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AT&T donates $300K toward UB family law center, truancy court program

AT&T has given $300,000 to the University of Baltimore Foundation for the law school’s center for families and its truancy court program.

The company announced the grant along with officials from the University of Baltimore School of Law and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at the law school Monday morning. The money will go to the University of Baltimore Foundation to support the law school’s Center for Families, Children and the Courts and its Truancy Court Program.

“We have the basic model in place and, through great entrepreneurial work, we will be able to grow it out to more than just one school and one jurisdiction,” said University of Baltimore School of Law dean Ronald Weich.

The grant will expand the number of students in the program and allow it to hire a social worker to work with students and parents. It will also fund programs such as school assemblies, small group discussions and mentoring sessions focusing on attendance issues. A lot of schools don’t have social workers, said Barbara A. Babb, director of the Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

“They will understand the kinds of problems students bring to the program,” Babb said.

The law school’s program was one of 47 recipients chosen from a pool of over 1,000 applicants, said J. Michael Schweder, president of AT&T Mid-Atlantic Region. The grants are part of AT&T Aspire, an initiative by the company to help students graduate high school and prepare for college and careers. The program, started in 2008, has committed $350 million to these efforts.

“We really believe in being part of the community here in Baltimore,” Schweder said.

The Center for Families, Children and the Courts works to reform the family justice system through projects and policy initiatives. The Truancy Court Program is part of the center and hosts 10 weekly sessions with a Baltimore judge, school representatives, a student from the law school, a secondary-school student and the student’s family to rectify a student’s truant behavior. The program, which started in 2005, has helped over 1,000 Baltimore students, who volunteer to participate and have not yet become chronic truants.

With AT&T’s funding, the program will now be able to add students in eighth grade from Violetville Elementary/Middle School and New Era Academy and students in ninth grade in the National Academy Foundation and Patterson High School, Babb said.

AT&T chose the truancy court program because of its early intervention strategy, Schweder said.

“The uniqueness of this program was part of it. …” Schweder said. “A lot of the other applications were rather generic. This one wasn’t.”

Weich said the truancy court program not only helps children in Baltimore, but also serves as a learning tool for law school students.

“We are part of this community,” Weich said. “We see this as a major contribution to help students succeed, and it’s important to the education of law school students, as well, in terms of hands-on experience and problem solving.”

Rawlings-Blake attended the event in support of the truancy court program.

“We understand that families don’t just need punishment, but they need support,” Rawlings-Blake said.