A collection of updates from the Caroline Center.
On August 8th, 2023 13 CNA & 9 PhT students of Cohort 84 graduated from Caroline Center and are starting their healthcare careers. Please join us in congratulating all the women on their success! If you missed the Facebook Live of the graduation you can watch it here!
Caroline Center is "Celebrating Women's Empowerment through Connections" and invites you to our annual benefit Scrubs on a Mission event to be held on Thursday, June 15, 2023, at the Mansion at Valley Country Club from 6-10 PM!
This year's Scrubs on a Mission is an evening filled with an elegant sit-down dinner, an open bar, more opportunities to give at our auction, and various raffles! You can support the professional careers of women when you attend this event!
Caroline Center this past year has so many things to celebrate! Thank you for your continuous support and we look forward to growing with you in the next year.
"Caroline Center was featured on Baltimore Fox45, discussing our open enrollment and other ways people can get involved with our program..."
"Bank of America is surprising local organizations with big checks. The financial institution hopes to provide funding and leadership training to nonprofits while building up underserved neighborhoods..."
Celebrating 26 years of serving the women in Baltimore through education.
Celebrating 25 years of educating women in Baltimore City!
"In under-served communities, securing a good job has always been a challenge and when you add a global pandemic in the mix, it becomes an even bigger hurdle to clear..."
Here's a snapshot from our socially distant closing ceremony.
Watch Sister Charmaine bless the graduates and building at the Caroline Center’s 25th Anniversary in the video below.
Take a look at this beautiful Caroline Center quilt!
Congratulations to Tanora Johnson, LVN, who graduated from Philip's College on December 13, 2019, with a degree in licensed vocational nursing. The LVN is equivalent to the more familiar LPN degree (licensed practical nursing). Tanora graduated from Caroline Center in 2012, having earned her CNA/GNA, and as a proud member of Class 52. You may recognize Tanora from the cover of Caroline Center's What It Takes magazine and from other photographs in which Tanora is featured as part of What It Takes, Caroline Center's first branding campaign.
Just what does it take to beat the odds? To ensure success? To make the world a better place? or at least...our little corner of it? For starters, it takes a burning desire for change. But desire without drive is just wishful thinking. For sure, it takes tremendous courage. To go against the grain. To rock the boat. To say, “No, this is not okay.” But courage without commitment is just a false start. It certainly takes confidence. In oneself and others. But confidence without capability is just delusion. And most definitely it takes staying power. The willingness to go the distance.
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, You surpassed in your generosity and giving this year even our most fervent and prayerful expectations for what we knew we could accomplish together with your increased commitment.
The older I get, the more I’m convinced that there’s nothing a little reading couldn’t cure.
I’m not talking about the omnipresent self-help books – the likes of which constitute a $10+ billion industry in the United States alone. Not at all.
For some reason – maybe for many reasons – most of which I admittedly do not understand, I woke up this morning having dreamed about Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.”
Caroline Center certified pharmacy technician candidate Keah M. just celebrated the mid-point in her 15-week education and career training program at Caroline Center – the eagerly awaited Halfway Hurrah, a longstanding Caroline Center tradition.
Contracture. Cardiovascular. Calcemia. Each of these words and many more are part of the day-to-day vocabulary of Caroline Center certified nursing assistant and certified pharmacy technician trainees.
But, “covfefe?” Well, that’s something else altogether.
Each time I think I’ll never see such a week again in our nation’s capital, something happens to prove me wrong. And, this Memorial Day week is shaping up to be no exception.
Scrubs on a Mission: A Festive Evening of Culinary Delights, Wine Pairings & Music, which was held at The Engineers Club in Mt. Vernon on April 28, 2017, was a thoroughly enjoyable evening for the more than 350 guests in attendance. A beautifully prepared menu; wonderful wine pairings; the grand rooms of the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion; and, music provided by pianists Rita Bueche, SSND, and Dave Waite added to the ambiance and helped make the evening an occasion for many wonderful conversations among old friends and new.
Knowing the history. And, continuing the work.
I, for one, am committed to carrying this essential wisdom forward – from Black History Month through Women’s History Month to my social justice Seder on Passover and well into the foreseeable future. But, let’s think for a moment about the time we are in – March and Women’s History Month.
