BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Johns Hopkins University is using its clout to create job opportunities for people who've struggled to get jobs in the past.
This is an initiative where the world renowned university pledges to invest millions into local communities.
Johns Hopkins, which is the largest private employer in the state, is embedded in an east Baltimore community that has seen many changes and struggles.
In the fall of 2015, the university launched a program to expand its brand of success to others.
The goal was to create jobs and opportunities for some of its own neighbors who in the past could only dream of working at the prestigious institution.
Now, in its first progress report, there are success stories.
Hopkins has hired 304 workers since the program started, including Clayton Smith, who used to be a truck driver. He's now a supply coordinator at Hopkins.
"I'm 54 years old now, and I am starting a new career and I feel like I have a new lease on life," said Smith.
The university's president said of the 300 plus people who were hired, more than 100 had a criminal record. But that did not matter, because the goal is to provide opportunities for good workers who want a second shot.
"We are proud of Baltimore and we know we have a responsibility to the city, and so providing this kind of of opportunity is something that reflects a deep understanding of commitment to the city," said John Hopkins President Ron Daniels.
With this new initiative, Hopkins has also committed to spending $55 million in construction for minority and women-owned businesses, along with other disadvantaged businesses. This initiative has inspired other companies to start investing in local communities.
Taharka Brothers is scooping up some of those benefits, as the Baltimore-based ice cream company just opened a location on campus. The owner says Hopkins is giving them some preference over big names, like Ben and Jerry's.
"Hopkins seeked us out," said Sean Smeeton. "I guess they were really trying to use their buying power to buy local products from local businesses."
President Daniels says the local initiative has also inspired other companies to start investing locally.
Johns Hopkins is the largest private employer in the state.
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