The UMB CURE Scholars Program is a groundbreaking, year-round mentoring program that seeks to empower middle school and high school students in West Baltimore for competitive and rewarding research, health care, and STEM-related career opportunities. This week, we learn more about why this pilot program is so important (22:48) and how you can be involved (9:55). We talk to CURE's executive director Gia Grier McGinnis, DrPh, MS and eighth grade scholars Azariah Jackson and Shayla Monroe about their experiences in the program (3:52). We also give you a preview of the next Face to Face with President Bruce Jarrell (2:40) and tell you about some upcoming events at the GRID (2:52) and UREC Fit (3:13).
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Pulse Ep 9 CURE Scholars 11.1_mixdown
Tue, 11/2 11:18AM • 28:09
pandemic, scholars, mentors, shayla, program, scholars program, pulse, virtual, students, middle school, cure, stem, college, check, feel, people, person, doctor, Gia, president
Dana Rampolla, Azariah Jackson, Shayla Monroe, Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis, Charles Schelle, Jena Frick
Jena Frick 00:04
You're listening to the heartbeat of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, the UMB Pulse.
Charles Schelle 00:16
Welcome to the UMB pulse. I'm Charles Schelle.
Dana Rampolla 00:19
I'm Dana Rampolla.
Jena Frick 00:20
And I'm Jena Frick. This episode we are being very scholarly. So get out those monocles and mortarboards.
Charles Schelle 00:32
Like the Monopoly man,
Jena Frick 00:36
I know, I may just leave that in because that's just so silly. Get up those monocles and mortar boards because today, we will be learning all about the UMB CURE Scholars Program. We're going to be talking to Executive Director Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis and eighth grade students Azarya Jackson from Green Street Academy and Shayla Monroe from Southwest Baltimore Charter School. So check out our episode description or chapter markers to skip ahead to that interview.
Charles Schelle 01:02
It's November and we have a president to congratulate UMB president Bruce Jarrell will be inaugurated on Friday, November 5. He was officially named president on September 10 2020, after serving as interim president for eight months. So congratulations to him for being able to have this big day after everything he had to do to lead this institution during the pandemic. If you're interested in watching a live stream of the event, visit the episode description or chapter markers for a link
Jena Frick 01:29
Congrats to our new presidents.
Dana Rampolla 01:31
Speaking of presidents, were you two ever the president of anything?
Jena Frick 01:35
Actually, yes, I have. Um, when I was in college, I started the university's first and only sketch comedy team when I was a sophomore and I was the founder slash reigning President slash head writer for three years and it's still going strong today it's called Maddie Night Live because we are James Madison University so we did a play off of Saturday Night Live Yeah, shout out to my Maddie Night Live people
Charles Schelle 02:01
Not really, I mean, President of band Council, which is like the worst position you want. Oh, so you're not even drum major. It's like, you know, administrative stuff of like listening to parents complain about fundraising.
Dana Rampolla 02:13
Oh, all the grunt work,
Jena Frick 02:14
all the organizational customer service type stuff.
Dana Rampolla 02:19
I was president of honors society.
Jena Frick 02:22
smart cookie over there.
Dana Rampolla 02:23
So between founders week and inauguration This certainly is a busy time of year for the semester. Let's get you caught up with your pulse check. COVID-19 variants and booster vaccines will be the focus of the next edition of virtual face to face with President Bruce geral. His guest will be University of Maryland School of medicine professor and lead vaccine researcher at the Center for vaccine development and global health Kirsten Lyke the program starts at 2pm Thursday November 4, The grid will host founder and CEO of smart job Gina Kline for an online meet the maker discussion. Mark job is a global company with the core mission of closing the disability wealth gap by making jobs smarter through expanded investment, access to financial services and better public policy. The program takes place at noon on Tuesday, November 9 via zoom. And last but not least UREC Fit and wellness is hosting a virtual Turkey Trot 5k for the UMB community, dress the part or just show up and burn some calories either way, it should be a great way to stay fit and have fun. You can run on your treadmill in your neighborhood or on your favorite trail and there's no time limit and it can be done any time of day. UREC Fit's virtual 5k Club uses the Strava app where you can share photos of your run. For a link to the virtual 5k and other events mentioned in the pulse check visit our episode description or the chapter markers at umaryland.edu/pulse And that is your pulse check.