Woman to woman. Woman to world. How will we spend our courage? How will we make our way? How will we respond to the day some other way than blind?
Oftentimes, it’s the little things. And, sometimes, it is just the matter of a truck.
Frequently, I receive phone calls from friends of Caroline Center who have furniture they are replacing and they ask me if there is a trainee or graduate who might be able to use what they don’t need anymore. The issue is never if we have a trainee or graduate who is in need; it is almost always a question of how we can get the items to her.
It’s good to be in the company of strong women. It’s especially good these days, when there are so many unsubtle reminders that misogyny is all too alive and well. We need an antidote for this poison; and, maybe it begins with the company we keep.
So, I pen this article for everyone getting dressed for work, who are putting on their masks. For every student who is not only carrying the textbooks to improve their minds, but who also bear the weight of this reality on their backs. For everyone who has wept this morning because they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I’m not sure if D. Watkins’ The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir was on anyone else’s wish list for Mother’s Day this year, but it was on mine.
Who am I? At the age of 34 years old, I’m still trying to find that out. When I was born, I was someone’s daughter. I had brothers and a sister. So, I was someone’s big sister and little sister.
The cover of Alexandra Hurwitz’s book, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation, could have been the only book on the shelf at the New York Public Library Store. It had me from the beginning.
The forgotten virtue of reverence, as classicist and writer Professor Paul Woodruff suggests, may very well be the mother of all virtues – the virtue that makes all of the other virtues possible.
The World Economic Forum predicts that it will take 117 more years for women around the world to achieve gender parity...
The forecast is for blustery and unseasonably warm days ahead –especially if we don’t learn how to weather the winds of change and to keep our cool in the midst of inevitable partisanship.
Caroline Center’s newest trainees delved into their coursework and preparation to become certified nursing assistants/geriatric nursing assistants on January 7, 2016, in beautiful temporary space at St. Agnes Hospital in West Baltimore. As renovations to the permanent Gibbons Commons space are underway, we are grateful to St. Agnes Hospital and to a host of individuals who helped us prepare to welcome women to our growing Caroline Center family of healthcare professionals...
You are the Angel on every corner
the last choir
life’s deliverer and death’s powdery hand
You are the Man in the Mirror
the jittery birds calling on the fence
You are the breeze that blows in every season
catching up what’s left...
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, During the past year and through some difficult days in Baltimore, your dedication to Caroline Center gave us new courage, and your generosity strengthened our resolve and our commitment to women and work. As we anticipate the meaningful ways we will celebrate Caroline Center’s 20th Anniversary year together in 2015-2016, we are so very grateful to you for your past support of the Annual Fund and for lighting the spark of hope that will illuminate our path moving forward...
All too often, we feel that we are not living the fullness of our lives because we are not expressing the fullness of our gifts. Elle Luna
You can’t get around it.
You can’t talk around it. You can’t write around it. And, you certainly can’t walk around it. In fact, on any given day, on any given street in Baltimore, you may run right smack into it.
I’ve been thinking recently about how it’s going to feel turning 20 this year, especially now and in Baltimore – a city standing at a crossroad with some big decisions to make after an unsettling spring. And, I’m also wondering what it’s going to be like on the West Side after having really come of age in the heart of East Baltimore.
It’s summer. And the women in Caroline Center’s sixty-first class of career trainees are working hard, and with new-found confidence and hope, in preparation for their professional and clinical internships and the next important steps in their life’s journeys.
This month, as a nation, we will commemorate a significant anniversary of freedom. June 19th, Juneteenth 2015, will mark 150 years since our country abandoned the practice of enslaving African people, thus ending two centuries of forced migration, uncompensated labor, and a myriad of other ills and inequities that could only persist if all people are not free.
Following the death of Freddie Gray, the need for more and more meaningful work as an antidote to injustice in Baltimore has become a rallying cry. Caroline Center reflects on one aspect of the issue in The Breakroom.
“Everything is on the line. Know it or not, our very survival hangs in the balance. With a few meager possessions, we hurry out the door running to an unknown destiny.” The question is, “Can we get there from here?”
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds. “Redemption Song” – Bob Marley
What a loss that some of Baltimore’s best employers continue to fly under the radar for “Top Workplace” recognition, especially when they consistently get high marks from their employees in all of the areas that a recent Baltimore Sun survey determined make people want to come to work each day. So, what keeps these great employers from making even a blip on the Sun’s “Top Workplace” radar? It may be that like Caroline Center they have fewer than the fifty employees required to be considered even a “small” company.
