Archives of Maryland
MSA SC 3520-15860
Gwendolyn G. Rooks, a lifelong Marylander, is a community activist who
has touched the lives of hundreds of young girls. Born in Baltimore, Rooks attended City schools from the primary grades
through college. Today, Rooks is a retired principal of
Hamilton Elementary/Middle School. She remains highly engaged through
many volunteer positions; foremost among these is her role as director
of the After School AKAdemy program.1
partnership between Family and Children's Services and the
Rho Xi Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the After
School AKAdemy is a program that supports middle and high school girls
to achieve their goals and aspirations. The motto of the program, "Dare to
dream," encourages the girls to look ahead to their futures and not
impose any limits on their ambitions. Rooks, named the "queen of
adolescents" by Stan Levi of Family and Children's Services, seeks to
instill a sense of responsibility in the girls by repeating the
Benjamin E. Mays quote: "It is not your environment, it is you. The
quality of your mind, the integrity of your soul, the dedication of
your will is what will make your life." "After a while," Rooks said of
the Mays quote, "They started believing it." 2 Rooks'
role as a mentor to these young girls is varied and far-reaching. She
exposes them to cultural activities with trips to Broadway and the
Kennedy Center and by inviting them to dinner parties with other
adults. She ensures that the girls give back to their community by
having them volunteer at the local Head Start program and at a homeless
shelter. Most importantly, Rooks supports their academic goals. She
makes sure that the members of her program go to high school prepared
for the heavier work load, and for those who want to continue their
education past high school, Rooks helps in their SAT preparation,
college visits, and college and financial aid applications. Many of
these girls are the first in their families to attend college. 3
The AKAdemy program is not the only way Rooks serves
her community. She serves on numerous boards, including the Baltimore
School for the Arts, Continental Societies, Inc. Scholarship Review,
and the Children's Choir of Maryland. She is also an active member of
the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority,
and the NAACP. 4
Her committment to the Baltimore
community has won her many awards, including the Rho Xi Omega Chapter's
Cultured Pearl award, the 100 Black Women's President's Award, the
Annie Roberts Foundation's Community Service Award, the Ravens NFL
Community Quarterback Award, and the SHERO Award. In addition, Rooks
was named one of Baltimore Magazine's Baltimoreans of the Year in 2006. 5
Gwen Rooks' devotion to and compassion for her
young charges and her community is evident. She willingly and
cheerfully gives her time and effort to help others. As Shanae Smith,
one of Rooks' students, says, "She's completely selfless. I don't think
she considers helping people as work. More people should think like
that." 6 Many Baltimore girls and young women have
benefitted from Gwen Rooks’ belief in them.
1. 2012 Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Nomination Package. Return to text.
2. "Baltimoreans of the Year: 2006," Baltimore Magazine, December 2006. Return to text.
3. 2012 Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Nomination Package. Return to text.
4. Ibid. Return to text.
5. Ibid. Return to text.
6. "Baltimoreans of the Year: 2006," Baltimore Magazine, December 2006. Return to text.
Biography written by 2012 summer intern Anne Powell.
to Gwendolyn Rooks' Introductory Page
Copyright July 24, 2012 Maryland State Archives