Jena Frick 03:51
The UMB CURE Scholars Program is a groundbreaking year round program that seeks to empower middle and high school students in West Baltimore for competitive and rewarding research health care and STEM related career opportunities. So what does that mean and how do students get involved? Here with us today is Program Executive Director Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis and a couple of CURE scholars. We have Azarya Jackson and Shayla Monroe. Welcome to the pulse. Oh, hello. So before we jump into asking you all about what your experience is like in the program, Dr. Gia, can you explain what is the CURE Scholars Program?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 04:26
So cure scholars is a STEM and healthcare pipeline program for West Baltimore youth and when I say pipeline, I mean that the students come into the program as sixth graders and they stay with us all the way through 12th grade through a series of different parts of our curriculum. We also have a social work program for our families that have any challenges.
Jena Frick 04:48
So why is it so important to have students in the program at such an early age in middle school? I know it's part of the CURE program with NIH and usually they start in high school why is UMB starting middle School?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 05:00
So the earlier the better in terms of exposure, and there's studies that show if you start earlier, you're likely to retain them more in the field. And so at middle school level, we're just trying to get them excited about science and engineering and hope they stay involved.
Jena Frick 05:17
Right. And you mentioned the middle school level, but there are a couple of different levels to the program, there is a middle school and then there's a CURE Connections level and a new one called Career Navigators, can you break down exactly what those three levels of the program are and what it entails.
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 05:32
So, um, students start in the middle school program, which we now call it catalyst. It's really just to expose the students to the fundamentals of anatomy, engineering, and chemistry. And really, we just want them to fall in love with science, get excited about science and want to stay involved. As they get older, they move into something called cure connections for ninth and 10th graders. And that's all about making that difficult transition to high school, they get kind of the next level of their STEM work, and we also start paying them in the summer for their STEM work. Then the last phase is career navigators for our 11th and 12th graders. And this is all about preparing them for the end of their pipeline, where they get college support and career planning, support.
Dana Rampolla 06:20
Wow. That's incredible. So let's talk to the scholars a little bit. Tell me what's your favorite subject in school?
Shayla Monroe 06:27
My favorite subject is math, math and science,
Dana Rampolla 06:31
math and science.
Azariah Jackson 06:32
My favorite subject is reading.
Dana Rampolla 06:34
Nice. And what grade are you ladies in?
Shayla Monroe 06:36
I'm in eighth grade.
Azariah Jackson 06:37
I'm in eighth grade.
Dana Rampolla 06:38
Okay, so math and reading. That's terrific. And do you feel like when... When you are attending CURE events? Do you feel like you're, you're embracing the subjects that you love? Or do you feel like you're learning about new things?
Shayla Monroe 06:52
For me, I think I'm embracing the one the subjects that I like,
Azariah Jackson 06:56
for me, I think I'm learning more new things.
Dana Rampolla 07:00
Okay, and what do you want do you want to be when you grow up?
Azariah Jackson 07:04
I plan to be either a pediatrician or a veterinarian. So in the doctor field and a medical field,
Dana Rampolla 07:10
have you always wanted to do that? Or is that just the more you're involved with science?
Azariah Jackson 07:14
I think I've always wanted to be that.
Dana Rampolla 07:17
and how about you, Shayla?
Shayla Monroe 07:18
I also want to be a pediatrician,
Dana Rampolla 07:20
a pediatrician, and has science always been one of your favorite subjects?
Shayla Monroe 07:24
Jena Frick 07:25
That's great. So you both said pediatrician, why, why do you want to be a pediatrician? Why are you drawn to that,
Azariah Jackson 07:30
um, I just, I just know, like, I will go to the doctor's office a lot. And I will have like, my checkup because like, I have asthma and stuff. So when I go to my checkups, I just like to, like I saw what they did when they check up on me. So I will try to like imitate that, like all my stuffed animals or whatever. So I would like do that. And I think I just want to be a doctor and then started getting asked questions like what type of doctor you want to do, cuz there's different types of doctors. So I was like, I guess I'll be a pediatrician like what my doctor is because since they're a pediatrician, which I guess I'll be one too, because I feel like it might be a little easier to work on kids. And they're like, a little more fun. Because I like help my aunt with our daycare. So have a little more experience with kids.
