Over a decade ago, Sandra Satterfield-Myles brought her daughter to the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) campus for the A Bridge to Academic Excellence (ABAE) tutoring program after a neighbor’s family participated and told her about it.
For Satterfield-Myles, it was a chance for her child to get extra practice. She was doing well in school, but, Satterfield-Myles said, as an educator herself, she wanted her child to have extra work to help lock the knowledge in.
All these years later, Satterfield-Myles is back, this time with another daughter, 15-year-old Mayan Myles.
“She’s not failing — she has a 4.1 [GPA]. But the thing is, she needs to understand that in order to retain the information,” she needs to continue to go over what she’s learning, Satterfield-Myles said. “So I felt like if [she is assigned] no homework, let’s come here, let’s get some different things and she’ll be able to continue to grow.”
For more than two decades, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) has offered ABAE, which was created and run by Margaret Hayes, MS, the school’s now-retired director of student services, to provide free tutoring and mentoring for middle and high school students who needed help learning various subjects. In recent years, JuliAna Brammer, MBA, director of PharmD admissions at UMSOP, has taken over as academic advisor for ABAE.
Today, ABAE offers tutoring in multiple subjects, including algebra I and II, calculus, geometry, trigonometry, physics, chemistry, biology, English/writing, SAT math, and SAT verbal. The program is coordinated by pharmacy students, but tutoring is done by students from all of UMB’s programs and takes place most Saturdays from late September to early May in Pharmacy Hall.
Vanessa Mae S. Vailoces, a University of Maryland School of Dentistry student, has volunteered as a tutor since fall 2022. Vailoces used tutors and received extra help when she was a child, something she credits for why she’s found success in school.
It’s why she knew she wanted to give back through ABAE.
“The biggest reason that I’ve been able to do well in school is because my mom took the initiative to take me to tutoring whenever she saw me struggling. And that was something I really took for granted, because I didn’t realize [that] not every kid has that. So when I saw that they were offering volunteer tutoring here, I thought it was just a really good thing for me to do to give back to the community, because I know what it meant to me,” Vailoces added.
Having an Impact
Satterfield-Myles’ family isn’t the only one that’s been involved in ABAE for generations.
Grant Mellerson, a senior in high school, has been coming to the tutoring program since the eighth grade. And before him?
“I have three sisters,” Mellerson said, “and they all went through this program as well.”
He saw the impact ABAE had on his siblings, and after all these years in it, confirms it’s helped him, too.
This spring, Mellerson has focused on calculus, an area in which he has been struggling. But he also uses his time in the tutoring program to work on additional classwork as needed. On a Saturday in March, he spent the morning focused on an English assignment where he evaluated what women’s rights looked like years ago compared to present day through the lens of two pieces of literature.
But for him, these sessions are about more than just tutoring — they’re a chance for Mellerson, who is hoping to study information technology after graduation, to be exposed to all that UMB, and UMSOP, offers.
“I’m getting ready to go to college,” he said. “I get to ask some of [the tutors] their college experiences and get a perspective of what college is like.”
A Commitment to Community
For UMSOP, making those connections with youth throughout the city and surrounding counties isn’t just a fringe benefit of programs like ABAE — they’re part of a Universitywide commitment to community.
These types of outreach efforts — from ABAE, to partnerships with nearby Mother Mary Lange Catholic School (MMLCS), to tours for K-12 students, like a recent visit from homeschoolers around the state — help to expose the next generation to an aspect of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education they may not normally see so young, said Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, professor of practice, sciences, and health outcomes research and associate dean for student affairs at UMSOP.
A big reason for this outreach is to get students and their families interested in pharmacy.
“Whenever we’re thinking about STEM, unfortunately, [the] STEM definition doesn’t include pharmacy even though it is a medical profession,” Layson-Wolf said. “And so we have to work harder to put ourselves out there with information and engagement.”
This past winter, UMSOP gave local students a hands-on look at all pharmacy has to offer. Students in MMLCS’s Girls in STEM club visited Pharmacy Hall to hear from several UMB women professionals about the education and training required to be a pharmacist, a physician assistant, and a simulationist.
And after that, they visited UMSOP’s simulation rooms, where they were each given a stethoscope to practice checking the pulse, respirations, and blood pressure of the mannequins, just like the health professions students do in their classes.
“The goal is to expose these young women to careers in STEM and to expose them to people who are currently working in these areas,” said Cynthia Tilghman-Lee, DVM, the after-school STEM program coordinator at MMLCS.
Each week, Girls in STEM brings in different speakers — including more than one from UMB — to talk to the kids in the club. And to continue to broaden that exposure, she said, they wanted to partner directly with UMSOP.
“I love the fact that these young girls can look out and say, ‘Hey, I could be there. I can see myself in pharmacy school,’ ” Tilghman-Lee said, later adding, “It was a really eye-opening field trip for them.”
Tilghman-Lee said she is grateful to be able to actively grow the partnership with UMB — UMSOP has opened the door for future activities with MMLCS, she added.
“I think it’s valuable for our students to know that someone cares about their future. I think it’s valuable for them to have seen so many women in STEM so that we’re modeling to them what their future could look like,” Tilghman-Lee said. “And also — representation matters. It matters that they see people who look like them and who are from where they live. And that’s the city of Baltimore. So I’m just grateful for all that the faculty was able to do and all that they were able to inspire in our young ladies.”
Read about the University’s Academy of Lifelong Learning Literacy Tutoring Program.