In Baltimore, where benches across the city once affectionately displayed the motto ‘the city that reads,’ the recent high school graduation rate was a low 64.9 percent (2010-11). While there are many reasons students in Baltimore fail to graduate, one contributing factor – that some families lack basic essentials to live – can be a tough pill to swallow.

(Photo Courtesy of Rhonda Ulmer)

(Photo Courtesy of Rhonda Ulmer)

Rhonda Ulmer is the founder of the University for Parents, a local organization created as a direct response to this dilemma. University for Parents offers services for adults of school-aged children, such as GED assistance, to bridge the educational gap between parents and their children.

Rhonda was inspired to start the foundation after she successfully obtained a grant to save her own child’s school from the Maryland list of institutions unfit to remain standing. She advocates the importance of parental training in preserving the future of education.

Ulmer has received multiple accolades for her work at University for Parents to date, including being honored by the White House Points of Lights Foundation and as a Loreal Woman of Worth.

What is the mission of University for Parents?

“To help parents support their children to be successful in school and life. We provide educational classes, resources, mentorship and connect parents with tools needed for family success.”

Do you think that having a good education is important for success?

“A good education is important for success because it can give anyone the opportunity to make great decisions early on that will affect their future. This is why it is also vital that a good education starts at home in early childhood. Knowledge is power and the more time that a person has to learn, the better.”

What do you think is the most important issue concerning education in Baltimore city today?

“The most important issue concerning education in Baltimore City today is parental involvement. Parents are the foundation of a family, and a strong family creates a great community. Statistics show that one out of every four students do not graduate from high school. If parents are supported, more children could be successful in school and eventually the dropout crisis would likely decrease. ”

What advice do you have for other movers of social change?

“Every parent has goals and dreams for their children; but not every parent has the resources and/or abilities to help their children reach their goals and dreams. Many children are mentored only to go back into the same, negative family environment. My advice for other movers of social change is to provide mentorship for the entire family. When families are strong, we can develop children that grow up to be healthy, happy and productive citizens of society who also give back to their community.”

Keisha Oduor is a professional writer and entrepreneur who resides in Baltimore, Maryland. She has a degree in Communications and French from New York University with work experience in publishing, nonprofits, healthcare administration and program management. Her work can be found on


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