21st Century Cities Initiative rapid response research project captures Baltimore City youth reactions to April 2015 unrest

During the summer of 2015, when Baltimore was still grappling with the death of local youth Freddie Gray and the unrest that followed, Avery Scholar Juliana Wittmann, A&S ’15, seized the opportunity to do something positive in response.

Wittmann worked as one of several social research interns, conducting interviews with Baltimore City youth, aged 16-24, for a rapid response research project funded by the 21st Century Cities Initiative, a priority of Rising to the Challenge: the Campaign for Johns HopkinsBloomberg Distinguished Professor and 21CC Director Kathryn Edin and Associate Professor Stefanie DeLuca directed this research as a way to capture information immediately, to augment other academic research requiring years to complete.

Wittmann describes her conversations with city youth, explaining that shorter street interviews led to more extensive, subsequent sit-down meetings. While topics ranged from reactions to Freddie Gray’s death to neighborhood life and the positives and negatives of living in Baltimore, two themes consistently emerged: the need for more recreation centers for youth and the need for more jobs.

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“And Johns Hopkins has every obligation to be an involved, invested member of the Baltimore and greater Maryland community,” says Wittmann who studied political science and Spanish as an undergrad, as well as participated in the Baltimore Policy Fellowship program and was president of her sorority, Alpha Phi. She adds that she is pleased that the entire rapid response qualitative research project – amounting to more than 400 total hours of recorded data – could eventually help influence policy.

The Avery Scholarship that Wittmann received was established by Dennis S. Avery and his wife, Sally Wong-Avery, in honor of their friend Charles Miller, A&S ’49. “The fact that there was someone out there that cared enough to set up this scholarship, that is awesome, and I am grateful for people like that,” Wittmann says about receiving the scholarship, adding, “I hope one day I will be able to set up something like that.”

And conducting these interviews “was the most rewarding and incredible experience of my life,” says Wittmann, adding that her participation has now made her want to pursue a career in family law.

To learn how to establish a scholarship, contact the appropriate development officer below:

Berman Institute: Greg Bowden
Bloomberg School of Public Health: Heath Elliott
Carey Business School: Rhett Wilson
Center for Talented Youth: Margaret Walsh
Johns Hopkins Medicine: Steve Rum
Krieger School of Arts and Sciences: Debra Lannon
Nitze School of Advanced International Studies: Kimberle Morton
Peabody Institute: Patrick O’Neall
School of Education: Michele Y. Ewing
School of Nursing: Scott Greatorex
Sheridan Libraries and University Museums: Sylvia Eggleston Wehr
Whiting School of Engineering: Megan Howie

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