A New 21st Century School For Howard Park

Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary/Middle School Reopens in Northwest Baltimore

“Back to school” took on a new meaning for residents of the Northwest Baltimore community of Howard Pak this winter. On January 6, nearly 800 students returned from winter break to a brand-new school facility: Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary/Middle School.

The students had spent the previous year and a half in a swing space at Grove Park Elementary/Middle School, while Calvin Rodwell, which was originally built in 1978 and named for a local police officer who was killed in 1973, was demolished and completely rebuilt. Full of natural light and spaces thoughtfully designed by a team of architects from the firms Design Collective and Samaha, the new school is an exciting place for students, educators, parents, and the community as a whole.

Sam Rather and Dino Rodwell
Principal Sam Rather (left) welcomes students, families, and the broader community to the grand opening of the new Calvin Rodwell Elementary/Middle School. Dino Rodwell, (right) son of fallen Officer Calvin Rodwell, speaks about his family’s legacy of service in the community.

“We were pretty much jam-packed – our intervention groups would happen under stairwells,” says Calvin Rodwell Principal Sam Rather of the original school building. “Now we have a great deal of space. We’re able to have teachers and students collaborate in common spaces.”

Rather says his students love the gym, which is large and has real bleachers that give it a “high school gym” feel. Parents are excited about the new building, too; Rather has seen an uptick in parent volunteering since it opened.

One of Rather’s favorite areas in the new building is a broadcast studio outfitted with current technology. “It’s amazing that students have access to equipment that I had in college,” he says, noting that the school’s new technology, which includes broadcasting tools as well as items like 3D printers, has the potential to help children at Calvin Rodwell explore many new types of projects.

The Calvin Rodwell construction is part of the City’s larger 21st Century School Buildings program. Funding to overhaul and improve Baltimore City’s aging public school facilities comes from the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, and Baltimore City Public Schools, as a result of a campaign started in 2010 called Transform Baltimore: Build Schools, Build Neighborhoods.

For BCF, partnering with the community on the Calvin Rodwell project is a natural fit and in line with the organization’s place-based investment strategy. BCF’s 2019-2022 strategic plan identifies Calvin Rodwell, along with two other city schools and their communities, as anchors of that strategy; the schools are at the center of investments being made in their respective communities.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]“We were pretty much jam-packed – our intervention groups would happen under stairwells,” says Calvin Rodwell Principal Sam Rather of the original school building. “Now we have a great deal of space. We’re able to have teachers and students collaborate in common spaces.”[/su_pullquote]

Specifically, BCF is supporting Calvin Rodwell with grants intended to strengthen the school’s culture and bolster academics. Organizations receiving grants include: Child First Authority, for additional staff for the middle school program; The Movement Team, to run a mentoring program on-site; and Garwyn Oaks Northwest Housing Resource Center, to support the Pathways to Homeownership program for school community families.

BCF’s Fund for Advocacy supported the original staff and organizing work for Transform Baltimore to secure the financing plan to modernize school facilities, and funding from BCF’s Fund for Neighborhoods, Fund for Education and unrestricted endowment income support our strategic grant-making in Howard Park today.

Calvin Rodwell’s main entrance on Liberty Heights Avenue was designed to make a statement and establish the school’s presence in the community, where it serves a practical need – educating Howard Park children – and provides an emotional beacon.

Before classes adjourned unexpectedly in March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Principal Rather was busy making the school a community hub. “I’m just very excited. We have heard people feel their neighborhood is prospering. It’s a sense of promise and hope. Parents are very welcoming and appreciative. Since we were given this, we want to make sure it’s taken care of, respected and nurtured.”

The forced cancellation of school has not changed that. In the weeks after classes were canceled, Calvin Rodwell was up and running as a food distribution site for families in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with emergency support from BCF. The rapid pivot to support families in a new way illustrates the power of schools as the anchors of communities—the foundation on which BCF is building its strategic place-based investments.

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Building Stronger Neighborhoods Regionwide

We have a nearly 30-year history of offering grants to resident-led groups and community projects in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. These grants give residents the resources they need to accomplish a small project, get more people involved, and encourage the next generation of neighborhood leaders. We also fund programs that support the development of leaders of all ages who are working to improve their neighborhoods and schools. Our support is intended to help identify, activate, inform and network leaders. And finally, we believe when schools and neighborhoods team up to improve their school and community, meaningful and lasting change can be made. We are interested in funding proposals in which the students and adults in schools collaborate intentionally with community residents, neighborhood associations, and other individuals, groups, and institutions in the area surrounding a school.

School Leadership

We believe that attracting and retaining effective and diverse school leaders is a key lever for change in Baltimore's educational landscape, and so we fund school leadership development efforts at the district and individual school level. We are interested in funding proposals that focus on principal coaching, mentoring, peer networking, wellness/self-care, as well as pipelines that identify and develop new leaders. We will also continue to support efforts that build a culture of appreciation and encouragement for school leaders.

How Can We Help?

Melissa McC. Warlow
Director, Baker Fund Grants Program
410-332-4172 x150

Apply for a Grant

Our on-line application system provides applicants with a portal to start a new grant application or to continue updating an application already in process. Please be sure to select the “Save and Finish Later” button when you are finished working on your application in order to save your current session’s work. At any time during the application process you can select the “Contact Us” button in the top right corner of the screen and you will be able to send an email to the Baltimore Community Foundation staff with specific questions. 

To be considered for funding, proposals must be submitted through the online application portal, however, we provide a PDF version of the application along with other useful forms here for your reference:   

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Select this option if you have never used our website to apply for a grant from BCF.


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Select this option if you have applied for any of BCF’s grants using our website. Your profile may still be in our system and you may login using your account.

Place-based Grantmaking in Selected School Communities

We have allocated funds for two geographical areas that bookend a crucial corridor on the Westside of Baltimore City: Howard Park /Forest Park area (served by Calvin Rodwell Elementary Middle School and Liberty Elementary), and Reservoir Hill/Penn North area (served by Dorothy I Height Elementary). In these three schools and their surrounding neighborhoods, we will support projects and activities designed to make the communities safe, clean, green and vibrant; and improve the quality of the schools. Some projects may be neighborhood-focused, some school-focused and others collaborative projects between the schools and their respective communities.

Early Learning & Judy Centers

High quality early childhood education has a lifelong effect on students. Through our Early Learning grant program, we are interested in system-wide early childhood education proposals that will help Baltimore City and County's youngest learners, and their families, get the start they need. Nonprofit organizations that offer programs and/or services to Judy Centers are encouraged to contact the centers directly to explore partnership opportunities.

How Can We Help?

John A. Gilpin


Director of Planned Gifts
410-332-4171 ext. 132

How Can We Help?

Kate Sam

Communications Officer
410-332-4171 ext. 181

How Can We Help?

Cathy Brill

Executive Director
Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation