BALTIMORE (WJZ) —  Two-time Super Bowl champion and Ravens fan favorite Torrey Smith may be playing for the Carolina Panthers, but his heart is still right here in Baltimore.

Smith visited a West Baltimore elementary school and spoke to former NFL player-turned-teacher Aaron Maybin and his students, who are tackling the challenges of changing a city they all love so much.

Baltimore has been plagued by violence, a recent mayoral scandal, and police scandals involving the Gun Trace Task Force and former commissioners as well. It’s youngest residents are also struggling inside classrooms where a lack of heat and air-conditioning will close down schools and where resources are sparse. Maybin, who grew up in Baltimore, said it takes more than wanting to change the city — it takes embedding yourself into the city and being a part of the change.

“The only way that evil can prevail is when good men and women stand aside and do nothing,” he said to Smith. “So if for no other reason, I’m going to make sure that I have proximity to the kids in this neighborhood. That’s the reason that I walk to school every day. I live close enough where I can literally be a resource for them, the parents, for anybody else that’s around.”

As a teacher at Matthew A Henson Elementary, Maybin lives blocks from the school.

“They know where I’m at, they know how to find me, they know they can call me any time, day or night. It’s not the same if I’m not here,” he said.

Playing football for the Bills and then the Jets, wasn’t his purpose Maybin said. He encouraged other athletes to refocus that energy and attention to something positive.

“I can say, alright, because I have this position of influence and because kids look up to me because of what I used to do, let me leverage that to give them as much game about everything except for sports that I can. Let me get them as excited about education as possible,” he said.

Smith pushed city leaders to challenge Baltimore businesses to commit to giving back to the city as well.

“I think the question is to Baltimore city, its leaders — all of these huge companies downtown at the Inner Harbor– are you committed? And I would challenge them to come out and be invested in doing more,” he said.

It’s not about the praise, Maybin said, it’s about chipping in to help.

“Like I tell people all the time — don’t praise me for digging a great hole, grab a shovel and help me. We don’t need anybody just celebrating the folks that are out here working. All of us have a responsibility to do more and to be more.”

Even though Smith plays for another team, his commitment to this city remains strong. Through his foundation, he is helping people in Baltimore every day.

To learn more about what Torrey’s working on or to support his foundation, go to https://www.torreysmith.org/

The Q&A between Smith and Maybin is below. 

Torrey Smith: We’re at Matthew A. Henson, an elementary school in Baltimore city, where you’re an educator. What led you to be here?

Aaron Maybin: Man, a lot. For one, growing up, I was a horrible student for all of my younger years of education. I was in the Baltimore City Public School system and we had literally no resources at any of the schools that I went to and then all of a sudden when I go out to Howard County to go to high school, all of a sudden we got everything. We got brand new books, computers in every class, all these resources. I’m like man, I was never a bad student, I just was never put in a position to be a good student.

Smith: Why did you feel that responsibility to really go and dive in and be a part of this school and this community?

Maybin: I’ve always felt a responsibility to be involved, but I also feel as though the only way that evil can prevail is when good men and women stand aside and do nothing. So if for no other reason, I’m going to make sure that I have proximity to the kids in this neighborhood. That’s the reason that I walk to school every day. I live close enough where I can literally be a resource for them, the parents, for anybody else that’s around. They know where I’m at, they know how to find me, they know they can call me any time day or night. It’s not the same if I’m not here. So for that reason, I felt like I needed that proximity to have the greatest impact.

TS: I have a lot of respect for that because. You’re the only person that I personally know who has made that type of commitment and I’m a guy that I feel like, hey that I’m very committed to trying to elevate the people around me, but that is next level.

AM: If it’s going to be made safer, we’ve got to be around. If we’re going to change — If we’re going to change, we’ve gotta be a part of what that change looks like.

TS: Do you feel like you are living your purpose?

AM: Absolutely. I think that. I’ll say it like this — I don’t feel like when I was playing football I wasn’t living my purpose because I think that that’s something that a lot of us– a lot of the former athletes kind of struggle with, but what we can do is refocus that energy and attention to something positive. I can say, alright, because I have this position of influence and because kids look up to me because of what I used to do, let me leverage that to give them as much game about everything except for sports that I can. Let me get them as excited about education as possible.

TS: Your words remind me of a quote. Doug Pederson, my coach when I was in Philadelphia, he says, are you interested or are you committed? I feel like when it comes to people in Baltimore city, they’re interested. We’ll throw some money here and hope that’s a little band-aid. We’ll do our one-off program. I think the question is to Baltimore City, its leaders — all of these huge companies downtown at the Inner Harbor– are you committed? And I would challenge them to come out and be invested in doing more.

AM: Like I tell people all the time — don’t praise me for digging a great hole, grab a shovel and help me. We don’t need anybody just celebrating the folks that are out here working. All of us have a responsibility to do more and to be more.

Web Extras: More From Torrey Smith and Aaron Maybin

Smith talked about going to school while his mom was in and out of jail.

“I knew that one day if I wanted to be successful I had to have an education,” he told an elementary class in West Baltimore.

Maybin and Smith talk about societal norms in inner cities.

“It’s become a societal norm in cities like Baltimore for people equate success with growing up, getting some money, getting some opportunity and getting out the hood,” Maybin said. “You know leaving their neighborhood and going out to the suburbs somewhere. Well, the suburbs were never really made for us. So you can go out there if you want to, but you’re still going to have problems there.”

“I wanted to be a part of the change that I see in my city,” he added.

“If all you’ve seen is an abusive relationship, then you don’t know any better,” Maybin said. “If all you see if people self-medicating because they’re suffering in silence, then you don’t know any better, If you’ve never talked to anybody that benefits from therapy how are you going to know to try therapy yourself? We don’t have proximity to these things enough to understand its viability in our lives.”

Smith talked about “Operation Heat” and how Maybin’s tweets went viral in January 2018 about how cold it was inside Baltimore City Schools because the heat stopped working in some.

Maybin believes each political administration passes the buck to the next but how desperately city schools need to change their infrastructure.

“Nobody wants that receipt on their tab because they know we need such a large investment into the infrastructure, just the infrastructure, of our schools,” Maybe said. ” Like we can get to pedagogy and course curriculum later on because we gotta address right now just the fact that it’s unsafe in most of our schools for our kids to be there.”

 

 

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