Baltimore City: From Barriers To Belief

The final stop for the Racial Equity and Access in Youth Sports Task Force saw us make first contact in Baltimore, where Rob Marcus sat down with Rashida Ford, Founder and Executive Director of P.O.P. Inc (Play On Purpose). While Rashida is a longtime partner and past Game Changer of the Month, this conversation represented a first for us to directly address the ambitions of the Task Force and how we can work better together and grow our shared efforts.

Through the work of P.O.P Inc., Rashida’s passion is developing youth through athletics and leadership while fostering an appreciation for education, which ultimately equips kids with the tools to become better scholars, athletes, and leaders both on and off the court. Rashida is also the Principal of Booker T. Washington Middle School of Baltimore City Public Schools, a long-standing partner of Positive Coaching Alliance, where she is expanding her footprint to provide access to youth sports and education opportunities to the kids in the community that she serves.

Rashida provided her insights into the dynamic of Baltimore’s various community pockets that while deeply beautiful, have historically, by their lack of interconnectivity, led to systemic inequities which have hindered access to youth sports and education opportunities for many kids in the under-resourced communities around the city. As an educator, she works to elevate how school systems are showing up in the community to be that connector and how they are funded, and their ability to provide equitable sports access to all grade levels.

In describing what it was like to start an organization like P.O.P. Inc independently, Rashida credits her extreme passion for creating spaces where young people can feel important for carrying her through the many ups and downs and challenges that would lie in her path. And once she did begin to gain traction, she was effective at building partner support, focusing on telling the story that this can really work, and when you give kids access to sports, beautiful things can happen for them.

Positive Coaching Alliance and Coaching Corps are joining forces to become a powerhouse organization dedicated to optimizing the positive impact of youth coaches on kids. Because when every child has access to a game-changing coach trained in youth development, s/he is able to gain life skills through sport, build healthy habits, and become beacons for positive change in their communities.

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