Swirling test tubes and swinging hammers set the stage for four talented Baltimore city high school students whose summer included working in Johns Hopkins University medical research laboratories and helping build a new home for some of their fellow scholars. The young men, all part of Baltimore’s Boys Hope/Girls Hope program, were supported equally by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) and the School of Medicine to gain experience conducting research. But the producers of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” television show also put the boys (and a bunch of other folks) to work to construct a spacious home for the young women of Girls Hope. (The episode featuring the Boys Hope Girls Hope home build airs this Sunday, Sept 26 at 7 p.m. as the show’s 2-hour season premier. See video in links below.)
According to the organization’s website, Boys Hope/Girls Hope is a “privately funded, non-profit multi-denominational organization that provides at-risk children with a stable home, positive parenting, high quality education, and the support needed to reach their full potential.” In the summer of 2009, INBT hosted two students to work in labs at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. This summer INBT hosted four Boys Hope Girls Hope scholars.
Matthew Green-Hill, 18, a junior at Archbishop Curley High School and Donte Jones, 17, a sophomore at Archbishop Curley High School returned this summer and were joined by Dwayne Thomas, 16, a junior at Loyola Blakefield and Durrell Igwe, 16, a sophomore at Archbishop Curley. (Other students participate in Boys Hope Girls Hope, but only four scholars had summer jobs at Johns Hopkins.)
Doug Robinson, associate professor of cell biology at the School of Medicine spear-headed the effort to bring Boys Hope Girls Hope scholars to Johns Hopkins through INBT. Each scholar was paired with a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in their host labs to ensure that they were actively engaged in an aspect of a research. “The goal of this program was to provide our scholars with a summer experience that was challenging, enriching, and personally rewarding,” Robinson said. “Additionally, the students participated in a class three mornings a week where they worked on writing, reading, and mathematics skills.”
The summer experience concluded with a poster session where the scholars showed off what they had done with family, friends, other faculty members and staff. For example, Dwayne Thomas II worked with postdoctoral fellow Alexandra Surcel in Cell Biology in Robinson’s lab to conduct research on cytokinesis in the organism Dictyostelium.
“My summer experience was very important to me on so many levels,” Thomas said. “The quality education I received this summer was outstanding because I learned so much it will help next year in school. I feel like this has really prepared me for college in the near future and also for my dream of becoming a medical doctor. During the summer program, it taught me a lot about professionalism such the importance of arriving at work on time. I know that this experience has made me strive even harder because not many people receive the same type of opportunities I do.”
Donte Jones worked on the problem of malaria in the laboratory of Caren Meyers, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the School of Medicine. Durrell Igwe spent his summer in the neuroscience laboratory of Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Alex Kolodkin in the department of neuroscience. Matthew Green-Hill participated in neurodegenerative disease research in the laboratory of Craig Montell, professor of biological chemistry at the School of Medicine.
A half dozen young women also study through Girls Hope, but unlike their male counterparts, the girls had no home where they could live with their adult mentors, only a parcel of land in the Hamilton section of Baltimore. Boys Hope/Girls Hope is completely voluntary and the organization does not serve as a legal guardian to the students, but participants have the option of living in the group house or at home with their own families. Many choose to live with their classmates in the group house.
The Boys Hope scholars wanted to help the Girls Hope scholars get their home built as soon as possible. So the boys sent a video requesting that the makers of the television Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to construct a house for the girls before the start of the next school year. The plea worked and before long, several city blocks along Fleetwood Ave. were cordoned off and filled with construction equipment and workers. The 11,000 square ft. home was built in nine short days, suffering a brief setback due to severe rainstorms. Look for more photos of the Girls Hope Home on the INBT website after the television reveal.
Story by Mary Spiro