Dana Rampolla 08:13
Oh, nice. Yeah,
Jena Frick 08:14
that makes a lot of sense. Definitely be a little bit sillier when you're around children patients. Yeah. What about you Shayla? Is there a reason why you want to be a pediatrician.
Shayla Monroe 08:23
Uh, my stepdad, he was a pediatrician. And he used to work on patients. And sometimes he used to take me to the doctor's office, and I used to see him work. So it was like, well, that's really cool. And then when I went to my doctor, they will let me listen to my mom's heartbeat and listen to my heartbeat. And it was always fun. And I just liked the idea of taking care of children.
Jena Frick 08:43
Wow, some real hands on experience for you. That's great.
Dana Rampolla 08:46
So what's it like going to school and doing cure activities during a pandemic?
Azariah Jackson 08:51
I was stay. It's not as amusing because like you don't get to do like hands on and actually see people in person, but we still get things sent to us. So we have our box of like all the experiments that we're going to do at home, and we get extraction instructions how to do it. And that's always fun, because at least we get to do some part of activities when we're learning.
Dana Rampolla 09:16
So Shayla, what do you think about trying to do all this during the pandemic? Has it been challenging? Do you enjoy it?
Shayla Monroe 09:22
It's been challenging because like she said, you can't really see them in person is not like kind of as hands on. So it's kind of like, not more boring, but it's just like, kind of not as much not as fun as it would be in person but they do send things to us so we could do it by yourself with instructions and things like that.
Dana Rampolla 09:42
So you're not actually doing it virtually. It's not like other students are on the computer screen doing it in their houses while you're doing it in yours. You're solely doing it alone in your house. Yeah, okay. Okay, so I know your teachers and mentors have been helping you through the pandemic this past year tell me more about your mentors who they are how they help to do they actually help you with your schoolwork. Who wants to go first? Shayla?
Shayla Monroe 10:06
My mentor, her name is Hadiya. And she's she's helped me with a lot of things like personal things and school things because like sometimes on Saturdays I catch her up, I talked to her about like, what we're doing in CURE and things like that. And over virtual, she helped me a lot with my schoolwork. Like, I will text them like, Oh, can you help me with this question? And she would help me and things like that. Yeah.
Azariah Jackson 10:29
So my mentor before the pandemic, I would say it was cool seeing her because I was like, always awkward. So whenever we talk, it was just like a regular conversation. We didn't really get to get into like any details, but she would help me with like schoolwork. And we would just talk regularly, like catch up on each other's day. And she was just basically checking up on me. But we didn't get too personal or too in depth of our conversations. But it was basically like a cool, casual friend conversation. But I think she was she was very nice and very funny. The pandemic though I was just in the Google Classroom meetings, and we would just do our daily work there. And there was still have other mentors and teachers come in the classroom meeting. So they would always talk and it was cool to see them too. So it was kind of like I didn have a mentor, but I didn't have a personal menotr. Okay. Gia, can you talk a little bit about how mentors are assigned? And if students can change at any point?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 11:05
Yeah. So before and of course it was different before, pre pandemic, we used to have a mentor mixer pre pandemic. So when scholars were inducted, there was an event called mentor mixer, and the mentors and scholars would be on together. And scholars could kind of say, Oh, I really like this mentor. And that's how they're assigned in virtual. And I can actually back up and explain like how things worked in virtuals. So we had Google classrooms, which is kind of an educational platform where you can log in with a link like zoom, only, it's a Google product. So everyone would log into the Google Classroom. And then we had mentors join us in the Google Classroom. Also, during the pandemic, if scholars weren't already matched previously, they're interfacing with a group of mentors in the same virtual spaces of like, what Azariah was describing.
Jena Frick 12:28
And and since we're on the topic of mentors, who are the mentors for these CURE scholars, where do you get them from? How can someone become a mentor if they want to be one?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 12:36
Yeah, so we get a lot of our mentors from UMB. From our seven schools, a lot of them are from school of medicine, but we also have mentors from School of Nursing School of Dentistry. But we also work with working professionals. So if there's a faculty member or staff member that wanted to be a mentor, they can do that also. In fact, one of our mentors is one of the security guards, Miss Evelyn. So it really doesn't matter. It's just important that they're a kind, caring adult that's willing to make a commitment for at least one year.
