Leadership is a competency best instilled at an early age. That is exactly what the Baltimore Ravens Leadership Institute (BRLI) is striving to do for high school students in Baltimore County and Baltimore City. BRLI is a year-long leadership development program that is a collaboration between the Ravens and T. Rowe Price.
On Wednesday, the fourth year of the institute kicked off at M&T Bank Stadium with nearly 80 students who were hand selected by school administrators to participate in the program. To translate, these students are already showing characteristics that if cultivated correctly, can lead to strengthening their ability to be future leaders.
“It was shocking to find out that I made it,” Franklin High School student Brity Ullah said. “I’m looking forward to relating and connecting with people and peers that have the same values as me and similar goals. I definitely want to make an impact on this world and this program is going to help.”
“I was picked to be a part of the program and confirmed my interest with my school,” Franklin High School student Malayna Mitchell added. “I’m really interested in learning leadership skills and how we can take what we learn here and apply it in our schools.”
The kickoff ceremony included purposeful activities and icebreakers that allowed the students from various schools across Baltimore to start building relationships with each other in a fun and engaging way.
They also received words of wisdom from state and county-level executives including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr., and Baltimore’s Chief Equity Officer Dana Moore.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something,” Hogan shared. “You can accomplish whatever it is you want to do. It’s not always easy. You can have these great plans and you can say I’m going to make a difference and I want to accomplish these things but you’ve got to work towards your goals.”
Moore echoed the same sentiment: “I encourage all of you to keep following your dreams. Don’t let anyone deter you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re less than a superstar.”
As the evening progressed, Heather Darney, Vice President of Community Relations for the Baltimore Ravens, and Sherita Thomas, Vice President of Global Associate Experience for T. Rowe Price, led a panel discussion about their personal leadership journeys.
“Leadership is not a title or position, Thomas advised. “You can be a leader from wherever you are. Leadership comes in many different forms. Leaders inspire and see something in others.”
During the student Q & A session that followed, Darney shared a unique perspective on how young people can find their voice as a leader: “Being a leader doesn’t always have to be verbal. You can lead by example. If you do the right thing over and over, people will eventually follow.”
Ravens director of player engagement Jameel McClain also addressed students about his leadership experience to wrap-up the impressive slate of speakers.
This week’s kickoff was the first of six events that make up the entire program structure. The high schoolers will continue gathering throughout the school year for informative leadership sessions that consists of speakers, instruction and collaborative learning focused around four themes: Lead Yourself, Lead Others, Lead Community and Lead Change. The last event is a graduation ceremony to conclude the program.