Maryland

This Cop-Turned-Mentor Opens Doors for West Baltimore Students

Former Baltimore City Police Detective Deborah B. Ramsey has long been on a mission to help people. “I’ve been in public service my entire career,” she says. “It’s where I feel my love for the community.”

For the past seven years, 71-year-old Ramsey, a native of Baltimore, has empowered more than 150 young people in the Penn North neighborhood of West Baltimore and provided free academic support and recreational opportunities to their parents through Unified Efforts, a program she founded offered in 2012.

After 12 years with the force, Ramsey left the police department in 1994 and held various jobs before developing a range of bullying and violence prevention programs that led to the formation of Unified Efforts. The non-profit organization provides after-school activities at summer camps, back-to-school sessions, and during breaks or when children are out of school for an extended period of time.

The group doesn’t have a fixed starting point, but meets at various area churches and at Coppin State University, where students can take swimming lessons. But the nomadic days of Unified Efforts are about to end. Through the city’s Vacants to Value Booster program, Ramsey was able to purchase a property on Woodbrook Avenue in West Baltimore. Plans are currently underway to build a new youth center. “It’s a miracle,” says Ramsey.

To date, participants in the organization have had access to music classes, cooking classes, and creative writing workshops at Goucher College, among other educational endeavors. They also take field trips to various locations around the city and beyond, including Baltimore Blast games and Martin State Airport, where they can experience a flight simulator.

Cencere Echols (pictured alongside Ramsey), a 21-year-old computer science major at UMBC, recalls the flight sim from his days at Unified Efforts. “It opened my eyes to becoming a pilot,” he says. “It’s one of my pocket plans.”

Even though Echols is in college, Ramsey is still a part of his life. “I call her my mentor, but she calls her ‘life coach,'” he says. “Miss Debbie enters the life of a child and makes an impact, whether as a listener or in conveying various experiences.”

“We expose our children to experiences and spaces that they aren’t normally exposed to,” says Ramsey. “When we expose our young people to opportunities, something happens in them.”

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