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, the spirit of Mother Caroline Friess, SSnD, the North American foundress of the School Sisters of notre Dame and namesake of our sponsored work, lives through your commitment to Caroline Center.
It’s January 2015. The New Year. And, as we welcome our 60th class of trainees to Caroline Center this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about #Black Lives Matter and the important conversations it is generating across the media.
The first chill in the air or the tiniest bit of frost on the pumpkin means I can bring out my favorite Squidfire hoodie and walk fearlessly into the fall. 002Before I even knew the name of the clever design, which is pure genius by the way, I fell in love with the art.
Ravens fans who are rushing to M&T Bank Stadium this week to cash in on the recent offer by the team to exchange their Ray Rice jerseys for less controversial, more desirable swag are not likely to pass by Caroline Center on their way.
Within four days, this single hashtag had been tweeted an astounding 1.2 million times.
We begin every new session at Caroline Center with a reading of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey.” It’s the ending of the poem, this last stanza, I think, that really gets to people.
When Julio Sabetta answered the phone, more than likely he was not expecting to hear the voice of Pope Francis saying, “This is Father Bergoglio. I would like to speak with (your wife) Jacqueline Lisbona.” But, the Pope was doing something that is becoming familiar in the eyes of the world – living his faith outright in a deeply personal way and leading by example, with humility. A religious matter had been troubling Ms. Lisbona, she had reached out to Pope Francis, and he heard her and responded. This is the “Francis Factor.”
The Julie Gold song “From a Distance” has long been a favorite of mine. And, as two strikingly different events converge this year – the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and a rare meet-up in our own Milky Way galaxy of two unique, yet equally impressive entities, a spectacular gas cloud and an immense black hole with the mass of four million suns, Gold’s lyrics give us pause for thought...
With all of the flurry over the increased minimum wage – from the marketing appeal of an impressive-looking double-digit number to the downright attractive-sounding and memorable “$10.10” – I can’t help but wonder if we might be missing the bigger picture.
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, We are so grateful to you. Your generosity has made it possible for capable, highly motivated women to receive a Caroline Center education and to begin new careers that have changed their lives. Your gift to Caroline Center shows that you share our confidence and faith in our alumnae...
Nearly 60% of the women who attend Caroline Center are or have been victims of domestic or relationship violence. Below, in her own words, is one of their stories. All names have been withheld to protect the innocent.
Many of the women who attend Caroline Center enter this world with the deck squarely stacked against them. Many, but not all. Take, for example, Caroline Center graduate, Quy’an (pronounced Kwan-yun) or “Q” as she is called by just about everybody. Q grew up on Long Island, New York in a relatively stable family environment. Though her parents divorced when Q was 12 years old, to this day they remain “best friends” and – more importantly – strong and positive influences in Q’s life. She describes her mother as a “hard worker” and recalls (with a smile) how her father constantly nagged her about schoolwork and admonished her to “keep her head in the books.” Their good example and advice paid off.
“My potential will carry me to a great place.”
Because so many of the women who attend Caroline Center come from similar backgrounds and have similar life experiences, the tendency to lump them all together under one label might be considered understandable. Understandable perhaps…but wrong.
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, Your generosity and commitment this past year so clearly demonstrated that there are no bounds to your love and compassion for the women we are blessed to know and serve through our program. We cannot thank you enough for your support and for helping with your gift to create the power for positive change within our community...
We all want the same thing. To live – and raise our children – in a safe and nurturing environment. But let’s face it. It’s a perilous world. Danger lurks everywhere and sadly, you don’t have to venture beyond the menacing streets of our own troubled city to encounter it. In the last two months of this year alone (and this month is not over), there were more than 60 shootings and 40 homicides in Baltimore City. A public safety concern, by any definition.
Because the women of Caroline Center have experienced more of life’s ups and downs in their short lives than many people 2 and 3 times their age, you forget just how young these women really are. Most of them are under 40. The majority are in their twenties and early 30’s. Some are barely out of their teens. Yet, when you listen to their sagas, it’s as if they’ve each lived a hundred life times. It’s impossible not to be moved by their stories of struggle and survival. Not to be won over by their courage and determination or overcome with love and admiration. And then there are those like Charlene who, upon hearing her story, you just want to wrap your arms around in a tight and protective maternal embrace.