Dana Rampolla 13:08
That's terrific, and how, if someone is listening, and they think, Oh, I would love to do that, how would they, who would they reach out to?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 13:16
they can reach out to myself or Katherina Furrs, she is our mentor program manager,
Jena Frick 13:21
right. And just to back up just a little bit, we talked a lot about how you connect with your mentors and cure kind of helps with schoolwork and opens up opportunities for different hands on learning activities. So just can you break down? Exactly, when you see the scholars? It's, it's mostly an after school program, can you kind of break down exactly what that curriculum looks like?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 13:42
Yeah, and actually, it varies by grade level. So for example, with Azariah and Shayla, they're in the middle school program, that's a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday program, they actually were back in person as of last week, so we're at the CEC which is really great. Um, during virtual, we didn't do Saturday programming, so we didn't want them to get burned out on Zoom. But now we're back three days a week with middle and our high school programs tend to be Saturday only in person, because a lot of our high schoolers go to high schools outside of the neighborhood, so it's harder for them to get here after school. So we see them here at the CEC on Saturdays,
Jena Frick 14:21
right. And I was actually here a couple Saturdays ago with them. And they were working on their college applications and their statement essays, which is great. And this is like a wonderful way to kind of get guided through that whole entire process. But speaking of the middle schoolers in after school program, Shayla and Azariah, how does it feel to be back in person and back with your fellow cohorts of scholars and your mentors?
Azariah Jackson 14:45
Um, it feels a little different. And only because like, there are still some rules, but we aren't at the same building as we were on Tuesdays and Thursday, I don't think so it's a little different because then I was in sixth grade at the time, so We're in different rooms. And now it's just a little different now that I'm in a higher grade, and at a different building than before. So I will say it feels like a little, like a little nostalgic, but not exactly the same.
Jena Frick 15:14
That makes perfect sense.
Shayla Monroe 15:17
It feels kind of weird, because like, I haven't been here for a long time, like the last time I was like, really in person was sixth grade. So it was kind of like weird to get back in like the habit like a following rules and things like that. But yeah,
Jena Frick 15:30
right. And I know, for the Middle School scholars, you guys choose your own academic tracks to kind of focus on which academic tracks are you guys on?
Azariah Jackson 15:39
We're on robotics. So you're always like, they always make you experience different tracks. So like, even if you didn't choose that one, you'll still have another chance to be in a different track. So they get you to experience all different tracks to get hands on, and just get you exposed different things. So even though this isn't the pathway that I want to go on to robotics, I'll still get to get exposure to it and get to do things on it.
Jena Frick 16:06
Right. So what sort of activities and experiments and things have you been doing with robotics? Anything that stands out to you?
Shayla Monroe 16:11
Oh, like on Tuesday, we did coding, we were coding like a robot to move around and things like that, but we just started so we're just doing coding right now. Yeah,
Jena Frick 16:23
yeah. Gotcha. That sounds really great!
Dana Rampolla 16:25
I was gonna say just doing coding, I don't even know exactly what that means. So that's, yeah, that's pretty cool.
Jena Frick 16:31
That's a whole other language, like the language of computers that you're learning, which is amazing. What do your parents think about that, that you guys are in a program that's allowing you to do stuff like this.
Azariah Jackson 16:40
Um, so my parents, my parent likes this program, because she thinks that this will help me get my job as pediatrician and she thinks that this could help me get into a good college and get like a scholarship or you know, things like that. So she really is happy, about CURE.
Shayla Monroe 16:56
My mom likes CURE, because like she thinks it will be good for like the field that I want to go into. And she'll think I'll get into good colleges and things like that. It's good for my future.
