United Way of Central Maryland and Propel Center Come Together to Spark Big Dreams in Baltimore Youth
United Way Announces Young Men United, New Educational Equity Program, During the Exclusive Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Screening for Baltimore City Students
Baltimore, MD (November 11, 2022) – United Way of Central Maryland partnered with Propel Center to bring Baltimore City high school and college students together for an exclusive screening of the new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever film today. Propel Center, the global HBCU technology and innovation hub committed to developing a diverse talent pipeline, co-hosted the event at the Senator Theatre, which drew more than 900 students in total, representing Baltimore City high schools, as well as Coppin and Morgan State Universities.
The original Black Panther movie inspired millions with its themes of empowerment and revolution, capturing the importance of Black representation in our culture. Propel Center chose Baltimore City as the exclusive location for this event as part of their commitment to providing HBCU students with virtual and physical pathways for propelling their leadership development, entrepreneurial endeavors and community impact.
“We are so excited to bring Baltimore City students together today to enjoy this moment, and to celebrate the announcement of United Way’s Young Men United program,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland. “The opportunity to experience a movie like this allows our students to see themselves as leaders, bold thinkers, warriors, and innovators – whether behind the scenes, or right there on the big screen. Our vision for Young Men United is to break down barriers to education, opportunity, and earning power for young men of color so they can realize their dreams.”
Young Men United, an education equity and economic advancement initiative, will launch with student cohorts at Benjamin Franklin and Patterson high schools, two of the schools in attendance at today’s movie screening. Applications to participate in the program were made available to students this week, and the first cohorts will be announced in December. Young Men United will be executed in partnership with I AM MENtality, a local organization founded to provide comprehensive mentoring and leadership development services for youth.
“Through exposure to different industries and careers, we’ll guide students from high school to college or job training and into a full-time career aligned with their goals, creating a pipeline of leaders that will strengthen and diversify our workforce,” added Baker. “At United Way, we know that education is the foundation to future success—and strong individuals and families make for strong communities. Young Men United will support its participants throughout their journeys, as well as connect them and their families with critical resources like housing and food assistance, counseling services, financial education, and more."
In Baltimore City Public Schools, the cultural impact of the first Black Panther movie led city schoolteachers to develop a curriculum around the movie and its themes.
“Pop culture has a powerful impact on how our young people view the world. The original Black Panther movie was important for our students because it illustrates how education, technological innovation, and leadership can enhance a community. The screening of the sequel is welcome because it offers a chance to build on that momentum,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, chief executive officer of City Schools.
"Representation in media – whether television news, TV shows or movies – matters, and the fact that United Way knows how meaningful this movie is for our communities says a lot,” said Baltimore City Mayor, Brandon Scott. “It is truly appreciated that United Way has brought nearly 1,000 high school and college students from throughout Baltimore together to enjoy this film and celebrate our culture. This positive representation on the big screen not only impacts how we view the world around us – but also how we view ourselves and how others should view us."
Propel Center’s partnership with United Way of Central Maryland will accelerate work to bridge the gap between high school and college, supporting students on their journey to greatness.
“We believe Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has the power to uplift and empower students of color,” said Dr. Cortney Harris, vice president of impact and engagement at Propel. “We have chosen Baltimore as the site for our commitment to nurturing educational and workforce advancement. Establishing a partnership with United Way of Central Maryland, Baltimore City Public Schools and Morgan and Coppin State Universities propels our mission to transform HBCU students into civic-minded leaders capable of dismantling systemic injustice, while shaping the future through innovation and entrepreneurship.”
“Today our scholars from Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and Baltimore City Public Schools were able to come together and dream of what is possible,” said Dr. Anthony Jenkins, president, Coppin State University. “The latest Black Panther film allows them to envision themselves as superheroes and conquerors, and I hope they realize they can be those things outside of a film. Baltimore is home to some of the brightest minds, who, with care and guidance, overcome so much and go on to do great things. Thank you to United Way of Central Maryland for having this vision, for empowering our students, and challenging them to dream bigger.”
“We extend our gratitude to United Way of Central Maryland for creating this moment and affording our bright young students this respite from their studies to enjoy this cultural touchpoint with the release of the Marvel Black Panther sequel movie — Wakanda Forever,” said Dr. David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “It is our hope that this visit to fictional Wakanda inflames the passions of our students, providing real-life inspiration to see themselves in a manner that stretches the bounds of not only their imagination but their identity as young leaders ripe with promise. Representation matters.”
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United Way of Central Maryland helps the working poor and those in poverty access basic needs like housing, healthcare, jobs, and education. The nonprofit’s programs promote equity, create opportunity, and improve the lives of our neighbors and the neighborhoods they call home. For nearly 100 years, United Way has tackled the toughest challenges in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties. Learn more at uwcm.org.
About Propel Center
Supported by founding partners Apple and Southern Company, the Propel Center is a first-of-its-kind innovation and learning hub for the entire HBCU community that will serve as a catalytic epicenter of learning, providing students with the knowledge, skills, tools and resources necessary to transform the nation's talent pipeline and workforce. Through a robust virtual platform, on-campus activities at partner institutions and a physical campus located in the Atlanta University Center, Propel will bring innovative curricula and unprecedented leadership opportunities to produce the next generation of Black leaders.