Blog Post

Vocational Students Revitalizing Baltimore Neighborhood with Carver House Project

Phius Intern Brittany Coe tells the story of a group of Baltimore high school students who are getting hands-on passive building experience while helping to revitalize their neighborhood.

Photo Credit: Requity Foundation

Baltimore City has charm hidden around every corner and under every rock, earning it the nickname of “Charm City” in 1975. However, underneath the enchanting exterior, Baltimore is facing some deep-rooted issues including (but not limited to) middle-class flight, an epidemic of vacant properties, and disparities in workforce supply and demand. This trifecta of forces has festered over the past century, and if nothing is done to remedy these issues, it could spell disaster for Baltimore. Luckily, there exists a project that elegantly illustrates the ideal solution to this multifaceted problem: the Carver House.

In the 1900s, Baltimore City experienced a period of rapid population growth. When people flocked to the city, the economy boomed and more houses were built to accommodate the new residents. Unfortunately, this rapid population growth was ultimately succeeded by an equally rapid population decline, leaving thousands of the city’s iconic row homes completely vacant. In 2022, Baltimore had an estimated 15,017 vacant homes, according to a 2022 report – which is still 11 percent fewer than in 2017. Government officials have dubbed these buildings as “blights on the community,” and have demolished more than 5,000 of the vacant homes. 

“We are focused on taking away excuses in society by building as smart as possible.”

At the same time, carpentry students attending Carver Vocational Technical High School (located in Baltimore City’s Greater Rosemont neighborhood) are frustrated. Competition for entry-level positions in the trades is at an all-time high, and young people interested in starting their careers in the trades are being told that they “don’t have enough work experience” for an entry-level position. Many of them have witnessed the city’s socioeconomic problems firsthand for their entire lives, and now that they’re learning the skills they need to make a difference in their beloved city, they’re being turned away. 

Photo Credit: Requity Foundation

“I have spent the past two years [since graduating] looking for work,” said Austin Kramer, a dual-major college graduate living in Baltimore City. “I feel like in order for you to graduate, you should have to participate in an internship - and institutions should enable you to do so. They definitely have the connections to make that happen. Instead, they leave you stranded.”

“If I had graduated with real-world experience, it would be infinitely easier to land worthwhile positions in the workforce,” said another graduate from Baltimore City. 

To students city-wide, the answer seems obvious: allow trades students, who need work experience, to breathe life back into homes that need their help — and in turn, bring residents back into the city. Furthermore, doing this in partnership with community-based programs will generate more jobs within the city. The Carver House accomplishes this, while going a step further: the Carver House is pursuing Phius Certification, and therefore Carver Vocational Technical High School’s carpentry students are learning to build Phius Certified buildings. The engine behind this initiative is Requity, a non-profit organization founded and operated by Carver’s own Michael Rosenband.

Rosenband took over as head baseball coach at Carver in 2012, and after turning the team into a winner on the field, he set his sights on pursuits away from the diamond.

“I teamed up with one of our former players and Carver graduate, Sterling Hardy, to work on an even bigger win — one for the community,” Rosenband said. “When Hardy was a student at Carver and playing for me on the school’s baseball team, he one day asked me, ‘Coach Mike, why can’t we use what we are learning in school to rehab the run-down houses across the street?’”

With that question in mind, Rosenband founded Requity Foundation in 2020 with the goal of providing “comprehensive, critical, and collaborative support and resources to people in the Greater Rosemont community in West Baltimore.” Two years later, Requity’s headquarters was moved to Greater Rosemont, across the street from Carver Vocational Technical High School.

“A project like Carver House provides context and meaning to the students’ classroom curriculums and work,” Rosenband said. “They have a better understanding of not only how their trade is applied but also how schoolmates in different trades connect. I hope the students walk away from the project with the technical skills to perform the work, and also the foundational soft skills that enable them to be successful in life.”

The importance of the Carver House lies not only in the valuable experience afforded to the students, but in showing them the necessity for sustainability in the building construction industry.

“If we are serious about addressing climate change, this needs to be a focus,” Rosenband said. “And why can’t young talent from Baltimore help to lead the way in the work to do this?”

Photo Credit: Requity Foundation

Exposing the students to Phius and passive building principles will play a critical role in the educational aspect of the program.

“We are focused on taking away excuses in society by building as smart as possible,” Rosenband said. “That would not only impact the climate, but also affordability and air quality. In many respects we are starting at the ground level in work-based learning with students. Why not learn to build in the best way possible?”

Requity’s efforts have received local and national attention. They have participated in the United Nations High Performance Building Initiative, speaking on youth development projects. Carver House projects have served as the backdrop for Maryland Governor Wes Moore and White House Senior Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi’s announcement of Maryland’s entry into the Biden Administration’s National Building Performance Standards Coalition. Baltimore Gas and Electric leadership — including CEO Carim Khouzami — attended, and former Requity participants and current full-time employees participated. 

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Mitch Landrieu, and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen visited the Carver House during Governor Moore’s visit to announce the state of Maryland’s commitment to support the Baltimore Workforce Hub. It’s their hope that getting the word out about Requity’s programs leads to additional partnerships and opportunities for the students. 

For more information about the Carver House, or to support the Requity Foundation, visit the Requity Foundation website.