Jena Frick 17:05
So the cure scholars every year have some sort of STEM expo where they get to showcase all of the research that they do during the program throughout the year. Can you talk a little bit about that and tell us what that's all about?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 17:16
Yeah, so the STEM Expo is kind of our culminating science event of the year. So scholars get to pick a topic of their choice, it could be cancer related, or it could be something that they did in the STEM track. And then they research it. They do internet research, they work with their teacher or mentor to fact check their poster. They then are given kind of a template of a scientific poster. And they add their content to that. It's basically it's a scientific poster just like what faculty do. And it has their name at the top and their school and everything. And before the pandemic, it was actually a big community event where the posters would be lined up in rows and community members and families could come and walk around. And the pandemic, we've made that virtual. So for the past two cycles, it was an online event people could log into, and the posters would show up and their voices would be playing over the posters.
Jena Frick 18:12
That's so great. And I've been to several of the stem expos both virtual and in person. And in addition to community members and family members, there was also professional researchers and doctors and engineers and people in the medical field also going through and looking at the posters and asking questions of students. And they were always just blown away. And we're so impressed that students in middle school and high school were putting together such professional work and were able to present it in such a professional way. So it's, it's really a fun event in person or virtual and it really shows just what all of the scholars are learning and doing throughout the program.
Dana Rampolla 18:54
And hopefully this year, it'll be in person again, fingers crossed
Jena Frick 18:58
Definitely, um, Shayla, I'll start with you, what are you researching as your poster?
Shayla Monroe 19:03
What I did research?
Jena Frick 19:04
Shayla Monroe 19:05
um, when I did this, I researched breast cancer in African American males.
Jena Frick 19:10
Cool. And then Azariah, what did you do?
Azariah Jackson 19:13
I think I did asthma and breast cancer.
Jena Frick 19:16
Dr. Gia, you had mentioned at one point about how you have a social work team. And I'm glad that you mentioned that because even though we're doing all sorts of academic and STEM related activities and programming. There's really a huge, holistic piece to this program. Can you talk about why that is and why it's important?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 19:38
So really early on in the program's inception, they realized that some of the scholars were coming into programming and talking about needs that they had like maybe there wasn't enough food in the house or maybe something was going on with their housing. And so in year two of the program, they hired a full time social worker to help the families I identify as having those needs, so they can work one on one with those families. We even have an emergency fund now that we started in the pandemic, where if a family had a real emergency, with like their rent or something like that, we can use the money to help them if needed.
Jena Frick 20:19
And then I know another piece of the program with its inception was to really try to get more people of color and underrepresented communities in the healthcare field and in the STEM related fields to kind of reduce healthcare disparities in our system today, can you talk a little bit about that?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 20:40
Right. So really, the whole vision for cure was inspired by the fact that Dr. J Perman and Dr. Elsie Stines were in the field, seeing patients and recognizing that, you know, there weren't a lot of people of color that were providing care. And so came to be really determination to start here, worked with the National Cancer Institute, who gave us our first set of funding to start this middle school care. And, you know, our hope is that people like Azariah, and Shayla will go on to be those leaders and serving populations that are like that. We know that patient care, people of color respond often better to providers of color, because they trust them. They understand the cultural factors that they feel with. So it's really good for healthcare to have more diverse leaders.
Dana Rampolla 21:34
So Gia, let's talk a little bit about I'm changing gears, but the documentary that came out just recently, it's a multi year documentary and what what all is that about?
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 21:45
Right, so several years ago, Susan Hadari, who is the producer partnered with our leadership team, to follow five of our oldest scholars, they're in cohort one they're seniors now, and idea was to document their lives as they try to pursue their goals, both getting to good high schools. And then now more recently in the documentary, kind of reaching that goal of going to college or career. And so this most recent one is actually interesting, because it's set in the pandemic there, you actually kind of walk through pre pandemic, and then kind of when we went into lockdown, and then finally, towards the end, it talks about, you know, when the vaccine came out, and the George Floyd verdict, so it does a lot in an hour. It's actually very good if people haven't seen it yet.
Jena Frick 22:36
And if you miss the air date for the documentary on October 25, you can always watch it on mpt.org. And they have it streaming, it's called ninth and 10th grade from West Baltimore. the cure Scholars program started in 2015. And today, this year is a huge year for the Cure Scholars Program, because Cohort One is in their senior year of high school, they're applying to colleges, they're going to be getting acceptance letters, and all of that at the end of this year. So really, this is a huge year for CURE.
