Baltimore, MD – Stepping before a packed hall of construction professionals and business leaders, an Algebra teacher quickly drew the crowd’s attention. Addressing attendees at the Plano-Coudon Golf Classic, a benefit for Teach For America–Baltimore, Jocelyn Providence said, “[My students] deserve the best. And as their teacher, it is my duty to show them the greatness that truly lies within them.”
Providence, a Teach For America (TFA) Algebra teacher in a city high school, related the story of one of her students who had consistently missed first-period Algebra during the first three weeks of school. The student showed up to Providence’s after-school coaching session and asked if she could receive all the homework she had missed. Surprised, Providence asked why the girl had missed so much school.
The student explained that it was hard to wake up on time after working until midnight daily to help support her family, and then staying up later studying AP US History. Providence began regularly coaching the girl who mastered the material quickly. “Even through additional personal challenges and setbacks, she showed a fire that would not die out,” Providence said. “Amazingly, she finished the rest of her junior year with all A’s and one B.”
“These insights into the lives of Baltimore school children and TFA teachers have become a mainstay of the Plano-Coudon Classic,” said Brett Plano, co-founder of Plano-Coudon Construction. Held September 14th at Hayfields County Club, the sold-out tournament raised $40,000 for TFA–Baltimore. Over its three-year history, the Classic has raised more than $100,000 for TFA, which recruits and develops outstanding individuals from diverse academic disciplines to teach for at least two years in high-needs schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational inequality. “We fill the golf tournament with construction people and then they get to hear from phenomenal speakers who can articulate the challenges that some inner city kids are faced with and the impact that a teacher can make,” Plano said. “Many of these people wouldn’t have known about Teach For America otherwise.”
“We believe in supporting education in the city and Teach For America creates opportunities to reach kids at an earlier age, help them get a better education and have better opportunities,” said Ryan Coudon, co-founder of Plano-Coudon.
“I personally didn’t know a lot about Teach For America,” said Wayne Matheu of Enterprise Electric. “But if someone goes through all the effort to organize a golf tournament for charity, then it must be a very worthwhile charity and maybe it’s a way that we can give back.”
“We hadn’t heard of Teach for America before today,” said David Rand of FASTSIGNS Arbutus. “But we are looking for opportunities to give back to the community by supporting organizations that really help people.”
Golf foursomes included TFA board members and Plano-Coudon employees who have volunteered in TFA classrooms, so conversation on the course sometimes turned to the work of TFA. “At programs like Teach for America and Head Start, we don’t do a good job of marketing ourselves. We are sometimes the best kept secrets in the city,” said Mary Gunning, director of Catholic Charities Head Start of Baltimore City. “Conversations at events like this show the positive things that are happening in education in the city.”
“Plano-Coudon brings such enthusiasm to this cause, and an ability to bring a lot of suppliers and trades to the table. That’s really important. A non-profit can’t make it without wide-ranging support,” said Dwight Taylor, a board member of TFA-Baltimore and former president of COPT Development and Construction.
Courtney Cass, executive director of TFA–Baltimore, said Plano-Coudon’s efforts have helped advance the Teach For America mission: “Three and a half years ago I sat down with Brett and Ryan, and they had this vision for a golf tournament that would benefit a nonprofit,” Cass said, “I don’t think we had any idea what this would grow into and how special this partnership with Plano-Coudon would become.”