Thread’s going back to school.
We’re now one year into our 2018-2021 Strategic Plan, which targets exceedingly ambitious growth in students, volunteers, and infrastructure in order to reach 7 percent of freshmen in Baltimore’s traditional public high schools. To meet this goal, by 2021 we must enroll 304 new students and continue to enroll at that level annually for 10 years until we’ve reached 3,040 students (not including alumni) and over 8,200 volunteers by 2030.
Thread began fourteen years ago with only fifteen students from one Baltimore City high school. Since then, we’ve grown to four high schools, 415 students and alumni, and over 1200 volunteers and collaborators. Just this year, we’ve expanded to our fourth high school and welcomed 112 new students—our largest cohort to date—up from 48 in 2017.
In addition to growing our existing communities at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, the Academy for College and Career Exploration, and Frederick Douglass High School, we enrolled 32 students from our newest site: Digital Harbor High School. Although our new students have only been part of Thread for a few short months, we are already beginning to see the impact of trust and persistence through relationships that embrace lines of difference.
Small changes are particularly noticeable in Federal Hill, the neighborhood immediately surrounding Digital Harbor High School. Over the last few years, the neighborhood and school communities have experienced tension and mistrust, which made Digital Harbor a compelling choice for Thread. When building volunteer teams to support our new Digital Harbor students, we were intentional about sourcing directly from the community surrounding the school. By speaking at neighborhood meetings, connecting with community leaders, and diversifying our volunteer resource hubs to include University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland, Baltimore, we were able to connect Digital Harbor students with volunteers living in close proximity to the school—opening up many new possibilities for two siloed areas to become interconnected. Targeting volunteer recruitment in this way is new to our model and is having a positive impact on neighborhood, school, and our capacity to scale.
Lauren Muratore’s Thread Family is a stellar example of what this can look like. Lauren moved to Riverside last July and heard about Thread at a neighborhood association meeting. “The association had just done their crime report which usually lays bare a lot of irrational fear and quiet racism in the neighborhood. Then Nikhil, Thread’s Community Manager at Digital, stood up and offered energy, optimism, and data about Thread as a viable solution.” Lauren signed up to become a Head of Family volunteer.
Lauren met her student, Jason, and Family Members at Family Match Day last February. Since then, they’ve been working closely together to develop strong relationships. “I feel really grateful to our student, Jason, for how engaged and open he’s been. I’m grateful for my Family Members, Richard and Beth, who are all in on this—the family steps in when I’ve needed to step back.”
Though Lauren has only been in the Thread community since the spring, she already sees changes taking root in her life and in her neighborhood. “Being a part of Thread has offered me a different level of awareness in multiple ways, including the wider city of Baltimore; the neighborhoods and systems in play; and what it’s like for students from Digital to be in this neighborhood.”
Lauren’s sentiments are echoed by school leaders at Digital Harbor, shared Abeer Said, the 9th grade counselor. “[Thread’s] presence at Digital Harbor has been impactful and necessary…the volunteers have truly formed a caring bond with our students. I personally cannot wait to see those relationships and supports continue to grow as our students move through high school and beyond. Love begets love.”
Thread offers more than anecdotal stories about how we can and should do better. We have the facts and data to prove that the Thread Community Model is working. Intentions can’t bridge gaps and boundaries. Relationships can.
We are honored and energized by the national attention Thread’s Community Model has received over the last several months, including: a New York Times op-ed—Where American Renewal Begins and a recent Brookings Institute report on Renewing America’s Economic Promise. Sharing our work in this way has helped to elevate Thread’s work on a national scale and shine a spotlight on the good things that are happening in Baltimore!
Last month, The New York Times published an incredible op-ed about Thread’s Community Model and the work we’re doing to radically connect the people of Baltimore across lines of difference.
David Brooks, who wrote the piece, is an expert in social isolation and understanding the plight of our nation’s fragmentation. His mission is to draw attention to organizations, like ours, that are working to heal social divisions so we can get the collective exposure needed to change history and become a social movement. He believes that the Thread model is Where American Renewal Begins. If you haven’t already read the piece, check it out here!
