When Donell Thompson, Jr. ’91 attended Mildred Monroe Elementary School in the Greenmount West neighborhood of Baltimore on Guilford Avenue in the 1980s, he probably didn’t think he’d find himself there again in 2021. Thompson would later go on to graduate from Gilman and return in 1996 as a faculty member until 2001. In 2007, he would return again and become Gilman’s first Director of Service Learning.
The official position didn’t exist before Thompson was named Director of Service Learning, but the job of guiding students in their community service activities belonged to Christian Kirby and Gilman legend Anton Vishio. “[Anton] showed me the ropes so that I would keep the fidelity of his program going,” Thompson said.
And that is how he ended up back in the old Monroe building all these years later. The space now belongs to Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School (BMPCS), a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade community school that uses a whole-child, hands-on approach to supporting students.Thompson is on the board at BMPCS, and when he found out the school had a summer program for its students, he immediately wondered how Gilman boys could get involved.
Brooks Kitchel ’24 was one student who participated in the summer 2021 program at BMPCS. “I had never done anything like it and I fell in love on the first day,” he said. “The interaction with the kids was incredible and I loved helping them with math while being able to form meaningful bonds.”
The experience left such an impression that the rising sophomore approached Thompson about expanding the program beyond the summer. “We talked a couple of times and then he mentioned it to a member of the BMPCS community and they loved the idea. There was a lot of interest [from other Gilman students], which was awesome,” Kitchel said.
After an inaugural meeting with BMPCS in December, the program is set to begin in February. The state of the pandemic may force the first few sessions to shift to a virtual format, but the goal of the partnership is to bring students from BMPCS to Gilman’s campus every Wednesday afternoon for a math lesson with Thompson followed by one-on-one tutoring sessions with Upper School students. Their time at Gilman won’t be limited to classroom learning; the students will have access to other resources on campus as well.
“These are really bright and excited kids, who are a joy to work with,” Kitchel said. “I just want the students to view me as a big brother, not a tutor. I think this is a really unique and incredible opportunity to make a positive difference in someone’s life.”
group photo: Upper School students visit BMPCS in December 2021 to discuss upcoming academic support partnership.
Update from Donell Thompson on February 2, 2022:
We had a great first session together today. After getting off the bus, we took a quick tour of Carey Hall and then went down to see the fields and then we got right to work adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators. (See photos at right.)