Ending Health Barriers to Academic Success

Parents and student ambassadors filled the Team and Family Room at KIPP Baltimore on Friday, Nov. 13, to celebrate the dedication of a new endeavor to ensure that Baltimore City students from economically disadvantaged communities achieve their full academic potential. At the morning event, Johns Hopkins KIPP administrators, pediatricians, philanthropists, elected officials and local educators unveiled a $5 million health and education initiative designed to eliminate health barriers to academic success and foster lifelong achievement among Baltimore City youth.

Named the Ruth and Norman Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education, and headquartered at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the new model of school-based care will offer a wraparound, fully integrated model of health and education. Conceived and developed by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation, the Rales Center will be the most comprehensive school-based health program in the country.

The centerpiece of the initiative is a newly opened full-service, fully integrated health center at KIPP Harmony Academy and KIPP Ujima Village Academy charter schools in Baltimore City. Under the program, KIPP students have access to a full-time clinic for acute and primary health care, and to a constellation of wellness services.

In celebrating the official opening of the Ruth and Norman Rales Health Center, KIPP Executive Director Kate Mehr was joined by Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels; Tina Cheng and Sara Johnson - both on the faculty at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and co-directors of the Rales Center; Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin and U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District Elijah Cummings; Joshua Rales, president and trustee of the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation, and fellow trustee Mitchell Rales.

Among the speakers that morning, Daniels described the initiative as part of Johns Hopkins’ “abiding commitment to the community and its children.”

Said pediatrician Cheng, director of the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Johns Hopkins and chair of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, the initiative’s overarching goal is to determine “how we can we do better for the kids and families of Baltimore.”

The initiative at KIPP is “a national model to integrate health care and education," added Cardin.

Among the KIPP student representation that morning were a multitude of student greeters handing out programs, the event’s two Masters of Ceremony – KIPP Ujima Village Academy 7th graders, Jayla Campbell-McClurkin and Tyee Davis, and the KIPP Ujima Village Academy Step Team.

In closing, Josh Rales thanked the KIPP students, whom he reminded were at the heart of everything his and his siblings’ parents – Ruth and Norman Rales – cherished and actively supported throughout their lifetimes, and through their family foundation. “It’s really important to work hard and believe in yourself,” he told the dozens of “KIPPsters” in the morning’s audience. “When you become successful, as you surely will, remember to hold out your helping hands to others so the spirit of giving lives on in you.”

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