Opportunity Knocks

Loyola scholarship offers open another door for Boys Hope Girls Hope students

By Linda Strowbridge

Over a family supper of chicken, broccoli, and baked ziti, 17-year-old Arthur Williams itemizes his plan to secure a slot on the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team.

A high school senior and an information technology intern at Under Armour, Williams knows he will need top grades, security/law enforcement experience, and a spotless personal behavior record. So Williams vows to complete a criminal justice degree. After graduation, he will enlist in the U.S. Marines for a tour of duty before applying to the FBI.

“I’m not worried about how hard any of this is going to be,” he says. “I want this and I don’t care what I have to do. I am going to join the FBI. I have my mind set.”

Arthur Williams, his mother explains, is more than a determined young man. He is proof that a bright but troubled child living with an addicted mother, twisted by anger over the collapse of his family, and verging on being expelled from school and seized by child welfare authorities can be transformed.

“I thank God for Boys Hope,” Annette Williams says of the residential program her son entered three years ago. “There, a lost child will get to find himself as a boy and grow up into a wonderful young man.”

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Operating quietly in Baltimore since 2002, Boys Hope Girls Hope drew media attention this summer when the ABC television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition organized an army of contractors and volunteers—including many faculty, staff, students, and alumni from Loyola—to build a home for the program’s female scholars. Simultaneously, Loyola University Maryland and College of Notre Dame of Maryland pledged full, four-year scholarships to the current Boys Hope Girls Hope scholars—eight young men and seven young women—when they graduate.

Created by a Jesuit educator in St. Louis, Mo., in the 1970s, the national nonprofit follows an “arms-around approach” to help academically capable children overcome challenges in their home life, acquire an excellent education, and “become men and women for others,” said Marcia Meehan, executive director of the nonprofit in Baltimore. Select boys and girls, aged 10-14, become voluntary residents of the organization’s two homes in northeast Baltimore. In a structured, family-style setting, staff and volunteers help children learn life skills, excel in academics, pursue extracurricular interests, become active volunteers, land part-time jobs, and eventually enter and complete college.

Children accepted into Boys Hope Girls Hope have struggled with some significant challenge in their home lives, such as poverty, homelessness, addiction issues, or violent neighborhoods.

Annette Williams said her son had been a straight-A student. “But then his father died and my soul died and I relapsed into addiction. He had to take his anger out on somebody. So this good little child turned into a mad child. His grades dropped to Ds and he wanted to fight everybody.”

Program Director Kristy Norbert cautions, “It’s a really unique individual and family that thrive at Boys Hope Girls Hope. This is not an easy path.”

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