Excel Academy has watched five of its students being taken by gun violence this school year. The community is coming together to mourn these young victims, while giving the students encouragement and hope for a bright future.
Markel Rhodes, 19, was the fifth Excel student to be claimed by gun violence since October. The school has been hit especially hard by the increasing violence throughout the city, where gun violence has claimed the lives of 122 people so far this year.
The fourth Excel student killed was Markel Scott. Steven Jackson, 18, was killed not far from the school in Poppleton on April 29. Jackson was killed along with two other victims, who were all potentially targeted, but police could not provide any additional details on the case.
Markel Rhodes mother, Sharonda, along with coaches, preachers, a police spokesman and an aspiring hip-hop artist, Corie Little, gathered on Tuesday morning to hear the students’ concerns.
“We’re looking for relationships to come out of this,” said Marvin McKenstry, a minister at the Victory House of Worship Church. He provided the students with connections to job placement services and assistance in filling out their resumes.
Founder of UMAR Boxing, Marvin McDowell was also present to offer his support and a safe place for the students to workout and meet and greet other young people. He said in recent months two of his boxers had been killed.
In 2012, Principal Tammatha Woodhouse took over the alternative school. She transformed the school into a place for all kinds of young adults and children, not just students with behavior problems. Many of these students were unable to attend a traditional school setting because of life circumstances, such as shifting foster placements and teen pregnancy.
Woodhouse credits Sonja Santelises Baltimore City schools CEO, with protecting Excel’s budget, regardless of the $130 million budget shortfall. The Heart of the School Awards recently recognized Woodhouse for being a stellar principal. She acknowledged that the grant would be spent for therapeutic crisis intervention training for staff members.
She suggests that keeping the school open weekends and each weeknight until 8 p.m. would provide her students with a safe environment. She also wants to eventually enhance job training and career advice, along with creating a funeral fund for parents, whose children are killed.