Forty years after most schools have left Baltimore for the suburbs, the Institute of Notre Dame (IND) remains where Blessed Mother Theresa Gerhardinger, the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s foundress, established it more than 167 years ago: in East Baltimore, two blocks from the world-renowned Johns Hopkins medical institution.
Throughout the years, IND’s commitment to the community has never wavered. During the Civil War, the catacombs beneath the school were used as an infirmary to hide and heal both Union and Confederate soldiers. IND was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad, where former slaves were hidden, then passed on to others in the North for safe passage. When much of the city burned during the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, IND remained unscathed. In the late 1960s during the riots following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, the neighborhood placed signs on the school saying, “Soul sisters: do not touch,” thus sparing it from the destruction that leveled much of the city, because IND was a friend to the African‐American community.
Speak with IND alumnae and they will tell you: Class of 2013 graduate Taliyah Baker says, “We always help out those in need!” Alumna Emilee Flynn, Class of 2004, gives credit to IND for her desire to serve the disadvantaged. A graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Ms. Flynn is now serving a pediatric residency at a Philadelphia hospital that focused on poor city children.
And Kathy Madera Lankford, ’62, who recently went on a mission trip to Haiti, said, “This spirit of sharing with those less fortunate than ourselves was one of the building blocks we received at IND. Fifty years ago we were collecting canned goods and clothing for the poor of Baltimore City. The SSND sisters instilled in us this sense of giving.”
Today local groups of homeowners and residents meet at IND to discuss ways to improve safety and areas of mutual concern. During the holidays, Hildie’s Helpers, a student group that helped longtime IND Director of Hospitality Sister Hilda Marie Sutherland, SSND, collect and deliver boxes of food and turkeys to our economically disadvantaged neighbors. IND’s Peer Ministers make and deliver food throughout the year to shelters and places where the homeless can be found.
In 2013, IND celebrated milestones for two of its longest ‐ running community outreach programs: TamarIND and Project K.IND. TamarIND (Take a Month Around IND) celebrated its 20 year. Dozens of elementary school girls visit IND every day for six weeks to enjoy programs focused on dance, drama, arts, crafts, health and fitness. TamarIND is run by IND students who act as counselors and full‐time seasoned staffers who are IND graduates as well as Ms. Vanessa Williams, IND Youth Minister. The hands‐on, one‐on‐one attention is what accounts for TamarIND’s success.
Project K.IND celebrated ten years of successful outreach in 2013. The program pairs IND girls and city elementary school girls in big‐little sister supportive relationships that provide emotional and academic support. IND now has six partner schools — one public and five Catholic schools. Conceived by Ms. Vanessa Williams as an alternative to latch‐key children, Project K.IND is entirely student led and managed: IND students write grant requests, give presentations, keep records and schedule activities. They also tutor and help the younger girls with homework to strengthen them academically, and develop arts, crafts, dance and drama activities to stimulate their creativity and build their self‐esteem.
Mrs. Corinne Davidson, assistant principal at Cardinal Shehan School, sees the girls’ shared faith as an important commonality. “The girls share a genuine respect and faith, so the barriers that often get in the way just don’t matter,” she said. “The big sisters make such a difference in their little sisters’ lives. They look up to and want to be like them … and from the way the IND girls respond, I’d say the feelings are mutual.” The service experience for IND graduates is unique. We are an urban campus, and our community service projects have a dramatic and direct impact on the lives of people in our neighborhood.