On more than one occasion I have been told that if you really want to witness generosity, you only have to observe the poor. Conveyed to me by those who live and work among the poor, I have always accepted this idea at face value and as a lesson in humility. Then I started to think about all the incredibly generous people I know and all the beautiful acts of kindness I have witnessed in my own middle class life.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A young, twenty-something office worker with a prep school background and a college degree – who got her job through a friend of her father’s – went home crying to her mother after her boss gave her a bad review. His criticisms? The young woman was always late for work, didn’t get her assignments done on time, and generally had a lousy attitude. The mother called the boss to complain, explaining that he wasn’t being fair, underestimated her daughter, and could hurt her budding career with his bad review. This, of course, is wrong on so many levels as to be laughable. What’s even more horrifying is…it’s a true story.
29-year-old Shawntae is unassuming. She sits off to the side in the crowded Caroline Center classroom. Quietly. By herself. The rest of the women are chatty and jokey, a thinly veiled attempt to hide their nervous excitement and hopeful expectation. Today is the day they find out if they passed the Pharmacy Technician final exam. Passing will mean the difference between continuing on to a working internship at a local pharmacy before graduation or flunking out of the program. So yes, most of them are slightly nervous. Except for Shawntae who sits there quietly. By herself...
Most of the women who pass through Caroline Center share commonalities of experience: a legacy of poverty, indifferent or absent parents, stolen childhoods, teen pregnancy, single motherhood, paltry or aborted educations, limited options. This pile up of delinquencies litters their personal landscape, all but obliterating their view of a bright and promising future. It’s out there, just over the horizon, but to reach it, they first have to navigate a rocky and rutty road, pockmarked by unforeseen consequences and foregone conclusions. Bystanders (like you and me) look at the road ahead of these women and grow weary at the very thought.
Many of the women who enroll at Caroline Center come from similar backgrounds. Often, they are the product of either absent and indifferent parents or absent yet caring parents. The problem is absence of any kind, negligent or unavoidable, has its consequences. 23-year-old Caroline Center graduate, Tanora, is a product of the latter. The oldest of 4, Tanora was born to a single mother with limited education. This in turn limited her mother’s employment opportunities. In an effort to make ends meet, Tanora’s mother worked 2 full time jobs, leaving Tanora the adult task of raising her younger brothers and sisters and robbing her of her own childhood. In many ways, her path was set. It began with trouble at school. Middle school.
Oftentimes, when interviewing a woman for this blog, it becomes apparent that to share all the details of her life – as she herself does in the telling – would be to reveal too much. Sometimes, you realize you must hold back some of those details for her own protection. Twenty-four year old, Jiden, a pharmacy technology candidate at Caroline Center, is one of those women.
“Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Ancient Chinese proverb
“Teach a woman to fish…she’ll feed the whole village.” Appended by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Over the years I have visited many Baltimore inner city homes to interview the residents about their life and work, their hopes and dreams. They are members of the urban poor: the un- and underemployed, as well as those who – despite the fact that they work full time and then some – do not make a living wage and struggle to make ends meet. It doesn’t matter what time of the month or year I visit, whether it’s the East side or West side, public or private housing, upon entering each residence, I am always greeted by the same persistent sound: the plaintive chirp of a smoke detector whose batteries need replacing.
49-year old Cynthia Baker loves to work. She cannot remember a time when she didn’t. Wherever she’s lived, she’s worked. She worked as a young, single mother in Michigan. As a married woman in New York. And as a divorced mother of 4 in Maryland. There were some jobs she loved. Those were the ones that paid well, had good benefits, recognized her hard work, and gave her added responsibilities and promotions. Others were less fulfilling but helped Cynthia contribute to the family budget so she was grateful to have them.
Linda Dutton wears a porkpie hat. Like the lid itself and the jazz musicians who made it popular, she is a cool classic; bopping to the beat of her own drum and, at 52, comfortable in her own skin. As she tells her story, she is inclined to long verbal riffs, peppered with bits of slam poetry of her own creation. Listening to her is like listening to an improvisational jazz piece, freeform, and a little hard to pin down. You never know where it’s going to take you but you know it’s going to be someplace good – so if you’re smart, you’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride. Only then do you realize that what at first seemed a bit extemporaneous actually has structure, direction, and a great deal of lyrical passion. Throughout her life – just like the jazz and R&B musicians she loves – Linda has known when to lay back, when to break out, and when to step up and take the lead. And when she does, she nails it.
