Since the inception of its Baltimore Scholars program in
2005, Johns Hopkins has significantly
increased its numbers of incoming freshmen from Baltimore City's
public schools. The program, which
awards full-tuition scholarships to applicants from those schools
who are accepted for admission, was
initiated to attract more hardworking, high-achieving students
from the university's hometown.
As early as 2003, the Admissions Office realized that many
students in city schools weren't
considering Johns Hopkins when applying to colleges.
"It wasn't that Baltimore wasn't producing intelligent
minds," says John Latting, director of
undergraduate admissions. "It's just that these students
didn't want to come here."
Adds Bill Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services,
"These students weren't looking at
Hopkins as an option, whether it was their perception it was too
expensive or that admission was
unattainable. We wanted to develop a program that would tear down
The Baltimore Scholars program now includes 59 students.
Many come from the prestigious
Baltimore City College and Polytechnic Institute, but other
feeder schools include Dunbar and
Junior Jessica Turral said that when she applied in 2005,
her own school, City College, was
inundated with publicity about the scholarship. But now the
program has found a life of its own.
"Baltimore Scholars are in their neighborhoods talking about
Hopkins," Conley says. "I think that
this outreach is making Hopkins more of a possibility for
Baltimore students than it was five years
The program is showing big numerical gains. In 2001, the
university admitted only one student
from a public city high school; this past spring, 31 of 134
applicants were admitted and 20 have
Some Baltimore Scholars have an impact greater than their
numbers, as they seek ways to give
back to their university and city communities. Led by Turral, a
handful of students are working with
the Middle Grades Partnership — a Baltimore organization
that prepares middle school students to
excel in high school — to tutor students and to bring them
on visits to the Homewood campus. The goal,
Turral says, is to show young students that an elite college like
Johns Hopkins could be in their future.
These efforts, Conley says, are key to increasing the
applicant pool. "We need to see more
students who are qualified for admission to Hopkins," he says.
"What that means is that we need more
middle school kids learning what they need to take as high school
kids to apply to college."
Sophomore Burnest Griffin IV, a Poly graduate, says the
program itself is a good motivator to
get students interested in learning at a younger age. "I think
it's a great way to encourage Baltimore's
youth to do better in school early," he says. "Usually college is
way too expensive to even consider
Turral also has helped found an organization that seeks to
get more Johns Hopkins students
involved in the city, and to work with middle school and high
school students to bridge the
achievement gap. She is the chair of ethnic diversity for the
group, which is called the Organization
for Community Building and Social Change.
Turral says she wasn't always nonprofit-oriented; it was
Johns Hopkins and the Baltimore
Scholars program that steered her in that direction. Now, when
she graduates, she wants to stay in
her hometown to start a nonprofit organization instead of
practicing corporate law elsewhere.
"Staying here for college and working with all these amazing
programs shows me that the heart
is really nonprofit," Turral says. "I want to stay until every
student in Baltimore City is graduating
The program's funds now come from the university's general
financial aid pool, but admissions
officers are hoping to find a permanent endowment. The search is
being spearheaded by Matthew
Crenson, professor of political science and faculty director for
the program. As a former Johns
Hopkins student from the city himself, Crenson sees the Baltimore
Scholars as ambassadors for
educating their classmates about the city.
Sophomore Sheyna Mikeal, who went to Dunbar High School,
says she has made a point of
getting her friends outside the Homewood bubble. "I took my
friends all around the city," she says,
"and they saw things they would have never known."
In the end, the program may be best summarized by one of its
participants. Her goal, Turrel
says, is "to show others that there are precious resources in our
students from Baltimore City, and to
make sure that every student coming [to Johns Hopkins] has
someone to talk to, and that this is a
place we belong, so in 10 years we can have a Baltimore scholar
from every school."