Strategies for an audacious future

Leading these efforts in collaboration with Bellwether Education Partners were an extremely dedicated Working Group and an amazing Advisory Group that included Thread students, volunteers, staff, funders and world-class thought leaders.

The plan is based on the following five core principles that will guide our growth:

  • Engage only the most academically-underperforming students
  • Maintain singular focus on exemplary outcomes
  • Champion the accomplishments of our student alumni as our most powerful people resource
  • Foster the personal growth of all members of the Thread community through the powerful impact of trusting relationships
  • Demonstrate proof of the Thread model with sufficient scale in Baltimore before considering geographic expansion

By growing the Thread Community Model over the next four years, we expect to lay the groundwork for reaching scale in Baltimore – ultimately connecting 20,000 people in meaningful ways that fundamentally shift expectations of our most under-performing youth and create the kinds of diverse and inclusive relationships that realize the ethos of the civil rights movement.

Thread is deeply grateful to Strategic Grant Partners (SGP) and the Goldseker Foundation for their generous contributions that supported the strategic planning process. In addition to making a financial investment, SGP generously provided pro-bono services designing a 5-phase strategic planning process which was implemented by SGP (Phases 1 & 2) and Bellwether Education Partners (Phases 3-5).

We are also thankful for the support of each and every one of our donors and collaborators who has believed in our model and its potential to transform lives and communities. We are putting forth an ambitious four-year plan for growth and impact. We ask you to continue to be a part of the Thread Community, to be a champion of our growing movement, and help us invite others to join!

Thread’s innovative Strategic Plan 2018-21 will be released shortly.

The Quad: celebrating the first four years at Thread

This Quadrennial Celebration — referred to affectionately as “The Quad” — celebrated the students from Dunbar’s Sixth Cohort and ACCE’s Fourth Cohort as they neared the end of their first four years in Thread.  Abdullah (D6) and Jameel (A4) delivered heartfelt, often humorous, speeches that told of their Thread journeys, relationships with their volunteers, and plans for the future.  Abdullah confessed, “Even though we started off with a couple bumps in the road, Thread transformed me into a more responsible person.”  To Jameel, “the most important thing about Thread is the volunteers, because they’re not just there for school work, they’re also there to support you in life in a lot of ways.”

All cohort members received the traditional Thread picture frame containing the word that best describes them, as well as a paragraph that tells a portion of their Thread story.

The Thread Community also paused to remember friends who passed away recently.  Abdullah spoke about D6 member D’Kai, who we lost this past fall.  D’Kai’s grandmother, Omega, reflected on D’Kai’s life, his time with Thread and all that he had accomplished over the past four years.  Sarah Hemminger delivered a powerful keynote address in which she also remembered long-time Thread Volunteer, Lauren Zeitels, who passed away in March. Both D’Kai and Lauren left indelible marks on Thread’s community and their absence continues to be deeply felt.

A huge thanks goes out to all Thread staff, volunteers, board members, students, and families whose contributions made this night a tremendous success!  See you all next year!

Summer jobs strengthen the social fabric

Thread’s Professional Development Program Coordinator, Neekta Khorsand, reflected on the appreciation she has for the people and organizations throughout Baltimore who have played a role in building the summer jobs program.  “There are so many people throughout this city who are excited by the potential of our young people in Baltimore, and when given the opportunity to host students, take it and make it as positive an experience as possible,” Neekta observed. “Working on summer jobs has been a real lesson in how wide and deep the Thread Community stretches.”

The summer jobs program has a two-fold purpose. “We want to allow students to explore different professional experiences during their high school tenure. Most 14 or 15 year-olds would have difficulty finding meaningful roles on their own – this program gives them access to opportunities that otherwise might not exist for them,” she explained. “We also believe summertime should be an opportunity for learning and growing, and summer jobs play a big role in making that happen.”

Engines and safety nets

This program follows the Thread model, articulated in the soon-to-be-released Strategic Plan, of how our students grow from relying on Thread staff and volunteers to act as their “engine” (propelling them forward) and their “safety net,” (catching them when facing obstacles) into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens who serve in these roles for themselves. Initially, Thread volunteers and staff provide assistance to students as they navigate their placement process and then help with basics such as transportation, clothing and advice. Eventually, students will develop their own skills and relationships that will allow them to direct this process in subsequent years.

Some older students are clearly transitioning into becoming their own “engines” as they take ownership and secure their own placements. One of our second year Dunbar students independently set up his summer job at the Baltimore Writing Program. A fourth year ACCE student will return to Real Food Farms where he has been promoted to Youth Leader. A third year Dunbar student secured a job at the Morrell Park Community Center in his neighborhood.

Valuable collaboration and a stronger social fabric

This program would not be possible without strong partnerships with our collaborators who also serve as engines for the students. Long-term summer jobs partners include Johns Hopkins University, Living Classrooms, Whiting-Turner, Art With a Heart, Hyatt Regency, Horizon Camps and Magic Minds.

Students who participate in Thread’s Summer Professional Development Advancement Program get so much more than a job and some needed income.  They learn perseverance and what it takes to hold a job, how to dress and be part of a work team.  They get meaningful work experience and the opportunity for positive references.  And most importantly, they are able to strengthen their own social fabric of enduring and empathetic relationships.

Bill Hamilton collects Thread’s inspiring stories

The relationships that develop within Thread create powerful bonds that transform lives.  These connections often are challenged by obstacles and unforeseen events, but become stronger through perseverance and earned trust.  The lessons learned come not only from the final outcomes and successes, but also the unique pathway of each journey.

Bill spends hours meeting with volunteers and students to document the experiences that have shaped their involvement in Thread.  Sharing these moments offers everyone a chance to reflect on their journey — the ups and downs, the wins and losses.   It also gives students a chance to assert their voice, often a unique opportunity for young people.   Finally, we are able to share these stories internally and externally, allowing others to learn about the strength, spirit and resilience of the members of our community.

“What I’m learning,” said Hamilton, “is that Thread’s data — the growing numbers of students and volunteers and the percentages who graduate and advance toward jobs or colleges and engaged citizenship — tell only a small part of the story.  Behind each statistic is a young person struggling to grow and escape economic and social barriers, with a family of college students and other Baltimoreans determined to help make that happen as they, the volunteers themselves, come to newly appreciate how hard it is for these kids to break out of the only environment they have ever known. It’s a two-way street, with both the students and volunteers growing from their shared relationships.”

Today we share with you the story of Justin, Kevin and Steve.