In its 25 years, the Living Classrooms Foundation, which was created to provide hands-on environmental education to underprivileged youth, has expanded its services to include public safety and job training. We check in with the foundation's director, James Piper Bond.
What is the best advice you ever got?
1) My father said that your work should be about helping others. 2) "Do it now."
What book most changed your life?
Your Life Is Your Message by Eknath Easwaran, which reflects on Gandhi's teachings.
What is the biggest mistake you've ever made?
Selling my motorcycle.
When were you most tempted to leave Baltimore? Whenever there's a big snowfall in the Rocky Mountains.
What is your guilty pleasure?
So what's it like being an international super spy?
I'm not at liberty to say.
Can you believe Living Classrooms is 25 years old?
It seems like just yesterday we were building Lady Maryland with help from 100 students. . . . Now we serve 50,000 youth and young adults yearly throughout the Baltimore and D.C. areas.
How has the mission changed over the years?
Our mission has always been rooted in hands-on education, but we have grown to respond to the varying needs of the community. We operate a charter school, serve over 300 schools with enrichment education, and provide job and life-skills training to disadvantaged youth.
Do you see a shift in your students' attitudes toward the environment?
Slowly, but surely. Many of the young adults we serve face major obstacles stemming from poverty in their daily lives. So inspiring them to "care" for the natural environment, when they are challenged with feeding their family or surviving in their own neighborhood, is a learning process. Our programs involve youth transforming their own neighborhoods, and the sense of pride they take in their work ripples out to their families and communities.
What are your thoughts on Harbor East?
Not too long ago, our East Harbor Campus was surrounded by empty parking lots. Now, our campuses, including the newly developed Douglass-Myers Maritime Park, are surrounded by a thriving community with offices, shops, restaurants, and a beautiful waterfront. For many of our students who live in bleak neighborhoods just blocks away, it exposes them to a world of opportunities that is within arm's reach.