Our Thread Community grows (cont’d)
Both students and volunteers, some of whom are also new to Thread, were cautious, curious, and hopeful. By the end of the event, every student, volunteer, and staff member, had participated in “Find Someone Who,” an exercise that enabled everyone to find at least one other person with whom they have something significant in common. In addition, the activities also highlighted the wealth of experience, culture, knowledge, and wisdom present in the room. It was the Thread connection that brought this interesting, talented, diverse group together. Experience has shown that discovering what we have in common builds the foundation for relationships that can transform our lives and enable us to rise to challenges we previously wouldn’t have dreamed of taking on.
Those attending the Douglass event heard welcoming remarks from Douglass’s Site Director Eli Pessar, in which he, too, reminded students, volunteers, and everyone attending of all that they have in common. Eli’s remarks were followed by a team building exercise, time for getting to know one another, and the distribution of Thread t-shirts to our Community’s newest members. The most important outcomes of Meet Your Family Day, however, were the new relationships formed and the promise of remarkable possibilities for both students and volunteers.
One year later (cont’d)
Donte is in his second year at ACCE (Academy for College and Career Exploration). James Caracoglia, a pre-med senior at JHU majoring in neuroscience with a Spanish minor, is currently a Thread GrandParent (the volunteer leader of multiple Thread Families). Recently, they sat down with volunteer LoopedIn editor Susan Fleishman to talk about their first Thread year together.
Donte remembers last year’s Meet Your Family Day, how he wondered what he was getting into. He was worried about making friends, concerned that people weren’t going to like him. Looking back a year later, Donte says he is actually surprised at how easy it was to meet other Thread students and make friends. His concerns were not very different from what James felt as a new volunteer in 2011, “I didn’t know what to expect, it was nerve-racking!”
James was immediately impressed with Donte’s spirit. Donte liked James’s attitude and thought he was a very “outgoing person who could help me get back on track and keep my spirits up.”
They agree that their biggest challenge this past year has been getting Donte to keep up with his schoolwork. Ultimately, Donte made the difficult choice to leave the basketball team in order to honor his new priorities. As a result of his focus on academics, and with James’s support, Donte has raised his GPA two full points on a four-point scale!
When asked about the best part of their first Thread year together, Donte and James were in agreement: “Working with James!” “Working with Donte!” They attribute their success in meeting challenges together to mutual trust. Donte trusts James enough to let him in, and James trusts that Donte will keep his promise to stay on track.
And what advice would they give to new students and volunteers? Donte would tell new Thread students, “Stay in the program. They’ll help you get your work done and help you graduate.” And James advises new volunteers, “It’s entirely OK to be nervous. There might seem to be a big divide between you and your student, but you’ll find many common threads — pun intended. Invest in your student, never give up and get ready to learn from everyone!”
Volunteer Leaders go to camp! (cont’d)
In preparation for welcoming our three new cohorts, approximately 80 Thread volunteer leaders (Heads of Families and GrandParents) spent Friday evening and Saturday, January 30 and 31, with staff at the annual Volunteer Leadership Retreat. Participants were a diverse group of volunteer leaders from all three sites, brought together as one big Thread family. The 2015 Leadership Retreat marked the kickoff of this year’s Empathy Series, in which volunteers will focus on the importance and power of empathy.
In the wooded setting of Camp Puh’tok, in Monkton, leaders were encouraged to leave their comfort zones and take risks, and, in the process, enrich their relationships with other volunteers and, ultimately, with the students in their Families and Threads.
In his keynote address, Thread Board Chairman Jan Houbolt told the volunteers that they have the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of others while enriching their own, perhaps even more so. He cited studies that repeatedly show that only two things that really matter in a person’s life are finding a purpose that is bigger than oneself and establishing loving relationships, within families and throughout their greater communities. “And that is what Thread is all about!”
Ted Davidson wants to impact Baltimore (cont’d)
Ted Davidson began volunteering as a Thread GrandParent last October. He heads Marketing & Communications at Spardata, a family business that appraises the value of small and mid-sized companies. In February, he and Thread volunteer and Innovation Fellow, Laurie Kelly, sat down to talk about his involvement with Thread.
Laurie Kelly: So, Ted, how does it feel to be a “GrandParent” at age 27!
Ted Davidson: I love it!
LK: You are not connected to the Johns Hopkins community, so how did you first hear about Thread?
TD: After completing the Business Volunteers of Maryland’s GIVE program, which gave me the skills and desire to be a more strategic volunteer, I wanted to apply those skills to a city nonprofit specializing in public education and city youth. Bob Embry, President of the Abell Foundation, whom I met through GIVE, told me about Thread.
LK: How did you choose Thread from the multitude of organizations in Baltimore?
TD: When I asked Bob who is doing the best work for education in the city, he immediately answered, “Sarah Hemminger!” I met Sarah a week later and she blew me away!
LK: She did that to me too!
TD: So I asked her right away, “Where can I sign up and how can I leverage my skills to bring the most impact to our city?” Sarah directed me to Thread’s Director of Engagement Services, Amber Earl, who connected me to Aaryn [McCutchan, Dunbar Site Director], who said there was a leadership vacancy in Oikogeneia Thread.
LK: I noticed at the recent Volunteer Leadership Retreat that one of your many “skills” is your dancing ability, demonstrated during a rap song competition celebrating Thread’s core values. Have you been able to apply these talents to your role as a volunteer leader?
TD: [Laughing] Wasn’t that a blast? No, I have not had to sing and dance, but I think I have been able to make a difference in my Thread families by listening to their concerns and helping get the resources they need so they can focus on their kids.
LK: So has this success with your Thread affected your daily life?
TD: I’ve been back in Baltimore for two years with great memories of going to high school here. Thread has made me very excited about staying in Baltimore forever, because I really want to make this a world-class city. With Thread, I know I can have an impact on Baltimore’s future! In my Federal Hill neighborhood, I’m always telling people about Thread, and now a good friend is also a GrandParent.
LK: So you have already started to “Spread the Thread”?
TD: You got it! I have felt so welcomed by everyone involved with Thread and the feeling is contagious. Now I want everyone I know to join up!
LK: That’s so Thread, weaving more and more connections! Ted, thank you for your volunteer efforts and for your time today. And when you have a few moments, would you teach me some of those dance moves?
TD: Sure! How about now???