In the spring, Thread was featured in a report published by The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. The report, Renewing America’s economic promise through Older Industrial Cities, provides “an in-depth analysis of the key attributes of dozens of older industrial cities across the country, arguing that bottom-up efforts to better leverage their advantages, and address their disadvantages, can help achieve improved economic growth, prosperity, and inclusion for all.” The article featured Thread as one of the assets contributing to long-run economic growth and opportunity in Baltimore. “Thread’s model demonstrates that deep, sustained work can help address the racial and economic polarization that many [Older Industrial Cities] face and help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds connect meaningfully to their cities’ new successes.” See the full report here. Thread is mentioned on page 60.
We are grateful to have shared our mission, vision, and outcomes on these platforms and look forward to future opportunities to share our approach as we continue to grow our community and create a new social fabric, right here, in our city!
News & Notes
Thread is taking the national stage.
The Matrix Awards: When our Board Co-Chair Dia Simms learned that she would receive a prestigious Matrix Award—honoring extraordinary female leaders in the communications industry—she invited Sarah to share the stage and Thread’s work with a distinguished audience of journalists, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. Take a look.
Stand Together’s Catalyst Summit: Stand Together’s mission is to unleash the power of community to address our country’s toughest problems and help people improve their lives. At the 2018 Catalyst Summit, 40 organizations came together to discuss the problems their communities face and the solutions needed for lasting change. Sarah was one of 27 presenters to take the stage and present how the Thread Community Model is working to transform Baltimore through relationships.Take a few minutes to check it out.
AshokaU Conference: As Ashoka Fellows, Sarah Hemminger and Fagan Harris, President and CEO of Baltimore Corps, were invited to give the keynote address at the last AshokaU conference in Boston. Ashoka U’s mission is to catalyze social innovation in higher education through a global network of entrepreneurial students, faculty and community leaders.
Thread celebrates the journeys of our young people.
Every year, Thread celebrates the personal journey of our fourth year students at the Quad—to honor high school students as they conclude their fourth year with Thread. During this annual ceremony and celebration each student is honored by their volunteer family with a decorative frame and a short presentation about a single word that embodies their spirit.
At the last Quad ceremony, students were recognized with words such as tenacious, resolute, and driven—celebrating their growth and determination as they continue their journey as young adults. Tellvon, a member of Dunbar’s seventh cohort of Thread students and recent high school graduate, shared how Thread has opened his eyes to the power of relationships that embrace lines of difference. “Being in Thread has helped me a lot—not just with education, but also with building a bond with everybody—with volunteers, with students . . . people from all different countries. Thread helped me build a relationship with a lot of people that I thought I couldn’t know.”
We are thrilled for our students who are moving on to pursue post secondary education and careers—attending a range of trade, community college, and four year universities.
Thread volunteers are committed to the journey.
We are always excited to celebrate our volunteers as they travel on their journey in Thread and are continuously inspired as they describe the profound personal growth they experience from being a member of the Thread community. We are deeply grateful to them for their persistence and shared commitment to our mission and vision. At our last volunteer award ceremony, staff recognized long-term volunteers who have been part of the Thread community for ten, four, or two years. MVP awards were also presented to volunteers from each site who embody Community Building, Outstanding Support, Outstanding Coach, Personal Growth, and Rookie of the Year.
Bridget Keenan received a special gift honoring her ten-year commitment to Thread. Reflecting on her time with Thread over the last ten years, Bridget shared, “The most meaningful part of my experience has been the decade-long bond with Kierra [my young person]. We’ve been through so much together and over the years we’ve built a lot of trust.”
Lauren Zeitels, a long-term volunteer who passed away in 2017, posthumously received ten-year recognition as well. Additionally, 56 volunteers were honored with 4-year service awards and 321 volunteers were honored with 2-year service awards.
Reflecting on her time with Thread over the last ten years, Bridget shared: “The most meaningful part of my experience has been the decade-long bond with Kierra [my student]. We’ve been through so much together and over the years we’ve built a lot of trust.”
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