TouchPoint: A building that builds community

The Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council, Thread, Invested Impact, Baltimore Corps and the Center for Urban Families will use the new TouchPoint space to realize the common goal of nurturing the talent pipeline embedded in our City by providing mentoring, tutoring, workforce development, life skills support, leadership development and entrepreneurial support.

TouchPoint Baltimore is the first of its kind in the country and Thread is honored to be part of this innovative endeavor. Says Sarah Hemminger, Co-founder and CEO of Thread, “This building is a place where touchpoints will happen continuously; touchpoints that can tear down the walls of systemic poverty, displacement and lack of opportunity. A place where people can come together to encourage one another.”

Post High School Kickoff! addresses: What’s next?

On February 26th, Thread 11th graders, their parents, and volunteers were invited to attend Thread’s inaugural Post High School Kickoff!. Held at the Councilwoman Rita Church Community Center, this evening was developed to answer the many questions swirling around in the minds of second-semester high school juniors: What do I want to do after high school? Where do I want to go? and Who do I want to be? These questions are natural and yet very intimidating for most high school students. In order to alleviate some of the stress associated with this uncertainty, professionals from colleges, certification programs, apprenticeship coordinators, workforce development organizations, and financial aid offices were in attendance to provide information and access to the many academic and career opportunities that exist after high school.

Thread alum, Eddie Blackstone, also shared his inspiring post high school journey, which has included working, attending community college and now pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Towson University where he is in his junior year.

Special thanks to Baltimore City Community College, Humanim, Volunteer Maryland, Civic Works, Maryland New Directions (MND), Jane Addams Resource Corporation, University of Baltimore — Mt. Royal, and Year Up – Baltimore for their participation and continued partnership!

The evening was organized by Casey Lawson, Thread’s Program Coordinator of Academics, who commented, “We’re already looking forward to a repeat performance next year!” Kudos for a great job to Casey and his Post High School prep team: Youngjae Cha, Don Feuerstein, Elyse Oliver, Kareem Osman, Christy Pickering, and Sabrina Wang, plus current HOF and former Federal Work Study Intern, Tena Spencer.

Thread recognized as one of ten national innovator programs

In January, Thread received a $100,000 award and began an intensive nine-month program marking our induction into the inaugural Future Cities Accelerator cohort, a dynamic innovation challenge run by the Rockefeller Foundation and Unreasonable Institute. The challenge is designed to support innovators who are developing scalable solutions to the most perplexing and entrenched problems in American cities.

More than 300 teams from around the country submitted proposals, which were rigorously critiqued during a three-month review. Ultimately, only 10 winners were selected. Our colleagues in this first cohort are from New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, the Bay Area, Denver, and Boston, and are focusing on challenges in education, health, connectivity, food waste, and affordable housing sectors.

As part of the program, Thread staff members Sarah Hemminger, Co-founder and CEO, and Lea Ferguson, Grants Production Manager, traveled to Denver for a five-day bootcamp. To prepare, they took part in a six-week training program led by GoogleX co-founder Tom Chi on the concept of rapid prototyping – a creative philosophy that uses trial and error to surface the strongest solutions to organizational challenges. “The course has reinforced Thread’s core competency of failing successfully and provided concrete tools that are enabling us to codify and scale our unique culture,” Sarah observed.

At the bootcamp, Lea, Sarah, and the other awardees were paired up with a team of experienced mentors from the education, tech, social enterprise, and start-up worlds. Innovative thinkers and experienced managers including Ime Archibong (Director of Strategic Partnerships, Facebook), Will Seamans (former Chief of Staff, Teach for America), and Mike Feinberg (Co-Founder, KIPP Schools) worked closely with Lea and Sarah to delve deep into Thread’s growth challenges. “I’m deeply grateful to have shared this opportunity with Sarah,” Lea reflected. “Our experience with Tom Chi and the full team of advisors and mentors in Denver has already supported Thread’s maturation in monumental ways. Their impact will be enormously beneficial as we enter a new stage of Thread’s evolution and scaling.”


Thread Alumni come full circle!

As we prepared to enroll new student cohorts at all three high school sites and recruit over 300 volunteer leaders, six student alumni from our first and second Dunbar cohorts joined Thread’s staff to support this expansion. Devin Morton, Derrell Frazier, Terrance Holmes, Tavon Daye, Eddie Blackstone, and Donte Bethea connected with more than 500 volunteers during this time of transition; making calls, sending texts and emails, and having in person check-ins over coffee to collect volunteer feedback in parallel with developing stronger tracking systems as part of this special three-week project.

Director of Program Operations Aaryn Rust explained the purpose of each call was to get a sense of how things were going within Thread Families and where volunteers needed support. Aaryn shared “The success of the initiative blew me away. For a lot of volunteers who have been working with their students for years, it can be a real challenge to see immediate progress,” she said. “It was hugely helpful for volunteers to hear directly from alums, who could offer the long term perspective and encouragement Progress is happening even when we don’t immediately see it.” Based on the success of the project, Thread will likely make this outreach initiative an annual event.