the projects or [under] dire circumstances, but we also target people who are very creative and have tendencies to do things way different but don’t have the support or the push to make them go further,” says Starkes. “We let them showcase their talents, and Maryland Hall gives them a platform to express themselves.”
The partnership with Maryland Hall has helped Hood2Good on even more levels, says Starkes. “Maryland Hall not only provides the space to perform, it provides resources, supplies, it also provides relationships to people in the industry of each individual member,” says Starkes. “[It is] truly a blessing being part of Maryland Hall ArtReach outreach program.”
Within the organization’s three-prong system, Hood2Good works directly with communities, asking them what they need and working to service them. “Instead of saying ‘this is a problem,’ we’re saying ‘how can we find a solution?’ That’s the mindset,” Starkes says.
For example, Hood2Good’s coat drive has distributed over 800 coats in two years. “We had to give the difference away, another 200–300 coats, to Goodwill because there was no one else to take the coats,” Starkes says.
Starkes says that Hood2Good’s biggest hurdle within the pandemic is not being able to go out into the community. But Brino found a way for them to get involved, by building outdoor classrooms.
Maryland Hall has partnered with a number of nonprofits within The Collaborative Supporting Youth in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County to develop outdoor classrooms that will “provide a safe and socially distant space for a variety of engaging programming,” says Brino.
The classrooms will be built in about 12 Annapolis communities with the first installed at HACA-owned Eastport Terrace/Harbor House, and the second at Robinwood.
“The designs are site specific,” says Brino. “They will feature tree stumps that will be painted as seating which will be spaced 6 feet apart, there will be a platform stage or presenting area, along with some mural/public art.”
Starkes and Brino are also getting creative in the virtual space. To “go where the kids are,” they’re using video games and social media to reach them.
“Now we’re doing what kids like, we’re doing a dance piece virtually [via TikTok], and then a Madden gaming thing with art based on both of them,” says Starkes. “We’re gaining more traction just doing that.”
Brino has been creating ArtReach Challenges videos where she demonstrates art challenges that everyone can do from home with materials lying around.
Hood2Good founder Artero says he hopes to take local young people “to places they have never been before.”
“We’re trying to help these kids really find their true inner selves and try to find what they’re so interested in so they can chase that dream instead of just thinking negative like ‘I grew up in the hood so I’m gonna stay in the hood,’” says Arteo. “I’m trying to make kids understand that it’s a bigger purpose and meaning of life.”
Every kid that comes from the hood can turn for the good, Artero says. “Just don’t give up, you gotta keep pushing and I really do have a strong feeling that [Hood2Good] is going to go somewhere,” he says.
And the organizations are counting on these young people to influence their peers for the better.
“I would say one of the most important things that youth can do right now is to become ambassadors for their own communities,” says Brino. “The more that they speak out on rising up and being elevated and empowered to do good and to succeed in life, the more they get others to follow them.”
Hood2Good is working on a virtual showcase for Sept. 18 and will be broadcast on social media platforms.