Sometimes when Young and Whitehead hear from previous participants, it’s to share good news — like the recent development that two GBALI alumni got engaged to each other. Sometimes it’s to reach out for help with negotiating a job offer or to seek guidance on a life issue. Sometimes it’s to say that GBALI made a big impression on them and that they want to give back in their own way, like former NFL player Brandon Copeland ’09, for example. He started Beyond the Basics in 2016, a free camp for kids to learn about football and also about community service and achieving their dreams off the field. Young says, “Part of that was because of his time in GBALI” — because Copeland saw the Gilman Black alumni who came before him serving the community. “Now he’s pouring back in his way. That’s the piece that brings me the most joy.”
“Like People Poured into Us”
It’s not just students who gain value from their GBALI experiences. The leaders running the program are equally moved.
Reflecting on what motivates Whitehead to wake up early to drive nearly two hours to Gilman on many Saturdays for nearly two decades, he talks about his life’s journey. Having grown up in West Baltimore, transferring to Gilman for Upper School, matriculating at the University of Pennsylvania, and moving up in his tech career to his current position at Google, he notes, “Through that entire process, someone helped me. Someone taught me things.”
He goes on, “I don’t believe lives are derailed by big activities. It’s the little things, and I owe it to the people who did little things to change my life.” He remembers meeting Bill Greene ’68 — who was part of Gilman’s leadership team at the time — the summer before high school and how he “jumped through hoops” to get him into Gilman for that fall. Whitehead continues, “GBALI fills the gap of giving purpose to my life.”
Howard points to his Gilman education as the inspiration for the institute. “Our teachers tried to instill in us the importance of service, and that’s what I think of when I think of GBALI,” he says. “It’s a spot where we pour into the generation that’s coming up after us just like people poured into us.”
He reminisces how “this all started as a couple of emails and phone calls between a few guys. Sometimes the ideas you have can turn into something special. I encourage people, if you have an idea, go for it.”
Chaz Howard, Kumasi Vines, Terrance Whitehead, and Karlo Young, who were interviewed for this article, wish to acknowledge the following people who have contributed to GBALI: Kourtney Whitehead, Kellee Gonzalez, Rhonda Smith Wright, Brian Taylor, Henry P. A. Smyth, John E. Schmick '67, Johnnie Foreman, Joe Valentine-White '07, Tangie Mason, Erika Outlaw, Jeff McGhee, Amy John, Jessica Suriano, Crystal Lee Alston, Peggy Bittner, and the countless Gilman alumni who have supported GBALI over the years.
article published February 15, 2023