26-year-old Sarah grew up in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. By her own admission, she preferred the county. It was safer and quieter and had better schools. She began high school at Overlea, a successful public school with a good reputation. But when her parents split up, she moved back to the city with her father. This decision forced her to switch schools. She had her first child, a daughter, when she was 16, which delayed her high school graduation by a year. Eventually, after night school and Saturday classes, Sarah graduated from Southwestern High School (a failing city school, which was ultimately closed). Sarah’s mother didn’t see her daughter graduate. She died of an accidental drug overdose the same week Sarah turned 18.
When I arrived at Jackie’s house for our interview, I was greeted at the door by two of her children, Deasia and Darius.
“Who’s the oldest?” I asked them. Four-year-old Darius reluctantly pointed to his 9-year-old sister.
“And who’s the boss?” I inquired further. Both Deasia and Darius quickly pointed to Mom.
“Smart kids,” I said to Jackie. She smiled and then quietly ushered them upstairs to do homework, which, surprisingly (kids being kids) they did without protest.
“Good kids, too,” I added, amused.
“Most of the time,” she chuckled with just a hint of amazement herself.
Twenty-three year old Brittany is, shall we say, outspoken. That is not to say she is pushy or loud or demanding of attention. It’s just that she’s not afraid to speak up. From the first day of orientation – when Counselor Yvonne Moten asked for volunteers to read aloud from the Caroline Center handbook and Brittany volunteered for every turn, to the day before graduation when the women were asked to reflect on their Caroline Center experience and Brittany offered 10 reflections for every one the other CNA’s offered – Brittany made her presence known.
In some ways, Wendi’s story is a familiar one. Like many of her Caroline Center colleagues, she had adult responsibility thrust upon her while still a child. Her father left home when Wendi was just 14 years old, leaving Wendi and her mother to fend for themselves. To help out, Wendi went to work at a McDonald’s. She was good at it and after a while became a manager. She stayed there for 4 years before taking a job as an assistant manager at a Target. By age 19 she was living on her own. She is not afraid of work; she has already worked more than half her life.
On the first day of each new session, before class begins, the latest Caroline Center trainees gather together for orientation. After a few announcements, the staff turns the floor over to the women for what has become a familiar ritual. As they go around the room, each woman is asked to introduce herself and share with the others what it felt like to receive her letter of acceptance into the program. Without fail, what begins as a routine exercise in icebreaking eventually takes on aspects of the sacramental.
To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it…who is to say that is not greatness? William Makepeace Thackery
For the 53rd class of Caroline Center nursing assistant trainees, the nearly 4-month long program flew by. And now here they were – in the same room where just 15 weeks earlier they had quietly introduced themselves to each other and nervously waited for orientation to begin – about to debrief their instructors on the week of clinicals they had just completed at various healthcare centers around town. Back in September, their blue scrubs were stiff and starchy with newness. Now, they were well worn and broken in, the uniform of true professionals. The course had flown by, which is not to say it was easy. For months the women grappled with anatomy and physiology, struggled with medical terminology, and mastered state of the art patient care. And then they were sent into the field to practice on site what they’d learned in the lab. For a week they worked alongside other healthcare professionals at places like St. Elizabeth’s, Bayview, and Maria Health Care. They had learned a great deal and were eager to report on the experience.
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, As we look back on the past year, our hearts are filled with gratitude and amazement at the wonderful people and celebrations that marked our 15th anniversary. Our two signature events, the lecture by The Help author Kathryn Stockett, and the wine event at Boordy Vineyards provided us an opportunity to see old friends and make many new ones.
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, There is a poem by the poet Mary Oliver that we read to each class of women on their first day at Caroline Center. It is called The Journey, and it describes the choice each woman makes when she sets her feet to the Caroline Center path...
Dear Friends of Caroline Center, The SSND foundresses of our congregation believed that if you educate a woman you educate a society. That belief is at the heart of our work here, and as we end our twelfth year the truth of this belief is evident.