Hometown, Homewood, and Beyond
When a Baltimore businessman made a bequest in 1873 to establish a university and hospital, he forever changed the landscape—and the future—of his hometown. From their very inception, the Johns Hopkins Institutions have been woven deeply into the fabric of the city, making Baltimore synonymous not only with crab cakes, the Orioles, and the Inner Harbor, but also with world-class patient care, scholarship, and research.
In 2009, the relationship between Johns Hopkins and its community deepened further with the graduation of the inaugural class of Baltimore Scholars, a group of 15 alumni who are continuing the commitment to community at the heart of the program.
Jessica Turral, A&S ’09, for instance, grew up just six miles from the Homewood campus and studied psychology at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. While she has her short-term sights set on becoming an attorney, she says she hopes to eventually create a community program to help Baltimore youth with incarcerated parents obtain internships with local businesses, law firms, and other organizations.
“I just want to dedicate my life to helping others—starting with those in Baltimore,” says Jessica, who as an undergraduate was active in numerous service projects and initiated a program to introduce Johns Hopkins students to Charm City. “I want to help my home, my city, my heart. Until every child in Baltimore has an equal opportunity at life, my work is not done.”
Jessica’s goal lines up with that of the Baltimore Scholars program, a progressive initiative the university founded in 2005. The program offers full-tuition scholarships to Baltimore City public school graduates accepted to Johns Hopkins for undergraduate studies, and is designed to enable some of the city’s finest students to pursue higher education in their hometown.
Launched with university funding, Baltimore Scholars has since attracted the attention of private philanthropists, who have started to build toward the $50 million required to endow the program. Among the most generous supporters are Christopher Lee, A&S ’74, and his wife, Susan Ginkel.
Christopher studied history at Johns Hopkins and is the founder and managing partner of Highstar Capital, a leading independent, infrastructure investment firm. One of Highstar’s portfolio companies is Ports America which is a major operator in the Port of Baltimore, employing over 1,500 people. Christopher says that his university experience taught him to be self-motivated and to aim high and, when he and his wife sought a way to help young people obtain a similar higher education, they were inspired by the Baltimore Scholars Program.
“It’s a tremendous idea—bringing kids from the city to Johns Hopkins University and strengthening ties to the community,” Christopher says. “The program really has an impact in three ways: It helps students, it helps Baltimore, and it helps Johns Hopkins. What could be better?” With their $1.1 million commitment, Christopher and Susan have helped ensure that Johns Hopkins will be able to continue the program.
One of the inaugural class’s many standouts is Ryan M. Harrison, Engr ’09. Ryan, after finishing the requirements for a degree in biomedical engineering from the Whiting School of Engineering a semester early, took a year-long sabbatical to explore broader interests beyond science. During that time, he worked for a delegate at the Maryland State House, preparing testimony and analyzing policy, and planned to study abroad in Copenhagen before returning to Baltimore.
“Hopkins gave me the freedom to get the most out of my undergraduate experience,” says Ryan, who also interned at the Baltimore City Health Department and spent summers working on research projects in New York, Japan, and Seattle. “I found many opportunities to do things I found interesting and, at the same time, give back to my city.”
Like many of his Baltimore Scholars colleagues, Ryan made it a point to return to his high school to talk to younger students about the program, the value of higher education, and Johns Hopkins.
For Tierra Strange, A&S ’09, that opportunity was a key part of her university experience.
“Talking with younger students in the city schools about Baltimore Scholars can change their perspective,” says Tierra, who majored in the Writing Seminars and focused on preparing for medical school, by serving as a research assistant in a lab and working closely with doctors at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. “We can help them see college as a possibility, or make them say, ‘Maybe I can go to Hopkins.’”
That is, in fact, one of the program’s broader goals: to show local students that a distinguished higher education, be it at Johns Hopkins or elsewhere, can be a reality for anyone—a message Jessica took to heart. As a high school student, a Johns Hopkins education seemed “unreachable” and “too expensive,” she says. The Baltimore Scholars program put it within her grasp.
“Hopkins has helped me to realize the value of Baltimore,” says Jessica. “I saw that I love my city, that I am proud of my city, and that I could dedicate my life to making it amazing.”