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 23:05
Yeah, absolutely. It's really what it's all about is kind of the end and helping these scholars make that transition to college campuses and high paying careers and Yvonne Lamas Sanchez is our program manager for scholarship success. And on Saturdays, and at some of our partner schools, he works with them on their college applications.
Jena Frick 23:26
Mm hmm. Yeah, and they are working really hard. He is very organized has every single student on spread sheets with all of their colleges, all of their requirements, it's it's a lot of work being put into it. And I'm sure it's going to yield like some really great results come April. So we'll have to do like a follow up or something with our decision dates
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 23:48
gonna be in May, it's gonna be really great.
Dana Rampolla 23:51
Is there a plan, I guess, to track the students as they go through college.
Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis 23:55
So that's something we're discussing. Now, we definitely want to develop an alumni program. We're not sure what that looks like yet, but particularly in the first year, we definitely want to kind of monitor them. You know, retention rates can kind of fall in the first year of college. So we definitely make sure they make that transition land. And then we'll see what happens.
Jena Frick 24:16
Right. And also UMB also has other pipeline style programs for students in undergrad, I was talking we were talking to Dr. Greg Carey, who runs the starr-prep program, about maybe like transitioning some CURE scholars from you into the next level, into a program that's already existing rather than, you know, building another one and so we'll have like a alumni CURE program, and then they transition to another UMB pipeline program. So yeah, I'm we're all very excited to see what's next and where they're going to go. And I can't wait until graduation for them because it's going to be one big party. And we're kind of getting to the end of our interview here. And to wrap up Azariah and Shayla, what would you have to say to sixth graders who would be interested in the CURE Scholars Program? Or maybe who had never heard of it? Why? Why should they join it? And why should they be interested in it?
Azariah Jackson 25:13
Um, I think that I will say to sixth graders, if they are deciding if they want to join CURE or not, that they should give it a chance because you like you never know if you may decide to like, be something that is in the robotics or scientific chemistry or medical field, because you might think that you want to do this, but if you get a chance, you might actually enjoy it and want to make a career out of it. And it's just good to experiment and like, get exposure to different things because you never know what will happen. And there can be fun because like, they'll make you they'll give us fun experiments and they can give us free time. And last year, before the pandemic they would take us to the gym and we will always go play so there's always like, a good
Jena Frick 26:02
like element of fun.
Azariah Jackson 26:04
Yeah, like after you do all your work, there's always a good outcome out of it.
Shayla Monroe 26:08
I would say to try it you never know if you're gonna like it or not like she said, go for it because especially if you want to become a doctor or anything that's in like the STEM field, this is a really good a really good start that can push you to the end and just experience new things that you never did.
Dana Rampolla 26:27
That's great advice. life advice. Really.
Jena Frick 26:30
Yeah, definitely. Anyways, all right, Dr. Gia, Azariah, Shayla, thank you guys so much for coming and joining us on the pulse today.
Azariah Jackson 26:38
Charles Schelle 26:43
The next episode of the pulse will feature new UMB police chief tom Leone get to know more about chief Leone his background and services that UMB police offers. And we'll have to see if we can get officer Lexie on a future episode. I would love that, if only dogs could talk.
Dana Rampolla 26:58
We are at a spot where COVID guidance has calmed down so no special pulse check but everyone should continue to visit the return to campus website at umaryland.edu/coronavirus. Some minor updates have made their way to the site like a more detailed list of the types of masks that can be worn as alternatives to KN-95.
Jena Frick 27:17
And Etta Kitt is also waiting for your questions about navigating the return to campus environment. You can submit questions at umaryland.edu/ettakitt and she'll read them right here on the podcast.
Charles Schelle 27:31
Thank you again to Dr. Gia Grier McGinnis and UMB CURE scholars Azariah Jackson and Shayla Monroe for stopping by and tune in next time for The UMB Pulse.
Jena Frick 27:44
the UMB pulse with Charles Schelle, Dana rampolla, and Jena frick is a UMB Office of Communications and Public Affairs production edited by Charles Schelle sound engineering by Jena Frick marketing by Dana rampolla Music by No vibe recorded in the University of Maryland Baltimore community engagement center